Victor Fleming was Hollywood royalty who knew how to create film magic. As the visionary director of "The Wizard of Oz" and "Gone With the Wind," Fleming revolutionized filmmaking, elevated the power of the director and influenced cultural symbols, archetypes and vernacular to the present day.
Predicted to become "one of the truly important contributions to the motion picture," Fleming's adaptation of L. Frank Baum's classic "The Wizard of Oz" (1939) was a spectacular, spellbinding adventure that dazzled audiences and made Judy Garland a star.
Described by Edwin Schallert as "something new, daring and genuinely pathbreaking in cinema," he predicted "it will in the future be regarded as one of the truly important contributions to the motion picture."
Fleming's "Gone With the Wind" soon followed. Acclaimed as a "masterpiece," "Gone With the Wind" won 10 Academy Awards including best direction and best picture. It broke box-office records and grossed hundreds of millions of dollars. Within six months, Fleming entered into the annals of Hollywood's most influential directors with his second iconic achievement.
Fleming's ability to mold performers, and draw performances out of them, resulted in the creation of many of America's iconic personas, as seen in Spencer Tracy as the emotionally repressed male who starred in "Captains Courageous" (1937), which won him an Oscar for best actor, and in "Test Pilot" (1938) alongside Clark Gable, the daredevil pilot opposite Myrna Loy, the enduring wife. Other notable direction include "The Virginian" (1929) starring Gary Cooper as the cowboy, "The Farmer Takes a Wife" (1935) starring Henry Fonda as the farmer, "Red Dust" (1932) starring Jean Harlow as the vamp, "A Guy Named Joe" (1943) starring Irene Dunne as the dedicated girlfriend of a dead soldier, and "Joan of Arc" (1948) starring Ingrid Bergman as the farm girl turned warrior, among many others.
Fleming started his career in film as an accident in 1910 because he was able to repair a car for director-producer Allan Dwan. Fleming got a job as a camera repairman and work as a cameraman followed.
Fleming's roots in cinematography informed his work as a director, which began in 1919 with the film "When the Clouds Roll By" starring Douglas Fairbanks Sr. Starting out as Fairbanks' cinematographer, Fleming became Fairbanks' director for most of his career, shaping his image as the dashing, charismatic American male.
During World War I, Fleming served as a photographer and was President Woodrow Wilson's chief photographer while at Versailles, France.
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