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posted on 06.18.09

The May 25, 2009 issue of the New Yorker included a nicely engaging exploration – by David Denby – of Victor Fleming, mostly through his work on The Wizard of Oz and Gone With the Wind. How did the director of two enormous classics fade from cinema history? Well, for one thing, he doesn't fit well at all, stylistically, into the principles of auteur theory (despite considerable personal presence).  Denby takes an entertaining look at Fleming's forceful and dramatic life and methods, but it's a perspicacious examination of character in film as well:

"As Sragow points out, Fleming had learned something essential from his capering association with Douglas Fairbanks—how to position a performer within the frame and time his performance in such a way that the camera brought out his temperament and his strength. This would seem an essential skill for any filmmaker, yet a surprising number of directors, obsessed with visual expressiveness, are inattentive to it. Fleming didn’t give detailed instructions to his actors; rather, he talked about the character, and located and enlarged a set of defining traits—a strain of feeling or humor—in whomever he was working with. Then the actors, working intimately for the camera, performed what in effect were idealized versions of themselves, creating a persona that connected with a widespread public fantasy. Fleming, along with such directors as Ford and William Wyler, had the star-making skill that Hollywood has now lost."

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