King Vidor

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King Vidor in a movie magazine (1919)
King Vidor (front) filming The Patsy (1928)

King Wallis Vidor (born February 8, 1894 in Galveston , Texas , † November 1, 1982 in El Paso de Robles , California ) was an American director whose film career spanned nearly seven decades. He was nominated a total of five times for the Oscar in the category Best Director and in 1979 won an honorary Oscar for his life's work.

life and career

King Vidor was born the son of a wealthy timber merchant and survived the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 as a child. Enthusiastic about the new medium of cinema at an early age, he began his career as a freelance cameraman and in 1915 married the aspiring film actress Florence Vidor . Both went to Hollywood , where his wife quickly rose to become a well-known star. King Vidor worked in a variety of positions before joining Universal as a director . He made his first full-length feature film in 1919 with the production of The Turn in the Road , for which he also wrote the screenplay. A short time later he founded his own studio Vidor Village and directed a number of inexpensive melodramas, often with his wife in the lead role. The success of Peg o 'My Heart in 1922 earned him a contract with the old Metro Studios , which merged into MGM in 1924.

In 1925 he was the war film The Big Parade ( The Big Parade was) one of the most famous film directors of Hollywood, the film not only with critics a success, but also one of the most commercially successful films throughout the silent film era. Vidor's The Big Parade addressed the horrors of the First World War like hardly any other film before. Shortly before, he had divorced his wife Florence to marry the actress Eleanor Boardman . The later custody disputes over the two daughters from this marriage should accompany Vidor for a good two decades. A year later, Vidor was chosen to direct Lillian Gish's MGM debut , the opulent film adaptation of La Boheme , in which John Gilbert again played the male lead. With The Crowd , which was distributed in 1928 after a long period of filming, Vidor established himself as one of the most innovative filmmakers in the industry. The film tells the sad story of a married couple who fail in their attempt to realize the American dream. The male lead took over James Murray, whose alcohol addiction ruined his promising career soon after.

A short time later, Vidor made three very successful comedies with Marion Davies , including One of his greatest commercial successes , It's doing something in Hollywood ( Show People ). His prestige was so great that studio boss Louis B. Mayer gave him a completely free hand in choosing his sound film debut . With Hallelujah (1929), Vidor chose a material that was exclusively occupied by African-Americans and that explored numerous innovative possibilities that tone opened up for the dramaturgy - Hallelujah is now considered the first film by a major Hollywood studio with black main characters. The film was a commercial failure, so that in the following years Vidor made some artistically less demanding but financially successful films, such as The Champ , which brought Wallace Beery an Oscar for best actor for his portrayal of a worn-out boxer who his young son Jackie Cooper for the sake of a comeback starts and in the end dies in the ring. In 1933 he divorced his second wife and married Elizabeth Hill , who later worked as a screenwriter for some of his films and with whom he stayed until her death in 1978.

1934 turned Vidor with our daily bread, a flaming appeal for the so-called New Deal of President Roosevelt to draw with his portrayal of an ideal community that renounces all attempts of capitalism to their values from the common property. In the later years the director was mainly occupied with commercial material and his works from this period such as Stella Dallas from 1937 or HM Pulham, Esq. from 1941 were intelligently staged, technically perfectly choreographed films at a high level, which brought sophisticated material to the screen in an acceptable manner, even for broader social classes. In 1939 he co-directed the classic film The Wizard of Oz some of the scenes set in Kansas, including the famous vocal performance Over the Rainbow by Judy Garland . After fulfilling his heart project An American Romance (1944), which describes the success story of an immigrant to the USA, and the exhausting filming of the lavish Western Duel in the Sun (1946), which dragged on for almost a year and which is endless Following quarrels with the censor, King Vidor's career ebbed into mediocrity for several years. In 1944 he had joined the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals . In the 1950s, he regained critical respect with the serious and intelligent adaptation of War and Peace (1956). In 1959, Vidor directed the lavish Bible adaptation Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, his last feature film, the shooting of which was overshadowed by the sudden death of the main actor Tyrone Power .

