Hidden Hollywood: David O. Selznick and the Goy

David O. Selznick

The most commonly used Hebrew or Yiddish word for a non-Jew is goy.  The word “goy” means nation, and refers to the fact that goyim are members of other nations, that is, nations other than the Children of Israel.  There is nothing inherently insulting about the word “goy”.  In fact, the Bible occasionally refers to the Jewish people using the term “goy”.  Most notably, in Exodus 19,6, God says that the Children of Israel will be “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation”, that is, a goy kadosh.  Because Jews have had so many bad experiences with anti-Semitic non-Jews over the centuries, the term “goy” has taken on some negative connotations, but in general the term is no more insulting than the word “Gentile”.


In 1958 David O. Selznick (1902-1965) producer of Gone With the Wind, was desperately seeking a starring role for actress Jennifer Jones (1919-2009), to whom he was was married after divorcing Irene Mayer Selznick.

Screenwriter  Ivan Moffat  (1918-2002) was one of dozens of writers Selznick approached to dream up the proper vehicle for Jones.

Selznick and Moffat became good friends, and eventually, Moffat wrote the screenplay for Tender is the Night (1962) in which Jones starred.

One night, at a lavish Hollywood party, someone asked Selznick to define the word goy.

Selznick gave Moffat a quick, private grin and delivered his own unique definition of goy: “Somebody who is unnecessarily Gentile.”

Highly recommended source: Showman: The Life of David O. Selznick by David Thomson.

This entry was posted in David O. Selznick, Hidden Hollywood, Hollywood, Judaica, Judaism, Language and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.


  1. Barry
    Posted September 5, 2018 at 7:03 am | Permalink

    David Selznick was a guy that should have been played by Kirk Douglas in the movies, and he was. Sometimes the business gets it right. Or did in the past..

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    • Michael Kennedy
      Posted September 5, 2018 at 9:53 am | Permalink

      Is that the role in “The Bad and the Beautiful?”

      I’ve always wondered who the characters were depicting.

      Gloria Graham’s best role.

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      • Robert J. Avrech
        Posted September 5, 2018 at 10:57 am | Permalink

        In Bad and Beautiful, the producer, Jonathan Shields, played by Kirk Douglas, is based on Selznick, but there’s also a bit of Thalberg in there with a few others thrown in. Gloria Graham is on screen for 9 minutes, but she sure makes an impression. She had a great role in It’s a Wonderful Life, The Big Heat, The Greatest Show on Earth, In a Lonely Place, Human Desire. Unfortunately, she become fixated on her lips (too thin, she claimed) and went under the knife too many times. She lost all feeling, and it was difficult for her to smile. She ended up padding her lips with cotton balls while shooting. Her leading men came away from a kiss with a mouthful of saliva drenched cotton.

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