What Got This Director Here?: Wizard of Oz and Gone With the Wind (which he only directed part of).
My Favorite Past Experience Was…: Wizard of Oz.
What Did I Watch: Joan of Arc and A Guy Named Joe.
Where Does He Fit: Fleming’s career is one that I find a little suspiciously overacclaimed, with Red Dust being the only great work that is definitely his. Gone With the Wind and Wizard of Oz frankly scream of big budget productions that don’t really fit into auteur theory, and if they did, only Vidor’s Kansas scenes and a certain Cukorness about Oz would really qualify. Joan of Arc was where his middlebrow prestige instincts started to well up, with Ingrid Bergman and Jose Ferrer winning two rather undeserved nominations for a 2.5 hour epic that makes you even more grateful for the Dreyer (especially since the credits sequence in this is a short film in its own right). I didn’t totally hate this, which is damning with faint praise, but overblown Christian epics that ruin the careers of interesting actresses for a very long time are not my flavor even when they are as beautifully shot on Technicolor as this is. File it under “they tried.”
Joan of Arc and A Guy Named Joe both have unsubtle dialogue, but the former is a dour prestige piece while the latter is pulpy and enjoyable (if too long). Here Comes Mr. Jordan gets revamped in the context of the war (and with a guardian angel instead of a body), and sets itself up for the broader ensemble that movie deserved, albeit in a more serious context. Spencer Tracy is lousy as always, but Van Johnson is a real treat, and Irene Dunne is fabulous as always. Rest of the cast is stacked, so I’m surprised that this is so little known.
Most Valuable Asset: Hard work and scale.
Most Excited For: Bombshell.
Did They Deserve a Spot?: Yes, but lower down.
Coming Up Next: Frank Capra and his corn.