Oscar Directors: Fleming, Victor–Background, Career, Awards, Filmography

Research in Progress (March 25, 2021)

Victor Fleming Career Summary:

Occupational Inheritance:

Social Class:

Nationality: US

Education:

Training: rising through the ranks

First Film: 1919; age 30

First Oscar Nomination: Gone with the Wind, 1939; age 50

Other Nominations: No

Genre (specialties): action-adventure, comedy

Collaborators: Clark Gable; Spencer Tracy

Last Film: Joan of Arc, 1948; age 58

Contract: MGM

Career Output: about 50; half silents

Career Span: 1919-1948 (3 decades)

Marriage:

Politics:

Retirement:

Death: 1949; age 59

 

Victor Lonzo Fleming (February 23, 1889–January 6, 1949) was an American film director, cinematographer, and producer.

His most popular films were The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind (both of 1939), for which he won the Best Director Oscar. Fleming has those same two films listed in the top 10 of the American Film Institute’s 2007 AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movies list.

Victor Fleming was born at the Banbury Ranch near what is now La Cañada Flintridge, California, the son of Eva (née Hartman) and William Richard Lonzo Fleming.

He served in the photographic section for the United States Army during World War I, and acted as chief photographer for President Woodrow Wilson in Versailles, France. He showed a mechanical aptitude early in life; while working as a car mechanic, he met the director Allan Dwan, who took him on as a camera assistant.

He rose to the rank of cinematographer, working with both Dwan and D. W. Griffith, and directed his first film in 1919.

Action Movies Starring Douglas Fairbanks

Many of his silent films were action movies, often starring Douglas Fairbanks, or Westerns. Because of his robust attitude and love of outdoor sports, he became known as a “man’s director”; however, he also proved an effective director of women. Under his direction, Vivien Leigh won the Best Actress Oscar, Hattie McDaniel won for Best Supporting Actress, and Olivia De Havilland was nominated.

veteran cinematographer Archie Stout said that, of all the directors he worked with Fleming was the most knowledgeable about camera angles and appropriate lenses.

MGM Director

In 1932, Fleming joined MGM and directed some of the studio’s most prestigious films. Red Dust (1932), Bombshell (1933), and Reckless (1935) showcasing Jean Harlow, while Treasure Island (1934) and Captains Courageous (1937) brought a touch of literary distinction to boy’s-own adventure stories.

Best Year of his Career: 1939

His two most famous films came in 1939, when The Wizard of Oz was closely followed by Gone with the Wind.

Fleming’s version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941), with Spencer Tracy, was inferior to Rouben Mamoulian’s 1931 pre-code version, which had starred Fredric March.

Working with Spender Tracy

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

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

Favorite Actor: Clark Gable

He directed Clark Gable in five films: Red Dust, The White Sister, Test Pilot, Gone with the Wind, and Adventure.

He owned the Moraga Estate in Bel Air, California, then a horse ranch. Frequent guests to his estate included Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, Ingrid Bergman, and Spencer Tracy.

He died en route to a hospital in Cottonwood, Arizona after suffering a heart attack on January 6, 1949. His death occurred shortly after completing Joan of Arc (1948) with Ingrid Bergman, one of the few films he did not make for MGM. Despite mixed reviews, Fleming’s version of the life of Joan received 7 Oscar nominations, winning two.

James Curtis’ book Spencer Tracy: A Biography stated that Anne Revere once said Fleming was “violently pro-Nazi” and strongly opposed to the US entering World War II. Fleming had once mocked the UK at the outset of World War II by taking a bet as to how long the country could withstand an attack by Germany.

Revere’s characterization of Fleming has been disputed, however.  Revere had made her comment because she felt she had been cast in The Yearling over Flora Robson because Robson was British. However, at the time of the casting, Fleming was working on the film Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which featured a British producer and a cast largely composed of British or British Commonwealth actors. Revere did not know Fleming beyond their professional relationship.

Filmography

Silent Films (about 23)

The Half-Breed (1916)
When the Clouds Roll By (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)

Sound films (23)

The Awakening (1928)

Abie’s Irish Rose (1928)

Wolf Song (1929)

The Virginian (1929)

Common Clay (1930)

Renegades (1930)

Around the World in 80 Minutes with Douglas Fairbanks (1931)

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)