Victor Fleming





2/23/1883 , Pasadena, California, USA



Birth Name




Though known primarily as an "action" director-and for taking the reins of two of history's most beloved films-Fleming was more versatile than film history would seem to indicate. He got into the film industry by accident (he'd been a race car driver, and in later years was a well-known motorcyclist and airplane pilot), and worked his way up through the ranks on film crews, eventually serving as cinematographer to Allan Dwan, D. W. Griffith, and Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. He made his feature debut as a codirector on Fairbanks' When the Clouds Roll by (1920) and then soloed on The Mollycoddle (1921). After such interesting projects as Red Hot Romance (1922, written by Anita Loos) and a 1925 version of Lord Jim he worked at Paramount and was noted for the Clara Bow vehicles Mantrap (1926, one of her best performances) and Hula (1927), Emil Jannings' first Hollywood film, The Way of All Flesh (1927), and Westerns like The Rough Riders (1927) and The Virginian (1929, a film that helped ensure Gary Cooper's stardom). He went to MGM in 1932 and helmed the Jean Harlow classics Red Dust (1932, with Clark Gable) and Bombshell (1933, a terrific satire of Hollywood), going on to prove himself in a variety of memorable comedies, dramas, biographies, and action films like The White Sister (1933), Treasure Island (1934), Captains Courageous (1937), and Test Pilot (1938). In 1939, Fleming lucked into two of the great directing coups of all times. First he was selected to take over directing chores on the musical fantasy The Wizard of Oz next, he was asked by David O. Selznick and Clark Gable to replace George Cukor on the epic Gone With the Wind over concerns that Cukor was paying far more attention to Vivien Leigh than the rest of the film. (Fleming, ironically, was later replaced by Sam Wood after suffering a nervous breakdown.) GWTW earned Fleming a Best Director Oscar (just one of the film's many accolades). One of MGM's most reliable directors, he took on such varied assignments in the 1940s as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941), Tortilla Flat (1942), A Guy Named Joe (1943), Adventure (1946) and Joan of Arc (1948). It's ironic that someone known so much as Mr. Macho would have directed some of Hollywood's most potent weepies, not to mention memorable performances by such female stars as Clara Bow, Jean Harlow, and Ingrid Bergman.