King Vidor


Director
King Vidor

About

Also Known As
King Wallis Vidor, King W. Vidor
Birth Place
Galveston, Texas, USA
Born
February 08, 1894
Died
November 01, 1982

Biography

King Vidor's films range across all genres, but they are unified by a concern with the struggle for selfhood in a pluralistic, mass society. Influenced both by D.W. Griffith's realism and Sergei Eisenstein's montage aesthetic, Vidor has come closer to reconciling these strains than any other American director.Raised in Texas, Vidor shot local events for national newsreel companies before...

Photos & Videos

The Big Parade - Movie Posters
The Fountainhead - Publicity Stills
The Fountainhead - Lobby Card Set

Biography

King Vidor's films range across all genres, but they are unified by a concern with the struggle for selfhood in a pluralistic, mass society. Influenced both by D.W. Griffith's realism and Sergei Eisenstein's montage aesthetic, Vidor has come closer to reconciling these strains than any other American director.

Raised in Texas, Vidor shot local events for national newsreel companies before forming the Hotex Motion Picture Company in Houston in 1914. Moving to Hollywood with his actress wife Florence, he supported himself with a variety of production jobs before settling at Universal as a writer. His first directing work in Hollywood was independently produced. He made a series of ten inspirational shorts in 1918, followed by "The Turn in the Road" (1919), an extremely successful feature with Vidor's Christian Science beliefs as thematic material.

After a series of further successes released through Robertson-Cole and First National between 1919 and 1921, the director founded "Vidor Village," a small studio from which he planned to produce independently. The experiment failed, but in the meantime Florence Vidor had become a star, and Vidor directed several films featuring her before beginning work for the Metro and Goldwyn studios in 1922. The merger which created MGM in 1924 also made Vidor a senior director for the company, and his fifth film for the young studio, "The Big Parade" (1925), was a landmark critical and popular success.

"The Big Parade" was the first serious screen treatment of WWI, and its harrowing story of a disinterested heir (John Gilbert) experiencing passion, fear and loss in wartime struck a responsive chord. The film, reportedly one of the most profitable silent films ever produced, made Gilbert a star, vaulted MGM to front-rank studio status and gave Vidor unheard-of creative control.

Vidor's record as a bankable director accounts for the freedom with which he was able to make the unusual urban parable, "The Crowd" (1928). Though a financial failure, the film garnered further prestige for MGM and reinforced Vidor's now international reputation for stylistic experimentation and uncompromising concern for social issues. Subsequent critical milestones were "Hallelujah" (1929), a pioneering black film; "Street Scene" (1931), an adaptation of Elmer Rice's socially conscious drama; and "Our Daily Bread" (1934), the story of a Depression agricultural cooperative, clearly indebted to Soviet montage filmmaking. Notable box-office successes for Vidor were "The Champ" (1931) and "Stella Dallas" (1937). Vidor was instrumental in founding the Screen Directors' Guild in 1936, and alongside John Ford, Frank Capra and Ernst Lubitsch, was a central figure in 30s American filmmaking.

After some three weeks' work on "The Wizard of Oz" (1939) and the spectacular and innovative location Technicolor photography of "Northwest Passage" (1940), Vidor became frustrated with MGM's apparent lack of commitment to his increasingly epochal vision of American life. His "An American Romance" (1944) was drastically cut by MGM and led him to sever ties with the studio where, except for prestigious loan-outs, he had been directing for over 20 years.

Vidor's epic "Duel in the Sun" (1947) pioneered the "adult" western genre, but he quit the project before completion and the final result is the product of several directorial hands, as well as producer David O. Selznick. After his episode of the omnibus film "On Our Merry Way" (1948) was cut by producer Benedict Bogeaus, Vidor signed with Warner Bros. for what would eventually be a three-picture deal. The first of these projects was "The Fountainhead" (1949), which skillfully combined novelist Ayn Rand's radical egoism with the director's own, more quizzical, individualism. The story of an architect's battle with professional and social hypocrisy, the film was among Vidor's most fully realized productions of the postwar period. Although equally striking, "Beyond the Forest" (1949) was thematically bizarre: the tale of a small-town doctor's wife (Bette Davis) and her ambitions ended Davis' 20-year career at Warners amid poor box-office returns and much resentment.

