The Ruthless Way Victor Fleming Kept Order While Shooting The Wizard Of Oz

The classic 1939 film The Wizard of Oz certainly wouldn't be the same without director Victor Fleming, who served as the final pick of a slew of directors hired for the role. Fleming, who was also the creative genius behind Gone With the Wind, was known for directing action movies, having a robust attitude and love of outdoor sports, and thus became known as a "man's director" during his four-decade career. With an Oscar under his belt and a string of other accolades, he was known as one of the best in the film biz during his tenure at Metro Goldwyn-Mayer.

But Fleming also harbored a darker side ingrained in Hollywood's troublesome past: The veteran director was a part of a powerful class of Hollywood directors in the 1930s known for bullying his actors to get perfect performances, per Movie Predators. Fleming was known to be a "garrulous, emotional man," according to the The New York Times, even going so far as to get into verbal or physical altercations with actors on set to get the performance he demanded.

A harsh boss

According to Movie Predators, when 16-year-old Judy Garland kept ruining takes by laughing at the Cowardly Lion's performance, Fleming, whose valuable time and expensive film was being lost with each minute, didn't just stop filming and start from the top of the scene. Fleming grabbed Dorothy off set, said "Now, darling this is serious," slapped her across the face, and ordered, "Now go in there and work."

Michael Sragow detailed Fleming's daughter's reaction to the incident in Victor Fleming: An American Movie Master: "Sally Fleming hoots at the notion that anyone could find such a slap cruel. 'That wasn't abuse! People in those days weren't afraid of slapping a child in public for misbehavior. But he could be a little crude sometimes.'"

After the incident, apparently, Fleming felt terrible about slapping Garland and started saying that somebody on the crew should punch him, per Sragow. Garland overheard this and said, "I won't do that, but I'll kiss your nose" — and then she did. You can still see Garland trying to hold back chuckles in the final film.