Victor Fleming, (1889 – 1949), American filmmaker who was one of Hollywood’s most popular directors during the 1930s. He was best known for his work on the 1939 classics Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz.

Early work
Fleming started in the film industry as a stunt car driver in 1910. By 1915 he was handling the camera for the director D.W. Griffith. During World War I he served as a photographer for the U.S. Army. Fleming’s first feature film, When the Clouds Roll By (1919), starred Douglas Fairbanks, and he directed several more movies before signing a contract with Paramount in 1922. Among the many prestigious silents he helmed were The Way of All Flesh (1927) with Emil Jannings, Hula (1927) with Clara Bow, and Abie’s Irish Rose (1928), an adaptation of the long-running Broadway show. In 1929 Fleming directed Gary Cooper in two westerns, The Wolf Song and The Virginian, an adaptation of Owen Wister’s popular novel. Although the latter was filmed several times, Fleming’s early talkie remains definitive, thanks to Cooper’s star-making turn as a charismatic ranch foreman.

The 1930s
After The Wolf Song and The Virginian, Fleming left Paramount and subsequently directed (with Fairbanks) the travelogue Around the World in 80 Minutes with Douglas Fairbanks (1931). Fleming signed at MGM in 1932 and quickly became one of the studio’s top directors. The Wet Parade (1932), a well-received adaptation of Upton Sinclair’s book about Prohibition. More popular was Red Dust (1932), arguably the best of several teamings of Clark Gable and Jean Harlow. A major box-office hit, the steamy jungle romance was filmed before censorship rules were tightened, and it featured teasing sexual banter that soon vanished from the screen. Fleming reteamed with Harlow on another success, Bombshell (1933), a satire of Hollywood.
In 1934, Fleming turned to family fare with Treasure Island, a solid adaptation of the oft-filmed Stevenson novel. Reckless (1935), however, was one of Fleming’s rare misfires at MGM. The musical featured Harlow and it proved controversial for a plotline that seemed to draw on the 1932 suicide of her husband, Paul Bern. Fleming rebounded with the hugely successful Captains Courageous (1937). The family drama was a sentimental but affecting version of the Rudyard Kipling novel about a spoiled rich boy who learns about life after falling from an ocean liner and being rescued by fishermen. The snappy Test Pilot (1938) was almost as good, with Gable, Myrna Loy, and Tracy forming an atypical but interesting romantic triangle.
In 1939 Fleming helped make two of Hollywood’s all – time classics – though neither began with him as the director. The Wizard of Oz, a musical based on L. Frank Baum’s novel, was initially directed by Richard Thorpe, but he was fired soon after filming began. Several directors subsequently worked on the production, though Fleming was the only one to receive credit; King Vidor was responsible for the black-and-white Kansas scenes. A box-office disappointment when first released, it later became a family classic and an icon of pop culture, with numerous memorable songs, quotes, and characters. It also made a star of Judy Garland.
The Wizard of Oz was nominated for a best picture Oscar, but it lost to Fleming’s second 1939 classic, Gone with the Wind. Here again, Fleming was not the original director. He replaced George Cukor. The production problems continued as Fleming suffered a nervous breakdown during the shoot, and Sam Wood was brought in to direct while he recovered. The final cut includes work by Cukor, Fleming, and Wood, but only Fleming was awarded an Oscar for best director. The film won a total of 10 Academy Awards (two of which were honorary), and it became one of the highest-grossing movies of all time.
Why is Fleming so little known and celebrated? Why did it take 70 years before we got the first critical biography, Michael Sragow’s excellent, scrupulously researched Victor Fleming: An American Movie Master (Pantheon Books)?
Was Victor Fleming more than the reliable journeyman filmmaker doing his job with anonymous efficiency? Sragow’s biography suggests that he was in fact a highly emotional man whose commitment to his work was so extreme that he frequently drove himself to a state of extreme physical and nervous exhaustion. The final instance was Joan of Arc, the troubled epic he hoped would surpass Gone With the Wind but which brought about his untimely death in 1949.

