Victor Fleming: An American Movie Master

Michael Sragow, Author . Pantheon $40 (645p) ISBN 978-0-375-40748-2

Fleming, who directed most of The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind , and all of The Virginian and Bombshell , was not just a consummate studio craftsman but a distinctive artist, contends this rapt biography. Film critic Sragow has a tough case to make. Fleming's varied oeuvre suggests no signature onscreen style; instead, Sragow celebrates his feel for action and fantasy, and his intuitive way of directing actors. He also credits Fleming with inventing the Hollywood masculinity embodied by screen idols like Gary Cooper, Spencer Tracy and Clark Gable. Fleming, a big-game hunter and a polished bon vivant known for bedding his female stars, was both “a man's man and a ladies' man,” Sragow writes, who made male characters correspondingly tough but chivalrous (though offscreen Fleming wasn't above twisting Lana Turner's arm or slapping Ingrid Bergman to draw on-camera tears). Sragow's intricate, engrossing accounts of the making of Fleming's films convey his on-set charisma (and form a fine montage of Hollywood's evolution), but the real auteur is the studio system itself and its well-honed myth-making machinery (Fleming's last movie, Joan of Arc , an independent production, was a fiasco). Sragow's Fleming is a man who personified Old Hollywood, but didn't transcend it. Photos. (Dec. 9)

Reviewed on: 10/06/2008
Release date: 12/01/2008
Genre: Nonfiction
Book - 978-0-8131-4523-5
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