At his first meeting with assistant directors Eric Stacey and Ridgeway Callow, Fleming left no doubt about how he would run things. “They tell me that you’re supposed to be the best team in the picture business,” Fleming snarled. “But I’m going to put both of you in the hospital before this picture is over.”
Fleming browbeat and drove his cast and crew mercilessly. In just a few days, he was thoroughly disliked by almost everyone.
Clark Gable was happy to have Fleming on board. At last he could feel comfortable in the hands of a director who understood him. Gable relaxed on the set, had lunch with the crew and joined in their jokes.
Vivien Leigh, on the other hand, was bitter about George Cukor’s replacement especially after Fleming declared, “I’m going to make this picture a melodrama.” In an attempt to win her over, Fleming nicknamed Leigh “Fiddle-dee-dee,” but this just increased her resentment toward him.
Leslie Howard didn’t care who was directing. His goal was to finish Gone With the Wind and move on to Intermezzo.
Olivia de Havilland remained distraught over Cukor’s absence and steered clear of confrontations with Fleming. One evening over dinner, she shared her feelings with date Howard Hughes. “Don’t worry,” he counseled. “Everything is going to be all right. George and Victor have the same talent. But Victor’s is strained through a coarser sieve.”
George Cukor’s influence did not end with Victor Fleming’s first day on the set. When de Havilland needed help with development of her character, she turned to Cukor either dining with him during the week or meeting with him on Sunday, her only day off from filming.
Perhaps feeling guilty, de Havilland questioned Cukor about the propriety of working with him on the qt. The director replied that he didn’t see anything wrong with it since Vivien Leigh was doing the same thing. Cukor essentially ghost-directed their performances in this way until the end of filming.
Blog Bio: Pauline Bartel is the author of The Complete GONE WITH THE WIND Trivia Book (2nd edition), which will be published in spring 2014, and an expert on the film and its history. Visit the website (www.paulinebartel.com/resources/books/books-available) for further information. Follow her on Twitter @PaulineBartel