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Victor Fleming

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Victor Fleming (23 February 1889 – 6 January 1949) was a major Hollywood director of the Golden Age. He directed most of the 1939 MGM film The Wizard of Oz.

Fleming, a former race car driver, began his movie career in 1910 as a stunt driver. He became a cameraman and cinematographer in 1915, and worked on many films with Douglas Fairbanks. He made the leap to director in 1919, and directed a number of notable films through the 1920s and '30s. He had a reputation as an action director, and was a somewhat surprising yet ultimately effective choice for the Oz film.

Fleming had gained a reputation for being able to straighten out troubled productions, and was brought onto MGM's Oz project for precisely this reason. He started work on the picture at the beginning of November 1938. He also brought with him John Lee Mahin, his regular screenwriter, who worked with Fleming on the set to provide a final polish to the scripts Fleming shot. Mahin played the same role on The Wizard of Oz, and so became the last of the many writers who had labored on the project's screenplay.

A range of changes accompanied the new direction. (In one example, oval bricks in the Yellow Brick Road were replaced with more standard rectangular ones.) Fleming directed most of the movie, though he did not remain to finish the job; early in 1939 he left to take over Gone With the Wind, another troubled shoot (Fleming replaced George Cukor on that film, just as he had on The Wizard of Oz). Work on The Wizard of Oz was completed by Fleming's replacement, King Vidor.

Fleming had other directorial experience with various members of the Oz cast. He worked with Margaret Hamilton in The Farmer Takes a Wife (1935), with Clara Blandick in The Wet Parade (1932), with Charley Grapewin in Captains Courageous and The Good Earth (both 1937), and with Frank Morgan in Bombshell (1933) and Tortilla Flat (1942).

References

  • John Fricke, Jay Scarfone, William Stillman. The Wizard of Oz: The Official 50th Anniversary Pictorial History. Warner Books, 1989.

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