Fleming.  Fleming has two films in the top 100 (wow!) and 5 in the top 100 of their respective decade. So what gives? That resume should put him closer to a top 50 director than #118. The issue is the level of authorship (in general- there aren’t a lot of Flemingisms’) specifically when it comes to Gone With the Wind– which is technically his best film. Mostly, I stick by the “directed by” byline but I’ve just read too much about David O. Selznick, the making of this film, and how much was shot by George Cukor to just paint this film as Fleming’s artistic achievement. I get that all films are collaborative in some sense- but this is different.

Best film:  Gone With the Wind. I do think it’s superior to The Wizard of Oz but those two titans of 1939 are the options here.

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one of cinema’s great crane shots here in Gone With the Wind– cinema at it’s finest making a statement on the horrors of war, the epic scope— all using the camera

total archiveable films: 9

top 100 films:  2 (Gone With the Wind, The Wizard of Oz)

top 500 films:  2 (Gone With the Wind, The Wizard of Oz)

breathtaking landscape, silhouette work, camera movement– the total package to close the first half of Gone With the Wind

top 100 films of the decade: 5 (Gone With the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Captains Courageous, Test Pilot, The Virginian)

Wizard of Oz is not just about the performance from Garland, the story and the songs (though that would be enough for a truly exceptional film). A stunner of a shot here.

most overrated:  Nothing really here. The TSPDT consensus has two Fleming films in the top 1000- The Wizard of Oz is in at 105 and Gone With the Wind is in at #109. I think both are slightly underrated by 10-30 slots.

incredible shot here in Gone With the Wind– the decision to use the color splash– if i had more confidence it was Fleming (there are shots here that look a lot like Selznick’s Duel in the Sun and/or Cukor’s My Fair Lady) I’d have Fleming ranked in the top 100 auteurs

most underrated:   It is Captains Courageous. It falls between #500 and #1000 for me and it doesn’t land on the TSPDT at all. Spencer Tracy, a stacked supporting ensemble (Lionel Barrymore, Melvyn Douglas, Rooney, John Carradine) in a winning coming of age yarn from Kipling source material.

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Captains Courageous – Fleming’s most underrated work

gem I want to spotlight:    Test Pilot. The two masterpieces are why Fleming is here and should be praised but when you’ve watched hundreds of movies from the 1930’s and then one day stumble upon Test Pilot with Spencer Tracy and Clark Gable (the two best in 1938) throwing 100 miles per hour at each other… you have to stop and appreciate it.

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fast-talking, swashbuckling action — masculinity on display here with Tracy and Gable

stylistic innovations/traits:  Fleming is remembered for 1930’s Technicolor Hollywood masterpieces— two landmarks of Hollywood, the Golden year of 1939. Red Dust and Captains are exotic adventure yarns and engaging for sure- but make no mistake about it it’s the 1-2 punch from 1939 that Fleming’s reputation is built on. The images and innovations here in The Wizard of Oz and Gone With the Wind speak for themselves. If we could attribute Gone With the Wind solely to Fleming, like I said above, there is crane camera movements (the injured body shot), the end of the first act with “As God as my witness” and that shot— it would put Fleming there with Griffith and David Lean. It may be the use of color though that he’s most associated with. Powell and Pressburger would do similar work in the 1940’s but his color splashes in Gone With the Wind and the often-duplicated shot of the door opening in The Wizard of Oz…. ahh… stylistic cinematic bliss. 

homage paid by Chazelle in First Man tand Scorsese in Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore– one of cinema’s greatest single shots here in The Wizard of Oz

top 10

  1. Gone With the Wind
  2. The Wizard of Oz
  3. Captains Courageous
  4. Test Pilot
  5. The Virginian
  6. Red Dust
  7. A Guy Named Joe
  8. Joan of Arc
  9. Treasure Island  

By year and grades

1929- The Virginian R
1932- Red Dust R
1934- Treasure Island R
1937- Captains Courageous MS
1938- Test Pilot HR
1939- Gone with the Wind MP
1939- The Wizard of Oz MP
1943- A Guy Named Joe R
1948- Joan of Arc R

*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film

MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film

HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film

R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives