Victor Fleming - Director





Nationality: American. Born: Pasadena, California, 23 February 1883. Career: Car-racing driver and chauffeur, then hired as assistant cameraman at American Film Company, 1910; began working with Allan Dwan, 1911; cameraman at Triangle, under D.W. Griffith, 1915; joined photographic section of U.S. Army Signal Corps, 1917; cameraman for Walter Wanger at Versailles Peace Conference, 1919;

Victor Fleming and Jean Harlow on the set of Reckless
Victor Fleming and Jean Harlow on the set of Reckless
directed first feature, 1920; contract director for MGM, from 1932. Awards: Oscar for Best Director, for Gone with the Wind , 1939. Died: In 1949.

Films as Director:

1919

When the Clouds Roll By (co-d) (private film featuring Douglas Fairbanks Sr., made for the Duke of Sutherland)

1920

The Mollycoddle

1921

Mamma'a Affair ; Woman's Place

1922

The Lane That Had No Turning ; Red Hot Romance ; Anna Ascends

1923

Dark Secrets ; The Law of the Lawless ; To the Last Man ; The Call of the Canyon

1924

Code of the Sea ; Empty Hands

1925

The Devil's Cargo ; Adventure ; A Son of His Father ; Lord Jim

1926

The Blind Goddess ; Mantrap

1927

The Rough Riders ( The Trumpet Call ); The Way of All Flesh ; Hula

1928

The Awakening

1929

Abie's Irish Rose ; Wolf Song ; The Virginian

1930

Common Clay ; Renegades

1931

Around the World with Douglas Fairbanks ( Around the World in Eighty Minutes with Douglas Fairbanks ) (+ role)

1932

The Wet Parade ; Red Dust

1933

The White Sister ; Bombshell ( Blond Bombshell )

1934

Treasure Island

1935

Reckless ; The Farmer Takes a Wife

1937

Captains Courageous ; The Good Earth (co-d with Franklin, uncredited); A Star Is Born (Wellman) (d add'l scenes)

1938

Test Pilot ; The Crowd Roars (Thorpe) (d add'l scenes); The Great Waltz (co-d with Duvivier, uncredited)

1939

The Wizard of Oz ; Gone with the Wind

1941

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (+ pr)

1942

Tortilla Flat

1943

A Guy Named Joe

1945

Adventure

1948

Joan of Arc



Other Films (incomplete listing):

1916

His Picture in the Papers (Emerson) (ph); The Habit of Happiness ( Laugh and the World Laughs ) (Dwan) (ph); The Good Bad Man ( Passing Through ) (Dwan) (ph); Betty of Greystone (Dwan) (ph); Macbeth (Emerson) (ph); Little Meena's Romance (Powell) (ph); The Mystery of the Leaping Fish (Emerson) (ph) (short); The Half-Breed (Dwan) (ph); An Innocent Magdalene (Dwan) (ph); A Social Secretary (Emerson) (ph); Manhattan Madness (Dwan) (ph); 50–50 (Dwan) (ph); American Aristocracy (Ingraham) (ph); The Matrimaniac (Powell) (ph); The Americano (Emerson) (ph)

1917

Down to Earth (Emerson) (ph); The Man from Painted Post (Henabery) (ph); Reaching for the Moon (Emerson) (co-ph); A Modern Musketeer (Dwan) (ph)

1919

His Majesty, the American ( One of the Blood ) (Henabery) (ph)

Publications


On FLEMING: books—

Thompson, Frank, Between Action and Cut: 5 American Directors , Metuchen, New Jersey, 1985.

Harmetz, Aljean, The Making of The Wizard of Oz , London, 1989.


On FLEMING: articles—

Obituary in New York Times , 7 January 1949.

Reid, John, "The Man Who Made Gone With the Wind ," in Films and Filming (London), December 1967.

Reid, John, "Fleming: The Apprentice Years," in Films and Filming (London), January 1968.

"Checklist—Victor Fleming," in Monthly Film Bulletin (London), October 1977.

Brownlow, Kevin, "Victor Fleming," in Film Dope (London), February 1979.

Gallagher, J., "Victor Fleming," in Films in Review (New York), March 1983.


* * *


Victor Fleming was a successful, respected director of some of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's biggest and most celebrated films ( Red Dust, Captains Courageous, Test Pilot ) as well as two undisputed Hollywood classics by the standards of popular taste, The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind. Ironically, it is probably the enormous continuing popularity of the last two titles that has eclipsed Fleming's personal reputation. Correctly perceived as producer-dominated, studio-influenced cinema, both Oz and Gone with the Wind are talked and written about extensively, but never as Victor Fleming films. They are classic examples of the complicated collaborations that took place under the old studio system. Although Fleming received directorial credit (and 1939's Oscar as Best Director) for Gone with the Wind , others made significant contributions to the final film, among them George Cukor.

Fleming served his film apprenticeship as a cinematographer, working with such pioneers as Allan Dwan at the Flying A company and D.W. Griffith at Triangle. He photographed several Douglas Fairbanks films, among them The Americano, Wild and Woolly , and Down to Earth. He developed a skillful sense of storytelling through the camera, as well as a good eye for lighting and composition during those years. After he became a director, his critical reputation became tied to the studio at which he made the majority of his films, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Known unofficially as a "producer's studio," MGM concentrated on showcasing its well-known stable of stars in suitable vehicles.

At Metro, Fleming was frequently thought of as a counterpart to George Cukor; Cukor was labelled a "woman's director," Fleming a "man's director." Besides being a close personal friend and favorite director of Clark Gable, Fleming was responsible for directing the Oscar-winning performance of Spencer Tracy in Captains Courageous. His flair for getting along with male stars enabled him to create an impressive group of popular films that were loved by audiences, who saw them as "Gable films" or "Tracy films." Both Henry Fonda (whose screen debut was in Fleming's The Farmer Takes a Wife ) and Gary Cooper (whose first big screen success was in The Virginian ) owed much of their early recognition to Fleming's talent for directing actors. Fleming had a talent for spotting potential stars and understanding the phenomenon of the star persona. In addition to his work with male actors, he also played a key role in the career development of Jean Harlow. Under Fleming's direction, she was encouraged to mix comedy with her sex appeal.

The Virginian , Fleming's first sound film, is an underrated movie that demonstrates a remarkable ability to overcome the problems of the early sound era, shooting both outdoors and indoors with equal fluidity and success. Fleming's use of naturalistic sound in this film did much to influence other early films. However, Fleming's work is not unified by a particular cinematic style, although it is coherent in thematic terms. His world is one of male camaraderie, joyous action, pride in professionalism, and lusty love for women who are not too ladylike to return the same sort of feelings. In this regard, his work is not unlike that of Howard Hawks, but Fleming lacked Hawks' ability to refine style and content into a unified vision.

Fleming's name is not well known today. Although he received directorial credit for what is possibly the most famous movie ever made in Hollywood ( Gone with the Wind ), he is not remembered as its director. His work stands as an example of the best done by those directors who worked within the studio system, allowing the film to bear the stamp of the studio rather than any personal vision.

—Jeanine Basinger

User Contributions:

1
Carrie
Report this comment as inappropriate
Jun 23, 2007 @ 11:11 am
I think that though Fleming made the larger part of "GWTW" and won an Oscar for it direction, he is quite underrated. He made many good films, the legendar "Wizard of Oz" or "Reckless" and "Red Dust". He had a talent to make a good, solid production, and knew how to direct his actors, though he was brutal and rude, and he treated Vivien Leigh really badly.

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