February 16

This Day in History

Hollywood

Feb 16, 1933:

David O. Selznick returns to MGM

On this day in 1933, David O. Selznick becomes vice president and producer at MGM. Selznick became one of the most influential independent producers of his time.

Selznick got his start working at his father's studio, Lewis Selznick Pictures. Selznick's older brother, Myron, also worked at the studio, becoming chief of production by age 21.

After Selznick Pictures went bankrupt in 1923, Lewis landed a job for David with his former partner and sometime rival, Louis B. Mayer, at MGM. Myron, meanwhile, went on to become a powerful talent agent. David eventually married the boss's daughter, Irene, but left MGM to work at Paramount and RKO before founding his own company, Selznick International in 1936.

In the spring of 1936, a few months before the publication of Margaret Mitchell's Civil War epic, Gone with the Wind, Selznick expressed interest in buying the film rights but balked at Mitchell's asking price of $50,000-more than any studio had ever paid for rights to a first novel. He gave in, however, just before the book's release in June and began three long years of production in which he used three directors and 15 screenwriters. His nationwide search for the actress to play Scarlett lasted more than a year. Meanwhile, he agreed to let MGM distribute the film in return for lending him Clark Gable to play Rhett Butler. Filming on the movie began in December 1938, but the Scarlett role still hadn't been cast. British actress Vivien Leigh visited the set on the day filming began; a month later, she signed on as Scarlett.

The film debuted in Atlanta on December 15, 1939, and became an instant hit, breaking all box office records in the course of its run. The film was nominated for more than a dozen Oscars and won nine, including Best Picture, Best Screenplay, Best Actress, and Best Supporting Actress (which went to Hattie McDaniel, the first African American actress to win the award). The movie was digitally restored and the sound remastered for its 1998 re-release by New Line Pictures.

The following year, Selznick brought Alfred Hitchcock from England to direct Rebecca, Hitchcock's first U.S. film. Selznick produced several other pictures in the United States and abroad, but none made the same splash as Gone with the Wind. He produced his last film, A Farewell to Arms, in 1957.

Selznick died on June 22, 1965.

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