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David O. Selznick Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Spouse (2)  | Trade Mark (1)  | Trivia (36)  | Personal Quotes (14)

Overview (4)

Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
Died in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, USA  (heart attack)
Birth NameDavid Selznick
Height 6' 1" (1.85 m)

Mini Bio (1)

David O. Selznick was a son of the silent movie producer Lewis J. Selznick. David studied at Columbia University until his father lost his fortune in the 1920s. David started work as an MGM script reader, shortly followed by becoming an assistant to Harry Rapf. He left MGM to work at Paramount then RKO. He was back at MGM in 1933 after marrying Irene Mayer Selznick the daughter of Louis B. Mayer. In 1936, he finally set up his own production company, Selznick International. Three directors and fifteen scriptwriters later, Gone with the Wind (1939) was released.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Steve Crook <steve@brainstorm.co.uk>

Spouse (2)

Jennifer Jones (13 July 1949 - 22 June 1965) ( his death) ( 1 child)
Irene Mayer Selznick (29 April 1930 - 21 January 1949) ( divorced) ( 2 children)

Trade Mark (1)

His ubiquitous memos.

Trivia (36)

Son of producer Lewis J. Selznick.
Younger brother of agent Myron Selznick.
On May 11, 1976, Selznick's 22-year-old daughter Mary Jennifer (by his second wife Jennifer Jones) killed herself by jumping from the tallest building in Westwood (Los Angeles) while her psychotherapist was away on vacation. It was two days after Mother's Day and one day after what would have been her father's 74th birthday. Jennifer Jones subsequently became a therapist herself.
He abandoned his career at MGM after marrying Irene Mayer Selznick, the daughter of MGM studio chief Louis B. Mayer, and moved to RKO. He eventually returned to MGM after that studio's loss of production genius Irving Thalberg. This led to the famous observation that "The son-in-law also rises", a play on words of the Ernest Hemingway novel "The Sun Also Rises".
Despite being considerably taller and bulkier than director George Cukor, Selznick bore a striking resemblance to him. He would later collaborate with Cukor on Gone with the Wind (1939), from which Cukor was eventually fired by Selznick. Nevertheless, the two remained friends for the rest of their lives.
In order to fulfill his picture obligation to United Artists, Selznick brought over Alfred Hitchcock from Europe to produce/direct Selznick's UA projects while he devoted the bulk of his time to Gone with the Wind (1939).
Responsible for casting four actresses in roles that made them stars: Katharine Hepburn in A Bill of Divorcement (1932), Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind (1939), Joan Fontaine in Rebecca (1940), and Jennifer Jones in The Song of Bernadette (1943).
According to the book "Lion of Hollywood: The Life and Legend of Louis B. Mayer" (2005) by Scott Eyman, Selznick sold his interest in Gone with the Wind (1939) to former Selnick International chairman John Hay Whitney ("Jock") for a mere $200,000. This was undoubtedly the worst deal Selznick ever made, as the classic film has and will continue to generate enormous revenue through theatrical reissues, television broadcasts, and home video release.
Selznick was famed for his long, detailed and incredibly involved (and, to many of the people who received them, maddening) memos sent to many different people during the production of a film--not just the director or writer but cameramen, editors, and pretty much anyone who had anything to do with the picture. A publicist on one of his films once got a Western Union telegram from Selznick that ended up being more than 30 feet long and finished up with, "I have just received a phone call that pretty much clears up this matter. Therefore you can disregard this wire." These famed memos are the subject of an entire book, "Memo From David Selznick" edited by Rudy Behlmer. According to Behlmer, Selznick dictated his every thought to secretaries from 1916-65 in memos that filled 2,000 file boxes.
Is the only producer winner back-to-back of the Academy Award for Best Picture for Gone with the Wind (1939) and Rebecca (1940).
The "O" in his middle name, though this has a period after this, does not stand for anything. He added this because he felt this gave flair to his name.
Profiled in J.A. Aberdeen's "Hollywood Renegades: The Society of Independent Motion Picture Producers". Palos Verdes Estates, California: Cobblestone Entertainment.
In 1935, Greta Garbo signed a contract with MGM, saying only Irving Thalberg and Selznick could supervise her pictures. After the surprise success of Anna Karenina (1935) with Garbo, Selznick announced that he was leaving MGM to start his own company. Garbo begged him to stay at MGM, saying he could solely produce her pictures. Selznick turned down her offer, saying he had bigger ambitions. It is interesting to note that she only acted in four other films after that: Camille (1936), Conquest (1937), Ninotchka (1939) and Two-Faced Woman (1941), and only two were box-office successes. MGM modified her contract after Thalberg's surprise death in 1936, and Garbo was reportedly furious by this decision.
