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Irene Mayer Selznick; Producer, Daughter of Movie Magnate

October 11, 1990|MYRNA OLIVER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Irene Mayer Selznick, a Broadway producer who was the daughter of movie magnate Louis B. Mayer and former wife of the late film producer David O. Selznick, died Wednesday in New York City. She was 83.

Mrs. Selznick died at her apartment in the posh Hotel Pierre on Manhattan's 5th Avenue of complications of breast cancer, according to her son, Daniel Mayer Selznick.

As a producer, Mrs. Selznick preferred legitimate theater to the film world that made her father and husband household names.

Perhaps her best-known Broadway hit was Tennessee Williams' "Streetcar Named Desire" in 1948, which starred Marlon Brando and Jessica Tandy. The play was only her second attempt at producing, following the ill-fated "Heart Song."

"I thought either I would fail or I would be a fraud, because if I succeeded it would mean that I'd fooled people into thinking I really could do this," she once said of her meteoric entry into the theater. "It took me months to recover from the ('Streetcar') success, and only after I'd overseen several productions of the play here and in England did I finally realize I was competent."

Mrs. Selznick quickly followed "Streetcar" with another success, "Bell, Book and Candle," in 1950, and, after the less than impressive "Flight into Egypt" in 1952, came back strongly with "A Chalk Garden" in 1955. But she voluntarily ended her career as a producer after only a few years.

"I didn't have my finger on the pulse of the times," she said in a Times interview in 1983. "I admired the well-made play, which was beginning to be viewed as old-fashioned."

Born in Brooklyn, Irene Mayer moved west with her family and was still a teen-ager when her father founded Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studio, which he ran from 1924 to 1952.

She married Selznick in 1930, and, during that union, was active on the Los Angeles County Probation Board and other organizations in Southern California for several years.

Mrs. Selznick returned to New York City after the couple separated in 1946. She never remarried after their 1948 divorce.

Her critically acclaimed memoir, "A Private View," which was published in 1983, offered an affectionate and forgiving view of both powerful men in her life and provided rare insight to Selznick's day-to-day work as producer of "Gone With the Wind" in 1939.

Survivors include two sons, Daniel and Lewis Jeffrey Selznick.

Daniel Selznick said memorial services will be scheduled in New York. He asked that any memorial contributions be made to the Dana Farber Cancer Research Institute in Boston.

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