On concluding his deal with Warners, Vidor experimented as an independent producer with two films, "Japanese War Bride" (1952) and, in the same year, "Ruby Gentry"--the last picture to fully manifest his bleak point of view and operatic visual style. His last three features were the inconclusive and bloodless "Man Without a Star" (1955) and the spectacles "War and Peace" (1956) and "Solomon and Sheba" (1959).

Vidor spent his last years producing two short films on metaphysics, lecturing at film schools and retrospectives of his work, and trying to interest producers in various projects, including a film based on his investigation of the 1924 William Desmond Taylor murder case.

Vidor's darkly humanistic vision, accompanied (especially in the 1925-35 period) by a striking and eclectic visual style, made him one of the most influential directors of his time. His oeuvre is as rich, diverse and intelligent as any in the history of cinema.

Filmography

 

Director (Feature Film)

Solomon and Sheba (1959)
Director
War and Peace (1956)
Director
Man Without a Star (1955)
Director
Ruby Gentry (1953)
Director
Japanese War Bride (1952)
Director
Lightning Strikes Twice (1951)
Director
The Fountainhead (1949)
Director
Beyond the Forest (1949)
Director
On Our Merry Way (1948)
Director
Duel in the Sun (1947)
Director
An American Romance (1944)
Director
H. M. Pulham, Esq. (1941)
Director
Northwest Passage (Book I--Rogers' Rangers) (1940)
Director
Comrade X (1940)
Director
Northwest Passage (1940)
Director
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Director
The Citadel (1938)
Director
Stella Dallas (1937)
Director
The Texas Rangers (1936)
Director
So Red the Rose (1935)
Director
The Wedding Night (1935)
Director
Our Daily Bread (1934)
Director
The Stranger's Return (1933)
Director
Bird of Paradise (1932)
Director
Cynara (1932)
Director
Street Scene (1931)
Director
The Champ (1931)
Director
Billy the Kid (1930)
Director
Not So Dumb (1930)
Director
Hallelujah (1929)
Director
Show People (1928)
Director
The Patsy (1928)
Director
The Crowd (1928)
Director
Bardelys the Magnificent (1926)
Director
La Bohème (1926)
Director
The Big Parade (1925)
Director
Proud Flesh (1925)
Director
Wild Oranges (1924)
Director
Happiness (1924)
Director
Wine of Youth (1924)
Director
His Hour (1924)
Director
Wife of the Centaur (1924)
Director
Three Wise Fools (1923)
Director
The Woman of Bronze (1923)
Director
Peg o' My Heart (1922)
Director
The Real Adventure (1922)
Director
Dusk to Dawn (1922)
Director
Conquering the Woman (1922)
Director
The Sky Pilot (1921)
Director
Love Never Dies (1921)
Director
The Jack-Knife Man (1920)
Director
The Family Honor (1920)
Director
Poor Relations (1919)
Director
The Other Half (1919)
Director
Better Times (1919)
Director
The Turn in the Road (1919)
Director
The Grand Military Parade (1913)
Director

Cast (Feature Film)

MGM: When the Lion Roars (1992)
Love and Money (1982)
75 Years of Cinema Museum (1972)
Himself
It's a Great Feeling (1949)
Himself
Show People (1928)
Himself
Souls for Sale (1923)

Writer (Feature Film)

War and Peace (1956)
Adaptation
An American Romance (1944)
Based upon a story by
H. M. Pulham, Esq. (1941)
Screenwriter
Northwest Passage (Book I--Rogers' Rangers) (1940)
Contract Writer
The Texas Rangers (1936)
Original Story
Our Daily Bread (1934)
Story
Hallelujah (1929)
Story
The Crowd (1928)
Screenwriter
The Crowd (1928)
Story
Wild Oranges (1924)
Adaptation
His Hour (1924)
Titles
Three Wise Fools (1923)
Writer
Love Never Dies (1921)
Adaptation
Poor Relations (1919)
Scen
Poor Relations (1919)
Story
The Other Half (1919)
Story
Better Times (1919)
Story
The Turn in the Road (1919)
Scen
Better Times (1919)
Scen

Producer (Feature Film)

