If you put together an all-time box-office chart, adjusted for inflation, producer David O. Selznick’s "Gone With the Wind" is the unrivaled champion, having earned an astounding $1.45 billion in ticket sales over the years.
Selznick was known for seeking the best personnel — stars, writers and directors — with no expense spared. A man who lived on Dexedrine, peanuts and bananas, he went through three “Gone With the Wind” directors (George Cukor, Sam Wood and the ultimately credited Victor Fleming). His appetite for screenwriters was even more voracious, including Sidney Howard, Ben Hecht and F. Scott Fitzgerald, to name a few.
But his mania paid off, as did his machinations to snatch Clark Gable, who was under contract to MGM, and his public relations ploy to enlist the book's legion of fans in the search for the perfect Scarlett.
Reportedly Selznick surrendered his rights to the film to MGM as part of the deal for getting Gable to play Rhett Butler.
“I have never regretted it,” Selznick once said. “I wouldn’t have made the movie without Clark.”
“Gone With the Wind” won 10 Academy Awards, including 1939's best picture Oscar. Selznick repeated his best picture triumph in 1940 with “Rebecca,” the first Hollywood production for Alfred Hitchcock. Among his other screen credits are “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) and “Intermezzo” (1939).
Selznick introduced such stars as Ingrid Bergman, Vivien Leigh, Joan Fontaine and Katharine Hepburn.
He had definite ideas about all phases of the films he produced, and his determination led to several classic battles with directors. Cukor, who was fired from "Gone With the Wind," said after Selznick's death that he “was a man with extraordinary gifts … courage, taste and flair.”
News of Selznick’s death of a heart attack in 1965 brought an outpouring of grief from leading Hollywood figures: Jack L. Warner (“The industry lost one of its geniuses.”), Samuel Goldwyn (“I am heartbroken.”) and Darryl F. Zanuck (“One of the most brilliant men I had ever met.”).
But perhaps the greatest tribute came years before his death, when Margaret Mitchell, author of “Gone With the Wind,” chose him over a higher bidder to film her story.
He bid $50,000, but later sent her another $50,000 as “a token of my esteem.”
Selznick was born May 10, 1902, in Pittsburgh, the son of silent film producer, Lewis J. Selznick, who eventually was forced out of the industry by younger men.
Friends of “DOS” often said that his tremendous drive seemed to stem from his father’s lack of success.
The younger Selznick, educated in New York, served an apprenticeship in all phases of the film business with his father’s New York production company. Later, he came to Hollywood and joined MGM as a story editor. He began producing short subjects at 24, and his first films included a western starring Tim McCoy.
In 1928, he went to Paramount as assistant to B.P. Schulberg and within three years was second in command at the studio.
His approach to filmmaking was credited with uplifting the industry, encouraging the filming of classics and reducing criticism of the industry in the 1930s when there were heavy attacks from the Legion of Decency and others.
|1938||Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award||Nomination|
|1939||Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award||Win|