When Selznick announced he was starting his own production company, Irving Thalberg called him to ask If he had any financing yet. Selznick replied, "Not a nickel." Thalberg, usually quite careful with money, said, "Well, me and Norma [wife Norma Shearer] would like to give you $250,000 to get on your feet." Thalberg thus became the first financier of Selznick Enterprises.
By the late 1940s, Selznick International was making very few movies and became a talent agency by default, deriving needed income by loaning out its contract stars to other studios.
In 1936, he paid author Margaret Mitchell $50,000 for the movie rights to her novel "Gone With the Wind". Later, after Gone with the Wind (1939) became a blockbuster film, he realized he had underpaid Mitchell and gave her an additional $50,000.
Uncle of Joyce Selznick.
Hated the "baby doll" eyebrow look that was made popular by Max Factor and sported by the majority of Hollywood actresses during the 1930s. He insisted that his contract players Vivien Leigh and Ingrid Bergman sport a more natural look.
Was responsible for bringing Ingrid Bergman to the United States from Sweden by signing her to a long-term contract to Selznick Pictures, Inc.
Signed Gene Kelly to his first Hollywood contract after seeing him star in "Pal Joey" on Broadway. He sold Kelly's contract to MGM before he could find a suitable film role for him.
The ultimate Hollywood producer, Selznick personally coined the job description of "executive producer".
After World War II, Selznick negotiated partnership deals with producers Mark Hellinger, M.J. Siegel and Dore Schary for three pictures each. Hellinger and Siegel died unexpectedly, and Schary left to become production chief at RKO.
The Kirk Douglas role in The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) is widely thought to be patterned after Selznick.
He produced his first film, Will He Conquer Dempsey? (1923) when South American heavyweight Luis Firpo arrived in the United States in August 1923 for a title fight with champion Jack Dempsey. Selznick paid Firpo $1000--half of the film's $2000 budget--for one day's work.
After World War II, broke out Selznick believed his independent Selznick-International would be at a distinct distribution disadvantage to the major studios, so he sold three projects that were in development complete with stars to 20th Century-Fox: Claudia (1943), Jane Eyre (1943) and The Keys of the Kingdom (1944). His only wartime feature was Since You Went Away (1944). He later sold packages to RKO, including Since You Went Away.
After this was announced that Selznick intended to adapt Leo Tolstoy's "War and Peace" for the screen, both Mike Todd and Dino De Laurentiis announced they were going to film the novel also. Ultimately, Paramount distributed the De Laurentiis version, War and Peace (1956), directed by King Vidor, and the other two were never made.
Founder of the Selznick Company (1923), a film production company.
Ever-alert, for possible casting coups, producer David Selznick thought of casting the great stage actress Maud Adams in the role of Miss Fortune in "The Young in Heart". Miss Adams was brought to Hollywood and made a screen test; unfortunately she had no interest in reactivating her career, and politely declined Selznick's offer of a contract. The role was then given to Minnie Dupree. A portion of the screen test is seen in the documentary "Hollywood: The Selznick Years" (1967).
Following his death, he was interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.
He was posthumously awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7000 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California on October 26, 2004.
Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" - MGM's 1952 feature film, produced by John Houseman, directed by Vincent Minnelli, "The Bad and the Beautiful" - based upon a story by George Bradshaw, a screenplay by Charles Schnee, is about an unscrupulous movie producer Jonathan Shields (Kirk Douglas) who uses actress Georgia Lorrison (Lana Turner), a director Fred Ariel (Barry Sullivan), and a writer James Lee Bartlow (Dick Powell) to achieve success. The film is told in flashback form, tracing the rise and fall of a tough, ambitious Hollywood producer Jonathan Shields, as seen through the eyes of various acquaintances, including his writer James Lee Bartlow (Dick Powell), his star Georgia Lorrison (Lana Turner), his director Fred Ariel (Barry Sullivan), his studio film producer Harry Pebbel (Walter Pidgeon). Shields is a hard-driving, ambitious man who ruthlessly uses everyone on the way to becoming one of Hollywood's top film makers. The