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Victor Fleming: An American Movie Master Hardcover – Illustrated, December 9, 2008
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Victor Fleming was the most sought-after director in Hollywood’s golden age, renowned for his ability to make films across an astounding range of genres–westerns, earthy sexual dramas, family entertainment, screwball comedies, buddy pictures, romances, and adventures. Fleming is remembered for the two most iconic movies of the period, Gone With the Wind and The Wizard of Oz, but the more than forty films he directed also included classics like Red Dust, Test Pilot, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Captains Courageous. Paradoxically, his talent for knowing how to make the necessary film at the right time, rather than remaking the same movie in different guises, has resulted in Victor Fleming’s relative obscurity in our time.
Michael Sragow restores the director to the pantheon of our greatest filmmakers and fills a gaping hole in Hollywood history with this vibrant portrait of a man at the center of the most exciting era in American filmmaking. The actors Fleming directed wanted to be him (Fleming created enduring screen personas for Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, and Gary Cooper), and his actresses wanted to be with him (Ingrid Bergman, Clara Bow, and Norma Shearer were among his many lovers).
Victor Fleming not only places the director back in the spotlight, but also gives us the story of a man whose extraordinary personal style was as thrilling, varied, and passionate as the stories he brought to the screen.
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From Publishers Weekly
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About the Author
- Publisher : Pantheon (December 9, 2008)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 656 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0375407480
- ISBN-13 : 978-0375407482
- Item Weight : 2.31 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.39 x 1.77 x 9.5 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,342,047 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
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He seems to have scoured every memoir written by any participant in Hollywood's studio system, looking for favorable references to Victor Fleming. Of such scattered gold dust a portrait does not appear, at least not a cohesive one. I couldn't tell whether he was a nog good son of a gun, as Henry Hathaway paints him, or a sensitive and cultured aesthete. Sragow attempts to broaden the canvases constantly, insisting that Fleming was both. He was in fact everything. The book begins with a listing of many such paradoxes, and then never really goes anywhere with them. One thing is for sure, he makes a convincing case that Fleming should indeed be named the auteur of GWTW and THE WIZARD OF OZ. What he can never really address is why Fleming's last films, ADVENTURE and JOAN OF ARC, are such indescribably bad failures. He admits it, just lets it sit there as an ignominous caboose to his glorious Fleming railroad. Was he in love too much with Ingrid Bergman to get a good performance from her? Sragow notes that Joan of Arc has more closeups of Ingrod than "Hula or Mantrap did of [Clara] Bow, The Wizard of Oz did of Garland, Gone with the Wind of Leigh, or all of them combined." And yet that can't be the answer because ADVENTURE is just as bad, and Fleming could barely conceal his dislike of its leading lady (Greer Garson).
This book was a gift to me from a wonderful American poet, Judith Goldman, now based in Chicago. I read it thinking of her all the way through, trying to see her in these pages. A funny thing happened the other dasy, we were watching the TCM documentary on Johnny Mercer, and a TV host asks Mercer how he came up with the phrase "Jeepers Creepers," and Mercer recalled watching a then current picture called THE FARMER TAKES A WIFE, where Henry Fonda says the phrase long and slow. The documentary director included the clip: it's a Victor Fleming picture, I knew that much from reading this wonderful book! And, as Sragow argues, you can get a lot more American history from watching THE FARMER TAKES A WIFE and all of Fleming's other films (including even OZ) than from reading the Congressional Record from cover to cover. Thank you, Judith!
Film buffs may most enjoy the chapters on the Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind and the backstories behind these films. After reading this book though, readers might want to have another look at Fleming's films.
A wonderful book that belongs on the shelves of academic and public libraries and should be on the bookshelves of film fans and historians. It is hoped TCM will collaborate with the author on a documentary about Victor Fleming.
He directed at various studios beginning in the silent era and continuing in talkies. So many legendary actors, actresses, and directors greatly admired him for his talent. And he directed so many classic films!
Mr. Fleming was the perfect director to take on GWTW for producer David Selznick, who was so unhappy with G. Cukor. Mr. Fleming came on to take the reins and "save" the epic production. Anyone who could work with Mr. Selznick - Vic became ill during the filming - deserves a medal anyway, and Victor was one who did it, made GWTW the greatest of all films - 70 yrs. later we are still fascinated by it and LOVE it. The performances of Clark Gable as Rhett and Vivien Leigh are perfection, as is the film.
It's so sad that he died at an early age. He had so much more time left. The filming of "Joan of Arc" in the late '40's seemed to take so much out of him, disillusion and age him. He loved Ingrid Bergman so much and, I believe, let her take the reins - to the detriment of the movie, himself, and his health. (He was always such a handsome man as well).
In the end, a biography of a wonderful, wonderful director.