Ruby Gentry (1953)
Producer
An American Romance (1944)
Producer
The Texas Rangers (1936)
Producer
The Big Parade (1925)
Presented By
Wine of Youth (1924)
Producer
Alice Adams (1923)
Presented By
The Jack-Knife Man (1920)
Presented By
The Family Honor (1920)
Presented By

Production Companies (Feature Film)

An American Romance (1944)
Company
Northwest Passage (Book I--Rogers' Rangers) (1940)
Company
Comrade X (1940)
Company
The Citadel (1938)
Company
The Stranger's Return (1933)
Company
Bird of Paradise (1932)
Company
The Champ (1931)
Company
Show People (1928)
Company

Cast (Special)

Hollywood: The Pioneers (1980)
The Men Who Made the Movies: King Vidor (1973)
Himself
Hollywood: The Selznick Years (1961)

Cast (Short)

1955 Motion Picture Theatre Celebration (International) (1955)
Himself
Motion Picture Theatre Celebration (1955) (1955)
Himself
Northward, Ho! (1939)
Himself
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer 1925 Studio Tour (1925)
Himself

Life Events

1909

Worked in Galveston's first movie theater, the Globe, as ticket-taker and part-time projectionist

1915

Shot first film (two-reeler), "In Tow" (date approximate)

1915

Drove to Hollywood (financed trip by shooting footage for Ford Company's advertising newsreel)

1918

Directed shorts about reform work of Judge Willis Brown

1919

Debut as film director with "The Turn in the Road"

1920

Formed Vidor Village studio

1922

Joined MGM after Vidor Village shut down

1925

Directed first hit, "The Big Parade"

1929

Filmed first sound feature, "Hallelujah"

1959

Retired from directing

1974

Directed two short documentaries, "Truth and Illusion"

Photo Collections

The Big Parade - Movie Posters
Here are two different styles of the 1-sheet movie poster designed for MGM's The Big Parade (1925), starring John Gilbert and directed by King Vidor. One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.
The Fountainhead - Publicity Stills
Here are a few Publicity Stills from The Fountainhead (1949). Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.
The Fountainhead - Lobby Card Set
Here is a set of Lobby Cards from The Fountainhead (1949). Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
The Patsy - Movie Poster
Here is the original half-sheet movie poster for MGM's The Patsy (1928), starring Marion Davies.
The Champ (1931) - Movie Poster
Here is an American movie poster from the original release of The Champ (1931), starring Wallace Berry and Jackie Cooper. This is a half sheet measuring 22" x 28".
Northwest Passage - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for Northwest Passage (1940). One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.
Billy the Kid (1930) - Movie Poster
Here is the American One-Sheet Movie Poster for Billy the Kid (1930). One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.