In the early 1960s, Vidor largely withdrew from the screen and began teaching film theory at UCLA . In 1964 he won a special award at the Edinburgh Film Festival . In 1979 he was finally awarded an honorary Oscar for his oeuvre after he himself had been nominated five times for an Oscar . In the same year he also published the documentary The Metaphor , which was his final directorial work. In 1981 he stood in front of the camera for the comedy Love & Money by James Toback at the side of Klaus Kinski . In old age he tried to make a film called The Actor , which should focus on the tragic life of "The Crowd" actor James Murray , but Vidor could no longer make the film. King Vidor died of heart problems in 1982 at the age of 88. In 1953 he had published his autobiography A Tree is a Tree .

Style and reception

King Vidor and his first wife Florence listen to a radio broadcast (film magazine, 1922)

King Vidor's career as a director spanned a total of 67 years from 1913 to 1980, which even earned him an entry in the Guinness Book of Records as the American director with the longest directing career. Many critics find it difficult to identify a clearly recognizable style at Vidor, especially since he often commuted between his own dream projects and routine productions for the big Hollywood studios. In the course of his career he has directed films from almost every genre. However, many of his works have a melodramatic undertone, typical for Vidor are the sensitive description of the characters' mental states and strong mood swings within the film plot. The first half of The Big Parade is a cheerful comedy against a war background, the mood of which then turns into a hard war drama when the battlefield is entered for the first time.

Richard Schickel describes Vidor as a director with a philosophical approach who searches his films for universal forces that influence people's lives morally or historically. Martin Scorsese described Vidor as “continuing inspiration” and called his films “full of impressive sets and visions”. At the same time, they would express the ideas and values ​​of his generation as well as a passionate opitism about the future that might initially appear strange to today's viewers. In particular, his films like The Big Parade , The Crowd and Our Daily Bread , for which Vidor was responsible as producer and screenwriter at the same time, are highly valued and also put social and societal issues in the foreground.

The Berlin International Film Festival dedicated the retrospective of the 70th Berlinale in 2020 to King Vidor with the following reason: “Vidor occupies a central place in the history of American cinema and, as one of the most important directors towards the end of the silent film era and during the following Hollywood's heyday leave a lasting impression. Exploring the potential of film language and dealing with the social issues of his time accompany his entire oeuvre. (...) Vidor developed his art across all genres, always interested in innovations in film technology and devoted to working with the most important actors of his time. "



Golden Globe Award

  • 1957: Nomination for Best Director for War and Peace

Directors Guild of America

  • 1957: Nomination for Best Director for War and Peace
  • 1957: Award for his life's work

Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards

Venice International Film Festival

  • 1932: Nomination for The Champ
  • 1935: Nomination for The Wedding Night
  • 1935: Award for Best Director for The Wedding Night
  • 1948: Nomination for duel in the sun
  • 1982: Golden Lion for his life's work

Hollywood Walk of Fame

  • 1960: Star for his film work (6743 Hollywood Blvd.)

Filmography (selection)

As a director (complete)