Gone With the Wind

Gone With the Wind presents a sentimental view of the American Civil War, in which the “Old South” takes the place of Camelot and the war was fought not so much to defeat the Confederacy and free the slaves as to give Scarlett O’Hara her comeuppance.
For the story it wanted to tell, it was the right film at the right time. Scarlett O’Hara is not a creature of the 1860s but of the 1930s: a free-spirited, wilful modern woman.
Scarlett’s lusts and headstrong passions have little to do with myths of delicate Southern flowers, and everything to do with the sex symbols of the movies that shaped her creator, Margaret Mitchell. She was a woman who wanted to control her own sexual adventures, and that is the key element in her appeal. She also sought to control her economic destiny in the years after the South collapsed, first by planting cotton and later by running a successful lumber business.
Of course, she could not quite be allowed to get away with marrying three times, coveting sweet Melanie’s husband Ashley, shooting a plundering Yankee, and banning her third husband from the marital bed in order to protect her petite waistline from the toll of childbearing. It fascinated audiences to see her high-wire defiance in a male chauvinist world, but eventually such behaviour had to be punished, and that is what “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” is all about.
Rhett Butler tells Scarlett in a key early scene, “You need kissing badly. That’s what’s wrong with you. You should be kissed, and often, and by someone who knows how.”
Scarlett’s confusion is between her sentimental fixation on a tepid “Southern gentleman” (Ashley Wilkes) and her unladylike lust for a bold man (Rhett Butler). The most thrilling struggle in “GWTW” is not between North and South, but between Scarlett’s lust and her vanity.
Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh were well matched in the two most coveted movie roles of the era.

The Wizard of Oz

The Wizard of Oz is one of the most iconic films in American cinematic history. The film has captured the hearts of adults and children worldwide since its release, yet initially the film was not an instant box office success.
Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland), a young girl from Kansas, decides to run away from her aunt and uncle’s farmhouse with her dog, Toto, who is in danger of being put down for biting a neighbour. After an encounter on the road with fortune-teller Professor Marvel, a well-meaning charlatan, Dorothy is persuaded to return home to her family. Before they can be reunited, however, she is knocked unconscious during a tornado. When she awakens, she and her farmhouse, along with Toto, are being transported to the Land of Oz, a magical place inhabited by strange characters, including munchkins, talking trees, and witches. Dorothy’s house lands in the midst of Oz’s Munchkinland, and she soon realizes it has fallen on and killed the Wicked Witch of the East, whose powerful ruby slippers are magically transported onto Dorothy’s own feet. Though the munchkins celebrate Dorothy for her inadvertent act, the evil witch’s sister, the Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton), vows to kill Dorothy in order to avenge her sister and retrieve the powerful ruby slippers. Glinda the Good Witch (Billie Burke) instructs Dorothy to follow the yellow brick road that runs to the Emerald City, where it is said that a powerful wizard will be able to grant her wish to return home.
On her way Dorothy befriends a Scarecrow (Ray Bolger) in search of a brain, a Tin Man (Jack Haley) looking for a heart, and a Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr) in need of some courage. They are tormented by the witch on their journey but manage to reach the Emerald City. Before the Wizard of Oz will grant their wishes, however, he demands that they bring him the Wicked Witch of the West’s broomstick. After battling flying monkeys, they infiltrate her castle, where Dorothy drenches the witch with a bucket of water, causing her to melt into a harmless puddle. Dorothy and her friends return to the Emerald City with the witch’s broomstick only to discover that the Wizard is a fraud, possessing no real powers. With the help of her magical ruby slippers and Glinda, however, Dorothy is able to return to Kansas, where she is reminded that “there’s no place like home.” In a departure from Baum’s book, her trip to Oz is portrayed as an elaborate dream sequence.
The film’s casting of Dorothy though was fraught with drama. Shirley Temple was the favourite to play Dorothy, but her studio Fox declined to loan her to MGM. The role was ultimately a big break for Garland.
The song, “Over The Rainbow” earned Garland, immortality. We hear from her aspirational longing for the idyllic, which captures the emotional core of the film’s narrative. As Garland’s sings to the heavens her superb vocals make this a perfect film moment!

Somewhere over the rainbow way up high,
There’s a land that I heard of once in a lullaby.
Somewhere over the rainbow skies are blue,
And the dreams that you dare to dream,
Really do come true.
Someday I’ll wish upon a star,
And wake up where the clouds are far behind me.
Where troubles melt like lemon drops,
Away above the chimney tops,
That’s where you’ll find me.
Somewhere over the rainbow bluebirds fly,
Birds fly over the rainbow. Why then, oh, why can’t I?
If happy little bluebirds fly,
Beyond the rainbow, why, oh why, can’t I?

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