David O. Selznick, producer of Gone With the Wind, probably the most profitable movie ever made, was the son of industry pioneer Lewis J. Selznick.
The elder Selznick had been an independent producer in the early days of Hollywood who pioneered a new age of Wall Street investment in the motion picture business.
David, born in 1902, was a teenage wunderkind in his father’s film company, already composing his elaborate memos. But while David was still a young man, his father suffered a reversal of fortune that brought the Selznick organization to ruin during the silent era. L.J. lost millions and never again regained his footing in the film business.
David O. went on to become one of the greatest of Hollywood producers. His brother Myron became the most powerful agent in Hollywood inventing the concept of packaging. There was a third brother, Howard, the eldest. But he was deeply troubled, or perhaps afflicted with some kind of mental disability.
In 1917, when patriarch L.J. Selznick was still a power with whom to be reckoned, this brash Jewish immigrant from Russia, land of poverty and pogroms, fired off a telegram:
To Nicholas Romanoff:
When I was a poor boy in Kiev some of your policemen were not kind to me and my people. I came to America and prospered. Now hear with regret you are out of job over there. Feel no ill will what your policemen did so if you will come New York can give you fine position acting in pictures. Salary no object. Reply my expense. Regards you and family.
Selznick New York
Tzar Nicholas II never replied. Who knows if he ever received L.J’s telegram.
The Tzar, his family, and several courtiers were savagely shot, clubbed and bayoneted to death by the Bolsheviks in a dark basement in Yekaterinburg on the night of 16-17 July, 1918.
Ironically, there is a superb silent film, The Last Command, 1928, directed by Josef von Sternberg, starring Emil Jannings, William Powell, and Evelyn Brent, the story of a Tzarist general who ends up as a lowly extra playing a Tzarist General in a major Hollywood production.