Classic Film Club


The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences


David O. Selznick

David O. Selznick

David O. Selznick
  • (David O. Selznick)



David O. Selznick was born David Selznick in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1902, the son of silent movie distributor Lewis J. Selznick.   He later added the “O” as his middle initial to distinguish himself from his uncle.

He studied at Columbia University and worked as an apprentice in his father's company until it went bankrupt in 1923.   In 1926, Selznick moved to Hollywood and with his father's connections got a job as a production supervisor at MGM.   He left MGM for Paramount Pictures in 1928, working there until 1931 when he joined RKO as Head of Production.

His years at RKO were fruitful and he guided many notable films there, including King Kong (1933).   While at RKO, he also gave George Cukor his big directing break.

In 1933, he returned to MGM to establish a second production unit to parallel that of Irving Thalberg who was in poor health.   There he produced such classics as Dinner at Eight (1933) and A Tale of Two Cities (1935).

Despite his successes at MGM, Paramount, and RKO, Selznick was restless.   He longed to be an independent producer and establish his own studio.   In 1935, he realized that goal by forming Selznick International Pictures and distributing his films through United Artists.   His successes continued with films such as A Star Is Born (1937) and, of course, his magnum opus Gone with the Wind (1939).

In 1940, he produced his second Outstanding Production Oscar winner in a row, Rebecca, the first Hollywood-made film for British director Alfred Hitchcock.   Selznick brought Hitchcock over from England, launching the director's American career.   Rebecca was Hitchcock's only film to win an Academy Award.

After Rebecca, Selznick closed Selznick International Pictures and took some time off.   In 1944, he returned to producing pictures with the huge success Since You Went Away, which he also wrote.

After Gone with the Wind, Selznick spent the rest of his career trying to top that landmark achievement.   He produced his last feature film in 1952.

Selznick married Irene Mayer, daughter of MGM mogul Louis B. Mayer, in 1930.   They had two sons and divorced in 1948.   He then married the actress Jennifer Jones in 1949.   They raised one daughter who committed suicide in 1975 at the age of 20.   She also had two young sons from her previous marriage to the actor Robert Walker.

Selznick died in Hollywood, in 1965, following several heart attacks.   He was 63 years old.


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