Oscar Directors: Fleming, Victor, Credited (but not sole) Director of Gone with the Wind and Wizard of Oz

Victor Fleming was born On February 23, 1989 in La Canada, California.

Victor Fleming, circa 1933. Courtesy Photofest.

He was the son of Elizabeth Evaleen (née Hartman, of German descent) and William Alonzo “Lon” Fleming, who worked in the water industry in Pasadena.

He served in the photographic division during WWI, and acted as chief photographer for President Woodrow Wilson in Versailles.

While working as a car mechanic, he met director Allan Dwan, who hired him as camera assistant. He rose to the rank of cinematographer, working with both Dwan and D. W. Griffith, and directed his first film in 1919.

His silent films tended to be actioners, often starring Douglas Fairbanks, or Westerns. His love of outdoors shooting and sports earned him the label of a “man’s director.”

Studio Director

In 1932, Fleming joined MGM and directed some of the studio’s most prestigious films: Red Dust (1932), Bombshell (1933), Reckless (1935), which showcased sex icon Jean Harlow.

He then made Treasure Island (1934) and Captains Courageous (1937), two were literary adaptations that were critically acclaimed and commercially successful.

Career Height: 1939–Gone With the Wind, The Wizard of Oz

His two most famous films came in 1939, when The Wizard of Oz was followed by Gone with the Wind.  Fleming was not the original director on either project, and is not solely responsible for their success.

He was hired for Gone with the Wind after George Cukor was fired, due to clashes with producer David O. Selznick.  Numerous other directors have contributed to the final cut, including Sam Wood.

Fleming’s version of Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde (1941), with Spencer Tracy in the dual role, is inferior to Rouben Mamoulian’s 1931 pre-Code version, which had starred Fredric March in an Oscar-winning turn.

Fleming’s 1942 film version of Sreinbeck’s Tortilla Flat starred Spencer Tracy, John Garfield, Hedy Lamarr, and Frank Morgan.

Fleming and Spencer Tracy

Other films Fleming made with Spencer Tracy include Captains Courageous (for which Tracy won his first Oscar), A Guy Named Joe, and Test Pilot.

Fleming and Clark Gable Collaborations

Fleming was the favorite director of star Clark Gable.  They made together five films: Red Dust, The White Sister, Test Pilot, Gone with the Wind, and Adventure.  All but Adventure were successful.

Last Film: Joan of Arc, Starring Ingrid Bergman (1948)

Fleming died while en route to a hospital in Cottonwood, Arizona after suffering a heart attack on January 6, 1949.  He was only 59. His death occurred shortly after completing Joan of Arc (1948), starring Ingrid Bergman, with whom he had fallen in love.

Despite mixed to negative reviews, Fleming’s version of the French mythic figure, one of few films not made at his home studio MGM, received seven Oscar nominations, winning two technical ones.

Career Analysis:

Victor Fleming’s screen career spanned 29 years, from 1919 to 1948, when his final film, Joan of Arc, was made.  He died just weeks after the release of that film, at the age of 59.

He was one of the luckiest directors, having won the Best Director Oscar at his first and only nomination, for Gone With the Wind.

Career out put: 44 films, more than half of them (25) silent.

 

Filmography

Silents: 25 Films

The Half-Breed (1916)

When the Clouds Roll Bye (1919) (directorial debut)

The Mollycoddle (1920)

Mama’s Affair (1921)

Woman’s Place (1921)

The Lane That Had No Turning (1922)

Red Hot Romance (1922)

Anna Ascends (1922)

Dark Secrets (1923)

Law of the Lawless (1923)

To the Last Man (1923)

The Call of the Canyon (1923)

Empty Hands (1924)

Code of the Sea (1924)

Adventure (1925)

The Devil’s Cargo (1925)

A Son of His Father (1925)

Lord Jim (1925)

The Blind Goddess (1926)

Mantrap (1926)

The Way of All Flesh (1927)

Hula (1927)

The Rough Riders (1927)

The Awakening (1928) (the film is presumed lost)

Abie’s Irish Rose (1928) (early talkie; part-talkie)

Wolf Song (1929) (shot as silent, part talkie due to songs)

Sound Features: 19 Films

The Virginian (1929)

Common Clay (1930)

Renegades (1930)

The Wet Parade (1932)

Red Dust (1932)

The White Sister (1933)

Bombshell (1933)

Treasure Island (1934)

Reckless (1935)

The Farmer Takes a Wife (1935)

Captains Courageous (1937)

Test Pilot (1938)

The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Gone with the Wind (1939)

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941)

Tortilla Flat (1942)

A Guy Named Joe (1943)

Adventure (1945)

Joan of Arc (1948) (final film)

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