Joan Selznick, a member of one of Hollywood’s most celebrated families, died at her Laguna Beach home, a family spokesman said Wednesday.
A spokesman for the Orange County coroner’s office said Selznick, 58, was found dead at her residence March 28. A preliminary autopsy report says that she had died of natural causes March 27. The coroner’s office is waiting for toxicological tests to be completed, the spokesman said.
She was born Joan Selznick to agent Myron Selznick, who helped launch the careers of some of the biggest names of the silent screen, including Olive Thomas, Constance Talmadge, Owen Moore, Lew Cody, Bert Lytell, Corinne Griffith and Marjorie Daw.
Myron Selznick married Daw, Joan’s mother, but they were divorced in 1942, 2 years before he was to die in his mid-40s of an internal hemorrhage. Joan was 14 at the time and living in the East with her mother.
Joan had changed her name several times, however. The name listed on the death certificate is Frances Whitcomb, said Geoffrey Selznick, a cousin of Joan and a film producer in Florida.
Geoffrey Selznick said Joan had been married and divorced twice and that “for reasons we don’t know” took the name of Frances Whitcomb. She had no children. She had been living in Laguna Beach for at least 20 years, he said, as a “very, very private person.”
“She loved it in Laguna Beach,” Geoffrey Selznick said, “but she was a recluse, and the neighbors report that she had not been out of the house in the last 10 to 12 years.”
Joan Selznick inherited some prime real estate from her father, including the corner plot in Beverly Hills now occupied by the Neiman Marcus department store, which is leasing the land.
Uncle Was Producer
Joan’s uncle was producer David O. Selznick, whose most successful film was “Gone With the Wind,” released in 1939.
She was the granddaughter of Lewis J. Selznick, one of the film industry’s early moguls.
Legend has it that her father brought Vivien Leigh to David Selznick during the filming of the burning of Atlanta and told him, ‘Here’s your Scarlett.”’
At the time, David Selznick had tested other actresses but had not made a final selection for the coveted role of Scarlett O’Hara, the heroine of the story.
The county public administrator/guardian’s office has opened an investigation to help settle Joan Selznick’s estate. The office routinely opens such an investigation after a resident dies alone, a spokeswoman said.
Graveside services will be Saturday at Pacific View Memorial Park in Newport Beach.
She is survived by several other cousins, including film producer Daniel Selznick of Los Angeles and Florence Howard of Los Angeles.