  • 1913: The Grand Military Parade (short film)
  • 1913: Hurricane in Galveston (short film)
  • 1918: Bud's Recruit (short film)
  • 1918: The Chocolate of the Gang (short film)
  • 1918: The Lost Lie (short film)
  • 1918: Tad's Swimming Hole (short film)
  • 1918: Marrying Off Dad (short film)
  • 1918: The Accusing Toe (short film)
  • 1918: Thief or Angel (short film)
  • 1918: The Rebellion (short film)
  • 1918: The Preacher's Son (short film)
  • 1918: A Boy Built City (short film)
  • 1918: I'm a Man (short film)
  • 1918: Love of Bob (short film)
  • 1918: Dog vs. Dog (short film)
  • 1918: The Three Fives (short film)
  • 1918: The Case of Bennie (short film)
  • 1918: Kid Politics (short film)
  • 1919: The Turn in the Road (also screenplay)
  • 1919: Better Times
  • 1919: The Other Half
  • 1919: Poor Relations
  • 1920: The Family Honor (also production)
  • 1920: The Jack-Knife Man (also production)
  • 1921: The Sky Pilot
  • 1921: Love Never Dies (also screenplay and production)
  • 1922: Real Adventure (also production)
  • 1922: Dusk to Dawn
  • 1922: Conquering the Woman (also production)
  • 1922: Peg o 'My Heart
  • 1923: The Woman of Bronze
  • 1923: A Girl and Three Old Fools ( Three Wise Fools , also screenplay)
  • 1924: Wild Oranges (also screenplay)
  • 1924: Happiness
  • 1924: Wine of Youth (also screenplay and production)
  • 1924: His Hour (also screenplay)
  • 1924: The Wife of the Centaur
  • 1925: Proud Flesh
  • 1925: The Big Parade ( The Big Parade , also wrote and produced)
  • 1926: The Song of Songs of Love (La Boheme)
  • 1926: Gallows Wedding (Bardelys the Magnificent)
  • 1928: A man of the crowd ( The Crowd , also screenplay and production)
  • 1928: A girl with speed (The Patsy)
  • 1928: Something is happening in Hollywood ( Show People , also production)
  • 1929: Hallelujah ( Hallelujah ! , also screenplay and production)
  • 1930: Not So Dumb (also production)
  • 1930: Outlawed, Feared, Loved - Billy the Kid ( Billy the Kid , also production)
  • 1931: Street Scene
  • 1931: The Champ ( The Champ , also production)
  • 1932: Luana ( Bird of Paradise , also production)
  • 1932: Cyanara
  • 1933: The Stranger's Return
  • 1934: Our Daily Bread ( Our Daily Bread , also wrote and produced)
  • 1935: The Wedding Night
  • 1935: The Farm on the Mississippi (So ​​Red the Rose)
  • 1936: Texas Border Police ( Texas Rangers , also screenplay and production)
  • 1937: Stella Dallas
  • 1938: The Citadel ( The Citadel )
  • 1939: The Wizard of Oz (The Wizard of Oz) (unnamed, just a few scenes)
  • 1940: Northwest Passage (Northwest Passage)
  • 1940: Comrade X (also production)
  • 1941: HM Pulham, Esq. (also script)
  • 1944: An American Romance (also screenplay and production)
  • 1946: Duel in the Sun (Duel in the Sun)
  • 1948: On Our Merry Way
  • 1949: A Man Like Explosives (The Fountainhead)
  • 1949: Beyond the Forest (Beyond the Forest)
  • 1951: Lightning Strikes Twice
  • 1952: Japanese War Bride
  • 1952: Wildes Blut ( Ruby Gentry , also production)
  • 1954: Light's Diamond Jubilee (TV documentary)
  • 1955: With a fist as hard as steel (Man Without a Star)
  • 1956: War and Peace ( War and Peace , also writer)
  • 1959: Solomon and the Queen of Sheba
  • 1964: Truth and Illusion: An Introduction to Metaphysics (documentary)
  • 1973: A Personal Culture: Artist Tony Duquette (Documentary)
  • 1980: The Metaphor (documentary)


  • Karin Herbst-Meßlinger, Rainer Rother (eds.): King Vidor . Bertz & Fischer, Berlin 2020, 252 pages.

Web links

Commons : King Vidor  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Film podium: The Wizard of Oz. Accessed March 1, 2020 (Swiss Standard German).
  2. King Vidor | Biography, Movie Highlights and Photos. Retrieved March 2, 2020 (American English).
  3. Berlinale Retro - On the work of King Vidor | epd film. Retrieved March 2, 2020 .
  4. Patricia A. Junker, Audrey M. Lewis: Andrew Wyeth: In Retrospect . Yale University Press, 2017, ISBN 978-0-300-22395-8 ( [accessed March 2, 2020]).
  5. Martin Scorsese: King Vidor's View of Reality . Ed .: Karin Herbst-Meßlinger, Rainer Rother . Bertz & Fischer, Berlin 2020, p. 226-233 .
  6. Berlinale 2020: Retrospective “King Vidor”. In: Berlin International Film Festival. October 9, 2019, accessed October 9, 2019 .