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David O. Selznick

 

David O. Selznick (May 10, 1902 Ц June 22, 1965) was an American film producer, screenwriter and film studio executive. He is best known for producing Gone with the Wind (1939) and Rebecca (1940), each earning him an Academy Award for Best Picture.
His years at RKO were fruitful, and he worked on many films, including A Bill of Divorcement (1932), What Price Hollywood? (1932), Rockabye (1932), Bird of Paradise (1932), Our Betters (1933), and King Kong (1933). While at RKO, he also gave George Cukor his directing break. In 1933 he returned to MGM where his father-in-law, Louis B. Mayer, was studio CEO. Mayer established a second prestige production unit for Selznick, parallel to that of Irving Thalberg, who was in poor health. Selznick's unit output included the all star cast movie Dinner at Eight (1933), David Copperfield (1935), Anna Karenina (1935), and A Tale of Two Cities (1935).
Despite his output of successful movies at MGM, Paramount Pictures, and RKO Pictures, Selznick longed to be an independent producer with his own studio. In 1935 he realized that goal by leasing RKO Culver City Studios & back lot, formed Selznick International Pictures, and distributed his films through United Artists. His successes continued with classics such as The Garden of Allah (1936), The Prisoner of Zenda (1937), A Star Is Born (1937), Nothing Sacred (1937), The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1938), The Young in Heart (1938), Made for Each Other (1939), Intermezzo (1939) and Gone with the Wind (1939), which remains the highest-grossing film of all time (adjusted for inflation). Gone with the Wind won eight Oscars and two special awards. Selznick also won the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award that same year.
Gone with the Wind overshadowed the rest of Selznick's career. Later, he was convinced that he had wasted his life trying to outdo it. The closest he came to matching the film was with Duel in the Sun (1946) featuring future wife Jennifer Jones in the role of the primary character Pearl. With a huge budget, the film is known for causing moral upheaval because of the then risque script written by Selznick. And though it was a troublesome shoot with a number of directors, the film would be a major success. The film was the second highest-grossing film of 1947 and was the first movie that Martin Scorsese saw, inspiring Scorsese's own directorial career.
Selznick was an amphetamine user, and would often dictate long, rambling memos to his directors, writers, investors, staff and stars. The documentary Shadowing The Third Man relates that Selznick introduced The Third Man director Carol Reed to the use of amphetamines, which allowed Reed to bring the picture in below budget and on schedule by filming nearly 22 hours at a time.
Selznick died in 1965 following several heart attacks, and was interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California. There he joined his older brother Myron Selznick (who had died in 1944) in the family crypt.
For his contribution to the motion picture industry, David O. Selznick has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7000 Hollywood Blvd, in front of the historic Hollywood Roosevelt hotel.

 

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