Birthday: February 23, 1889
Died At Age: 59
Sun Sign: Pisces
Also Known As: Victor Lonzo Fleming
Born in: La Cañada Flintridge, California, United States
Famous as: Film Director
Spouse/Ex-: Clara West Strouse (1909–1915; divorce), Lucile Rosson (1933–1949; his death)
father: William Alonzo Fleming
mother: Elizabeth Evaleen
Died on: January 6, 1949
place of death: Cottonwood, Arizona, United States
U.S. State: California
Who was Victor Fleming?
Victor Fleming was an American film director, cinematographer, and producer, best known for directing the epic film ‘Gone with the Wind’ for which he won the Academy Award for Best Director. He was equally popular for his musical comedy-drama fantasy film ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ One of Hollywood’s most popular directors during the 1930s, he possessed the knack of drawing outstanding performances from his leading actors including Clara Bow, Jean Harlow, Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy and Ingrid Bergman. Born in a ranch in California, he lost his father at a tender age following which he went to live with his mother at her brother’s place. His uncle was a farmer and the young boy grew up working on the ranch. An outdoor enthusiast, he refused to give in to his family’s wishes to become a teacher or civil engineer, and instead became a taxi driver and mechanic. His career as a mechanic led him to a chance meeting with the director Allan Dwan who employed him as a camera assistant. A quick learner, he soon rose to the rank of cinematographer and proceeded to direct his own films. During the initial years of his career he made several silent films and moved to the talkies in late 1920s. Counted amongst the most popular directors of the 1930s, he touched the heights of success with ‘Gone with the Wind’ and ‘The Wizard of Oz.’
Childhood & Early Life
Victor Lonzo Fleming was born on February 23, 1889, on a ranch in La Cañada Flintridge, California, United States, to Elizabeth Evaleen (née Hartman) and William Alonzo "Lon" Fleming. He had two younger sisters.
His father, a citrus farmer, died when Victor was just four. His mother took the children and moved in with her brother who was also a citrus farmer. Victor grew up working on his uncle’s ranch and developed a love for the outdoors. His mother eventually remarried a water-well owner.
He attended the Polytechnic High School in Los Angeles and graduated in 1905. His family wanted him to pursue a teaching or engineering profession but the teenager was not interested. Instead, he sought a life of adventure and was drawn to automobiles that were just emerging on the roads of California.
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In 1905, he took up a job as a machinist with Whitesell and Co, one of California's first auto companies. Eventually he became a taxi driver and then a mechanic at the Los Angeles Motor Car Company.
His career as a mechanic led to a chance meeting with director Allan Dwan in 1912. Dwan took the young man as a camera assistant at the Flying A Studios. A quick learner, Fleming wasted no time in rising up to the rank of cinematographer.
In 1915, he joined the recently formed Triangle Studios in New York and worked with D. W. Griffith on several movies including ‘Intolerance’ in 1916.
America entered the World War I in 1917 and Fleming joined the army Signals Corps where he served in the photographic section and was assigned to be the chief photographer for President Woodrow Wilson at the 1918 Peace Conference in Versailles, France.
In 1919, Fleming directed his first feature film, ‘When the Clouds Roll By’, a comedy film starring Douglas Fairbanks. The movie was a tale about a superstitious but ambitious young New Yorker who becomes the victim of demented psychiatrist Dr. Ulrich Metz.
Several other movies followed, often starring Douglas Fairbanks. His movies from the 1920s include 'Empty Hands' (1924), 'Lord Jim' (1925) and 'The Way of All Flesh' and 'The Rough Riders' in 1927. He also directed would-be superstar, Gary Cooper, in his first big hit, 'The Virginian' in 1929.
Already a popular director by the late 1920s, his career scaled newer heights in the 1930s. In 1932, he made ‘Red Dust’, a romantic drama film starring Clark Gable, Jean Harlow, and Mary Astor in the leading roles. It was a huge hit.
He followed the success of ‘Red Dust’ with films like ‘Bombshell’ (1933), and ‘Reckless’ (1935) starring Jean Harlow, ‘Treasure Island’ (1934) with Wallace Beery and ‘Captains Courageous’ (1937) with Lionel Barrymore and Spencer Tracy.
The year 1939 was undoubtedly the most successful in his career. He directed two of his best known films, ‘Gone with the Wind’ and ‘The Wizard of Oz’ the same year which earned him much acclaim.
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He continued making popular movies in the 1940s, the most notable of which are ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ (1941), ‘Tortilla Flat’ (1942), ‘A Guy Named Joe’ (1943), and ‘Adventure’ (1945). His thriving career was cut short by his sudden death in 1949.
He directed the epic-historical romance film ‘Gone with the Wind’ adapted from Margaret Mitchell’s novel of the same name. The film was immensely popular and received ten Academy Awards from 13 nominations, including a win for Best Director for Fleming. The film is regarded as one of the greatest films of all time.
The Fleming directed comedy-drama fantasy film ‘The Wizard of Oz’ which became popular for its fantasy storytelling, musical score, and unusual characters, is today considered an icon of American popular culture. The movie is often ranked on best-movie lists in critics' and public polls.
Awards & Achievements
Victor Fleming won the Academy Award for Best Director for ‘Gone with the Wind’ in 1939.
Personal Life & Legacy
He married for the first time in 1909 when he was just 20 and his wife Clara West Strouse just 16. The marriage did not last long and they divorced in 1915.
Victor Fleming was a good-looking and charming man who was very popular with women. He was involved in affairs with several actresses, such as Clara Bow, Norma Shearer, Ingrid Bergman, Virginia Valli and Bessie Love.
His second marriage was in 1933 to Lucile Rosson. The couple had two children and remained together until Fleming’s death.
He died of a heart attack on January 6, 1949, at the age of 59.
This American director holds the achievement of being the only film director to have two films listed in the top 10 of the American Film Institute's 2007 AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies list.