David Selznick and Since You Went Away
"I have a different concept of producing than
other producers. Some producers are money men,
and others are just lieutenants. For me to
produce is to make a picture. As a producer,
I can maintain an editorial perspective that
I wouldn't have as a director. I consider
myself first a creative producer, then a showman
and then a businessman. You need all three things
to succeed in the business today."
-David O. Selznick
The film Since You Went Away was released in 1944. This epic film attempted to relate to the American audience that was dealing with the war foreclosing and the flux of soldiers coming home at the time. The Hollywood studios were constantly trying to do their part for the war buy making films about the war in a fairy tale "Hollywood" style. Since You Went Away crossed these boundaries, and the movie audience at the time, positively responded for this reason. The producer and screenwriter of the film knew America craved this portrayal. Critics of the film from this period, applauded it's "realism", but in hindsight studies of the film in the seventies and eighties were a little more critical of the film. David O. Selznick was the man behind the vision of this film and Selznick is best known for film classic's like; Gone With the Wind, (from which the formula of this movie draws heavily from) Rebecca, and King Kong. This film was a special project for Selznick at the time, and it was seen as his contribution to the war effort. The academy awards recognized Selznick's effort and nominated his film for best picture of 1944.
David Selznick was known as a one of the great creative producers- along side Walt Disney. A creative producer is usually "a powerful mogul who supervises the production of a film in such exacting detail that he was virtually its artistic creator." (Eyman p. 121) In this period, Selznick's style was remembered best by his epic length movies in which he paid special attention to detail. His films catered to the female market but also had potential to cross over to the male segment. Selznick was "increasingly becoming aware of the commercial value of his name." (Fenster p.36) He decided to repeat the formula that worked well in Gone With the Wind and made a decision to purchase a war novel/diary from Margaret Wilder. Since You Went Away spawned from Wilder's novel, after Selznick spent many hours on developing the screenplay and hiring the right cast. The war film was a popular genre to produce during the war years in North America. Also, it was seen as a noble effort to make a film about the war. Most of the skilled directors or producers of these films, stylized their own vision of the war with their special trademarks throughout the film. Films that did this, usually did will well at the box office as well as at the Academy Awards Ceremony. David Selznick was looking for a hit movie to follow the success of Gone With The Wind and he hoped Since You Went Away would be a blockbuster. Selznick spent nearly "$3,000,000 on this film", (Thomas p. 220) which meant glossy and detailed scenes throughout the film. This was an unusual amount of money for a film from this period, but David Selznick was known in Hollywood for his elaborate budgets.
The films length allowed Selznick to allow it to take place over a year. The story begins in January 12, 1943 which is immediately after Mr. Hilton departs for the war. The Hiltons are a middle/upper class family who are now faced with dealing with dealing with the trials and tribulations of everyday life without the support of a male authority figure. A lot of emphasis is placed on the female audience's familiarity with "the details of day to day living and plenty of humorous sentimental reportage of housekeeping: rationing, the problems of two growing daughters and the business of getting jobs to help the family's...
Cited: Abel. Brian. "Since You Went Away." Variety July 19, 1944 p13
Hartung, Philip. "The Screen: While You Are Gone, Dear." The Commonweal August
4, 1944 p374-375.
Newsweek "First GWTW, Now SYWA" July 10, 1944 p85-6.
Thomas, Bob. "Selznick" New York: Doubleday & Company, 1970.
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