Videos

Movie Clip

Not So Dumb (1930) - Sin Throughout The Ages Entertaining the big-shot out-of-town investor (William Holden), Dulcy (Marion Davies) turns the floor over to her new supposed screenwriter friend Leach (Franklin Pangborn), dramatizing his next feature, Van Dyke (Donald Ogden Stewart) on piano, Elliott Nugent her worried husband, in Not So Dumb, 1930.
Not So Dumb (1930) - Sunny California Opening with Marion Davies (as nutty Dulcy, the title role in the original George S. Kaufman-Marc Connelly play) and fiancè Gordon (Elliott Nugent) in the rain, awaiting potential investor Forbes (the other actor William Holden, 1862-1932), wife and daughter (Sally Starr, Julia Faye), with King Vidor directing, in Not So Dumb, 1930.
Stella Dallas (1937) - That Iceberg-ey Way New mother Barbara Stanwyck (title character) with working class pal Ed (Alan Hale), her background showing, as increasingly snooty husband Stephen (John Boles) returns home, in Stella Dallas, 1937.
Stella Dallas (1937) - Like The People In The Movie Social climber Barbara Stanwyck (title character) at the movies with blue-blood Stephen (John Boles), who's charmed for now, early in King Vidor's Stella Dallas, 1937.
Stella Dallas (1937) - Stella's Got A Fella! Opening scene, Barbara Stanwyck (title character) setting her cap for impoverished society man Stephen (John Boles), then arguing with her working-class brother (George Wolcott), from King Vidor's Stella Dallas, 1937.
Hallelujah! (1929) - Ain't No Nothin' To Buy Director King Vidor's on-location opening, introducing the Johnsons including Zekiel (Daniel L. Haynes) and Mammy (Fanny Belle DeKnight), dialogue likely by Ransom Rideout, the African-American playwright Vidor hired, in the MGM "all-colored" musical Hallelujah!, 1929.
Hallelujah! (1929) - And Zekiel Became A Preacher Zekiel (Daniel L. Haynes) in a wrathful public mourning, over the death of his brother brought about by his own sinful behavior, Harry Gray as Pappy the preacher, ending with the spiritual by Henry Thacker Burleigh, from King Vidor's Hallelujah, 1929.
Hallelujah! (1929) - Waiting At The End Of The Road Leading man Daniel L. Haynes (as "Zekiel") with the younger brother he calls "Spunk" (Everett McGarrity), in another of director King Vidor's impressive location shots, with another Irving Berlin original, the Dixie Jubilee Singers also credited, early in MGM's Hallelujah!, 1929.
Crowd, The (1928) - Hospital Panicky John (James Murray) amid exaggerated sets for the birth of his first child with Mary (Eleanor Boardman) madonna-like, in King Vidor's silent everyman epic The Crowd, 1928.
Ruby Gentry (1953) - You Turned Wildcat Jennifer Jones (title character) pursued by her intense back-in-town boyfriend Boake (Charlton Heston), plotting to ditch polite Dr. Manfred (Bernard Phillips) during a deer hunt the next day, in Max Ophuls' Ruby Gentry, 1953.
Ruby Gentry (1953) - Brains And Breedin' Tracy (Phyllis Avery) arrives at the lodge, meeting Dr. Manfred (Bernard Phillips), collecting boyfriend Boake (Charlton Heston), testy with her rival Jennifer Jones (title character), who then tangles with brother Jewel (James Anderson), in King Vidor's Ruby Gentry, 1953.
Ruby Gentry (1953) - Just Anatomy After a prologue, narration into the opening scene by Dr. Manfred (Bernard Phillips), with local rich guy Jim Gentry (Karl Malden), meeting Jennifer Jones (title character) at her family's hunting lodge, from Max Ophuls' Ruby Gentry, 1953.

Trailer

Wizard of Oz, The (1939) -- (1949 Re-issue Trailer) A Kansas farm girl dreams herself into a magical land where she must fight a wicked witch to escape in The Wizard of Oz (1939), starring Judy Garland.
Hallelujah - (Re-issue Trailer) Hallelujah (1929), director King Vidor's early talkie classic, about a black sharecropper who falls for a dancer in a juke joint.
H.M. Pulham, Esquire - (Original Trailer) Robert Young plays a stuffy businessman who livens things up by having a fling with Hedy Lamarr. Directed by King Vidor.
War And Peace (1956) - (Original Trailer) Audrey Hepburn and Henry Fonda star in King Vidor's massive adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's classic War And Peace (1956).
Champ, The (1931) - (Re-issue trailer) Wallace Beery got the Oscar but Jackie Cooper stole the show in the 1931 version of The Champ, directed by King Vidor.
It's a Great Feeling -- (Original Trailer) When nobody at Warner Bros. will work with him, movie star Jack Carson decides to turn an unknown into his co-star in It's a Great Feeling (1949).
Fountainhead, The - (Original Trailer) Ayn Rand adapted her own novel The Fountainhead (1949) for the screen starring Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal, directed by King Vidor.
Citadel, The - (Original Trailer) A struggling doctor is tempted to give up his ideals for a posh high-society practice in The Citadel (1938), directed by King Vidor.
Northwest Passage - (Re-issue Trailer) Spencer Tracy and Robert Young star in Northwest Passage (1940), the true story of Rogers' Rangers.
Solomon and Sheba - (Original Trailer) Yul Brynner and Gina Lollobrigida star in Solomon and Sheba (1959), the epic tale of the biblical king's seduction by a pagan queen.
Comrade X - (Original Trailer) Clark Gable plays an American reporter who warms up icy Russian streetcar conductor Hedy Lamarr in Comrade X (1940).

Bibliography