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Build As They Only Dreamed

The following tale comes from the book: Selznick's Vision: Gone with the Wind and Hollywood Filmmaking.



Take away: Walk down untrod paths

Gone with the Wind is still considered by many to be the greatest film of all time. It remains one of the only films from the classical era that can be profitably revived. Making it took five directors, a bevy of writers, the creation of an entire new film department (production design) and the drawing of every scene prior to filming (storyboarding). Behind it all was one man with a vision: David O. Selznick.

Selznick had it all. Young David grew up at the feet of the men who had pioneered Hollywood. His father was a well known and popular film producer. David had married the daughter of Louis B. Mayer, who, as the head of MGM studios, was the most powerful man in Hollywood.

One day, Mayer offered to Selznick a lucrative job. To which Selznick responded, “Under no circumstances would it be right for me to go with MGM.”

Selznick did not despise Mayer, in fact he very much loved him, affectionately calling him “dad.” No, Selznick had another reason for turning down the offer. Three reasons in fact.

First, he said he could not face being related to someone who he worked for. “I would never know whether I had gotten ahead on my own or through the help of someone. I am not alone willing, but, believe me, anxious, to take the wrap whenever I am wrong. It helps me grow.” Second, though he would use the knowledge he had learned from his predecessors, he wanted to build something from scratch. Lastly, he was the type who wanted to pave new roads rather than tread on old worn ones. “I suppose it is something akin to the fellows who would rather plan and dig roads through mountains, than drive over boulevards in a Lincoln.

David O. Selznick respected those who came before him, but desired nothing more than to build his own dreams. By doing so he created the most popular film of all time—and dozens of other mega successes including King Kong, and Rebecca.

Knowing that to build as his father's only dreamed would require immense strength of character, when he was offered a cushy job with his stepdad, he turned it down. Turned it down, despite being almost completely broke at the time.

“It helped me grow.”

OPTIONAL INSPIRATIONAL POEM: The Westerner by Badger Clark

The Essentials:

  • David O. Selznick wanted to do something different than his predecessors.
  • He arrived in film when the industry had already been well established.
  • In order to build something all his own he needed to build a strong character within
  • Setting out to take the hard road, he started from scratch.
  • By taking the hard road he was prepared for making the most successful film in history.


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