Lewis J. Selznick

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Lewis J. Selznick
Born Laiser Zeleznik
(1870-05-02)May 2, 1870
Grinkiškis, Kovno Governorate, Russian Empire
Died January 25, 1933(1933-01-25) (aged 62)
Los Angeles, California
Occupation Motion picture producer and distributor
Years active 1913–1923
Spouse(s) Florence Sachs
(married 1896–1933)
Children Myron Selznick
David O. Selznick
Awards Walk of Fame - Motion Picture
6412 Hollywood Blvd

Lewis J. Selznick (born Laiser Zeleznick, May 2, 1870 – January 25, 1933) was an American producer in the early years of the film industry.


Lewis J. Selznick was born Laiser Zeleznick in 1870 in Grinkiškis, Kovno Governorate, Russian Empire (now Lithuania),[1] to Ida (Ringer) and Joseph Seleznik.[2]:4 He grew up in Kiev and emigrated to the United States at age 18.[1]

Arriving in the United States in 1888, Louis J. Seleznick became a naturalized citizen September 29, 1894.[2]:5 He settled in Pittsburgh and built up a successful jewelry retail business. In 1896 or 1897, he married Florence (Flossie) Sachs.[2]:6–7 They had three sons: Howard Selznick (1897–1980), who suffered some undiagnosed mental disability;[2]:7 Myron Selznick (1898–1944), who would work as a producer and studio executive until establishing a successful talent agency; and David O. Selznick (1902–1965), a notable Hollywood filmmaker who produced Gone with the Wind (1939). A daughter, Ruth, was born in 1899 or 1900 but died before the age of two.[2]:8

Retaining his jewelry stores in the Pittsburgh area, Selznick moved his family to Brooklyn in 1903.[2]:8–9 He opened a large jewelry store,[1] the Knickerbocker, at Sixth Avenue and 23rd Street in Manhattan, but by 1907 he had left the business. The family surname changed from Seleznick to Selznick sometime in 1908 or 1909. In the years 1910 or 1911 the family moved to Manhattan, where Selznick worked as a patent promoter and sold electrical supplies.[2]:10–11

Through an old acquaintance from Pittsburgh, Selznick became involved with the Universal Film Manufacturing Company in 1913.[2]:13 In February 1914[3] he and Chicago mail-order magnate Arthur Spiegel organized the World Film Corporation,[4] a distributor of independently produced films[5] located in Fort Lee, New Jersey,[6][7][8] with general offices in New York City.[3] Company directors included Jules Brulatour, Briton N. Busch (secretary and treasurer), Van Horn Ely (president), Lee Shubert, and Selznick (vice president and general manager). Film historian David Thomson describes World Film as "a loose gathering of companies and interests engaged in producing films, with a nationwide system of exchanges and theaters where they could be shown". Within a year the company showed a profit of $329,000[2]:15 — more than $7.7 million today.[9]

Selznick had been dabbling in theatrical production, and his company put popular plays on film.[2]:15 World Films releases in 1915 included Lew Fields in Old Dutch, Alice Brady and Holbrook Blinn in The Boss, Wilton Lackaye and Clara Kimball Young in Trilby, and Lillian Russell and Lionel Barrymore in Wildfire.[4]

He soon merged with the Peerless Pictures Studios and the Shubert Brothers, Shubert Pictures Co. Selznick's company became very successful, in 1915 hiring Sidney Olcott away from Kalem Studios plus the French director Maurice Tourneur away from the American arm of the giant, Pathé. By 1916, personality conflicts with his partners saw him ousted from the firm by the Board of Directors.

Selznick continued in film on the East Coast until 1920 when he moved to Hollywood, California where he teamed up with Adolph Zukor and Jesse L. Lasky. However, within a few years his company, Lewis J. Selznick Productions, Inc., experienced severe financial difficulties and went bankrupt in 1925. He retired from the business.

Selznick died January 25, 1933, at his home in Los Angeles, California, with his wife and sons at his bedside.[4] He is interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Cemetery in Glendale, California.[10]


For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Lewis J. Selznick was inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame February 8, 1960. His star is located at 6412 Hollywood Blvd.[11]


  1. ^ a b c Lambert, Gavin (1976) [1973]. GWTW: The Making of Gone With the Wind (mass market paperback ed.). New York: Bantam Books. pp. 2–7. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Thomson, David (1992). Showman: The Life of David O. Selznick. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 0-394-56833-8. 
  3. ^ a b "Profit Sharing for Movies". The New York Times. December 14, 1914. Retrieved 2015-12-12. 
  4. ^ a b c "L. J. Selznick Dies; A Film Pioneer". The New York Times. January 26, 1933. Retrieved 2015-12-12. 
  5. ^ Katz, Ephraim (1998). The Film Encyclopedia (3rd ed.). New York: HarperPerennial. p. 1237. ISBN 0-06-273492-X. 
  6. ^ Koszarski, Richard (2004), Fort Lee: The Film Town, Rome, Italy: John Libbey Publishing -CIC srl, ISBN 0-86196-653-8 
  7. ^ "Studios and Films". Fort Lee Film Commission. Retrieved 2011-05-30. 
  8. ^ Fort Lee Film Commission (2006), Fort Lee Birthplace of the Motion Picture Industry, Arcadia Publishing, ISBN 0-7385-4501-5 
  9. ^ "Bureau of Labor Statistics CPI Inflation Calculator". United States Department of Labor. Retrieved 2015-12-12. 
  10. ^ "Lewis J. Selznick". Find a Grave. Retrieved 2015-12-12. 
  11. ^ "Lewis J. Selznick". Hollywood Walk of Fame. Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved 2015-12-11. 

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