David O. Selznick
The legendary producer of “Gone with the Wind,” “Rebecca,” “A Star is Born” and dozens of other major films was born in Pittsburgh to immigrant Lithuanian Jews. His father was a silent movie producer who went bankrupt. Selznick moved to Hollywood and got an assistant story editor job at MGM.
Selznick worked his way up at various other studios and formed Selznick International Pictures, which would go on to create “Gone with the Wind” (1939). Selznick brought Alfred Hitchcock over from England, which led to some of the greatest films of all time, including “Rebecca” (1940), winner of an Academy Award for Best Picture. Selznick signed Pittsburgher Gene Kelly to his first contract after seeing him on Broadway. Key films: “Gone with the Wind,” “Rebecca,” “Spellbound” (1945).
Pittsburgh special effects legend Tom Savini once told me that he was working on a play in North Carolina when a telegram arrived from director George Romero. “‘We got another gig,’” it read. “‘Start thinking of ways to kill people.’” So he started working on building things like a retractable screwdriver, to drive through a zombie’s ear. “Dawn of the Dead” (1978) was the result, and movie mayhem was never the same.
Then, came “Friday the 13th” (1980), which kicked off the mania for ultra-gory “splatter” movies that dominated horror for the next decade. The only living person on this list, Savini was inspired partly by his experience as a combat photographer in Vietnam, where he was haunted by the horrific carnage that he saw. Savini has been a pioneer of gore and guts for decades, making his blood-splattering special effects the hard way, without computers.
He’s also a stuntman, actor and educator — teaching his craft to generations of students, including Greg Nicotero (“The Walking Dead”), the current master of splatter. Savini oversees the Tom Savini Special Make-up Effects Program at the Douglas Education Center in Monessen, which attracts students from around the world. Key films: “Dawn of the Dead,” “Friday the 13th” “Creepshow” (1982).