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  • USA
  • 1994-12-06
About the object
The gold plated brittania statue with the front plaque inscribed ACADEMY FIRST AWARD TO VICTOR FLEMING FOR DIRECTION OF "GONE WITH THE WIND"; on the reverse of the base of the plaque [ACADEMY OF MOTION PICTURE ARTS AND SCIENCES FIRST AWARD] 1939--12 in. high--replated--slightly leaning.

Victor Fleming (1883 - 1949) began his career in Hollywood as an assistant cameraman at the American Film Co. in 1910. After a stint in the photographic section of the U.S. Army Signal Corp. during World War I, he directed his first silent feature film, the 1919 When Clouds Roll By, starring Douglas Fairbanks. After seven years with Paramount Pictures, Fleming began his long-term relationship with M.G.M. Studios. 1939 was an historical year for Louis B. Mayer and Company: The Wizard of Oz, their most expensive production to date, was in full swing with Dick Thorpe at the director's helm, soon to be replaced by George Cukor, who was waiting to begin work on Selznick Picture's epic Gone With The Wind. In the middle of the production of the Wizard Of Oz, Cukor left to fulfill his commitment to Selznick, and Victor Fleming took over on Gone With The Wind.

In a classic Hollywood twist, George Cukor (citing "creative differences" with David Selznick) proceeded to walk off the production of Gone With The Wind in a panic. After checking around at M.G.M., Selznick decided to pull Fleming off the set of The Wizard of Oz (with three weeks of filming remaining, King Vidor finished the picture). Out of loyalty to his great friend Clark Gable, Victor Fleming agreed to do it.

Victor Fleming was appalled with the Gone With The Wind script and refused to begin shooting until a final screenplay had been drafted. Ben Hecht was brought in and instead of reading the book, Selznick and Fleming acted out the story (Selznick playing the parts of Scarlett and Ashley, Fleming as Rhett and Melanie). After five days and nights the script was finished and Victor Fleming resumed shooting. One of his many invaluable touches was the filming of the wounded soldier scene. Since only eight hundred out of two thousand extras answered the call, the panoramic spectacle and "pullback" shot was achieved with the actors groaning in pain and manipulating mannequins at the same time. Gone With The Wind would go on to capture a record ten Academy Awards in 1940. Hollywood folklore has it that when Fleming won the Award for Best Director (and Gable lost out to Robert Donat), the director playfully tossed the Oscar to his friend claiming "Here, you have it!" - thus the slight lean to the statue.
Victor Fleming's technical and creative contributions to two of the great American films of all time is immeasurable.

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