character of "Jonathan Shields" is regarded as a Hollywood mixture of producer David O. Selznick, Orson Wells and producer Val Lewton. Georgia Morrison, the daughter of an iconic actor, is very clearly based on Diana Barrymore. Bartlow, the college professor turned best-selling author turned screenwriter, is thought to be based on Paul Green, a UNC professor who followed a similar career track. Gilbert Roland's appearance as "Gaucho" is seen as a self-parody; the Mexican-born actor, once a star in silent dramas, had just appeared as "The Cisco Kid" in a string of "B" westerns. Given that the character of Jonathan Shields seems clearly based on David O. Selznick, there is a certain comic irony in the film, in that Shields greatest flop, which destroys his career in Hollywood, is a costly Civil War epic. Selznick, of course, has his biggest-ever success with "Gone With The Wind." Stories about the film's basis in fact were so strong that independent producer David O. Selznick asked one of his lawyers to view the film and let him know if it contained anything libelous about him. Despite the parallels between Selznick's life and that of the father-obsessed independent producer played by Kirk Douglas, the lawyer determined that there were no grounds for a lawsuit. The motto under the SHIELDS Pictures Inc. coat-of-arms is "NON SANS DROIT". This was the same motto used by William Shakespeare and means "Not without right". "The Bad and the Beautiful" takes on the thorny issue of creative control.
Legendary MGM executive producer David O. Selznick's, with his original first wife Irene Gladys Mayer Selznick (b:04/02/1907; daughter of MGM head Louis B, Mayer; Irene married at age 23 to David O.Selznick, at age 28, on 04/29/1930; Irene and David divorced 01/21/1949), purchased a Beverly Hills property at 1050 Summit Drive, and had architect Roland Coate design a 12,500-square-foot gated Colonial Revival estate in good taste and sophistication, featuring seven bedrooms and nine bathrooms. A two story entryway opens to a formal living room with a marble fire-place, pine paneling and hand carved moldings. Large windows peer out onto a pool and private gardens, while the master wing includes his-and-hers bathrooms and a large walk-in closet. The house was built in 1934 and remained as their residence for much of their 15-year marriage. Irene and David O. Selznick's divorce in 1949 ended their property ownership. The foundation for their divorce was David O. Selznick's mid 1940s obsession, which began upon Selznick's discovery of actress Jennifer Jones (Phyllis Isley), who he had under his personal talent contract; in 1942, Jennifer Jones, married to actor Robert Walker, was loaned out by Selznick Studios to appear in "Song of Bernadette", which won her an Oscar in 1943. David O. Selznick had produced back-to-back Oscar best picture winners "Gone With The Wind" (1939) and "Rebecca" (1940). Later, other Hollywood luminaries passed through the Beverly Hills estate's halls: Katharine Hepburn resided in the house after filming "The African Queen", as did Sammy Davis Jr., George Hamilton, media mogul Ted Field and NBC television's "Tonight Show with Johnny Carson" second banana personality Ed McMahon. The property sold in 1991 for $2.1 million. In 2010, the property was briefly listed for 15.9 million and then taken off the real estate market. In the winter of 2017 the property's few ghosts of Hollywood past hit the 'for sale' market for $19.9 million.
MGM's musical star Judy Garland was responsible for MGM's Arthur Freed buying out David O. Selznick's personal exclusive contract with Gene Kelly, who arrived in town in 1941. Kelly came direct from his hit 1940 original Broadway musical production of "Pal Joey" and planned to return to the Broadway stage after making the one film required by his Selznick International contract. Broadway performer-song and dance man Gene Kelly had not worked under David O. Selznick's independent personal Selznick International film production unit since his arrival in Hollywood from his Broadway musical stage triumph. Gene Kelly's opportunistic film career was virtually stagnant under David O. Selznick. Knowing about "Broadway Kelly" Judy Garland wanted Gene Kelly to be her next film's musical co-star. In 1942, at the request of Garland, MGM's musical division producer Arthur Freed Unit brought in Gene Kelly to play opposite Judy in "For Me And My Gal." The film was a huge success and it jump-started the faltering theatrical career of Gene Kelly. MGM producer Arthur Freed had bought out Kelly's personal contract with David O. Selznick and so began the Hollywood film career of 1940s Broadway's song and dance man - Gene Kelly.
Produced two consecutive Oscar Best Picture winners: Gone with the Wind (1939) and Rebecca (1940), and six other nominees: Viva Villa! (1934), David Copperfield (1935), A Tale of Two Cities (1935), A Star Is Born (1937), Since You Went Away (1944) and Spellbound (1945).

