Edgar Selwyn was to become an important figure in American entertainment during the first half of the twentieth century. He co-founded and built the Selwyn theatre on Broadway in 1918. However, he was perhaps most famous as the founder of Goldwyn Pictures, which later went on to become MGM studios. At the age of 17, Selwyn had tried to commit suicide by jumping into the Chicago River. Instead, he landed on the ice, which saved him. Twenty years later, he was rescued from a similar icy death at sea- this time all for the sake of reading a book.
According to the diary of Arnold Bennett, the famous English novelist, and playwright, he and Selwyn met in April 1912- a meeting that saved Selwyn’s life. Selwyn was due to travel back to America in the company of American producer H B Harris and his wife, Irene. However, he was eager to read an early draft of Bennett’s new novel The Reagent. The problem was, by April 10th, the novel wasn’t ready to read. So both Selwyn made his excuses to the Harris’ and stayed in England.
The Harris’ departed on Titanic. Although Mrs. Harris made it safely onto a lifeboat, HB Harris went down with the ship. Meanwhile, on April 19th, Selwyn was still safe in England and had finally read The Reagent- the novel that saved his life. He returned to America to enjoy the greatest success of his career to date, the musical “The Wall Street Girl” which ran for 56 performances from June 1912. In the same year, he produced “Within the Law” which accrued a net profit of a million dollars just days before the introduction of federal income tax. 1912 was indeed Selwyn’s lucky year.
A misunderstanding and overzealous newspaper reporting made one person who was never due to sail on Titanic into a member of the “Just Missed It” club.