Personal Quotes (14)

The way I see it, my function is to be responsible for everything.
The difference between me and other producers is that I am interested in the thousands and thousands of details that go into the making of a film. It is the sum total of all these things that either makes a great picture or destroys it.
I have never gone after honors instead of dollars. But I have understood the relationship between the two.
Very few people have mastered the art of enjoying their wealth. I have mastered the art, and therefore spend time enjoying myself.
[some examples of his philosophy] I don't want to be normal. Who wants to be normal?... Once photographed, life here is ended... It's somehow symbolic of Hollywood that Tara was just a facade, with no rooms inside... There might have been good movies if there had been no movie industry.
I have no middle name... I had an uncle, whom I greatly disliked, who was also named David Selznick, so in order to to avoid any growing confusion between the two of us, I decided to take a middle initial and went through the alphabet to find one that seemed to give me the best punctuation and decided on "O".
I'm an American and not a Jew.
There are only two classes: first class and no class.
Actors used to accept discipline. I've called [John Barrymore] into my office for not knowing his lines; he was contrite and apologetic. I had to speak to Leslie Howard, who was embarrassing Vivien Leigh by not being prepared for a scene. But you never had to speak again. They recognized their fault and corrected it.
Hollywood's like Egypt, full of crumbling pyramids. It'll just keep on crumbling until finally the wind blows the last studio prop across the sands.
I like money. I know how to use it, how to appreciate it. Actually, it's an art. The important thing in spending money is to have a true knack for self-indulgence. I don't mean an acquired self-indulgence. I mean the kind that comes naturally.
The trick in adapting novels is to give the "illusion" of photographing the entire book. This is more difficult than creating an original like A Star Is Born (1937).
[on why he did not direct] I didn't have time. Frankly, it's easier to criticize another man's work than direct myself. As a producer I can maintain an editorial perspective. I wouldn't have myself as a director.
[on John Huston's resignation from A Farewell to Arms (1957)] I am the producer and must produce. In Mr. Huston I asked for a first violinist and instead got a soloist. My conception of the producer's role is that it is similar to being the conductor of an orchestra. The conductor oversees every detail and interprets as he sees fit. I am a perfectionist. My sights are set high. But I've found that most people have to be forced into raising their sights.

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