Birthday: February 8, 1894
T V & Movie Producers
Died At Age: 88
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Also Known As: King Wallis Vidor
Born in: Galveston, Texas, U.S.
Famous as: Film Director and Producer
Spouse/Ex-: Eleanor Boardman (m. 1926–31), Elizabeth Hill (m. 1932–78), Florence Vidor (m. 1915–24)
father: Charles Shelton Vidorr
children: Antonia (1927–2012), Belinda (born 1930), Suzanne (1918–2003)
Died on: November 1, 1982
place of death: Paso Robles, California, U.S.
U.S. State: Texas
King Vidor was an American film director, film producer, and screenwriter known for films like ‘The Big Parade’ and ‘The Crowd.’ His extensive career spanned nearly seven decades during which he was nominated five times for Academy Award for Best Director, and won eight international film awards. His films are counted amongst the most creative ones produced during his era as he never shied away from taking up unconventional topics and was known to be a risk-taker. Born in Texas, he survived the devastating Galveston Hurricane of 1900 as a little boy. Creative and ambitious from the very beginning, he started working as a ticket collector at a local Galveston theater as a teenager and quickly progressed to projectionist. He made his directorial debut with the short drama film, ‘Hurricane in Galveston’, even before he turned 20. Within years, he was directing full length feature films and had his first taste of success with ‘Peg o' My Heart’ in 1922. The success of ‘The Big Parade’, counted among the most acclaimed war films of the silent era, cemented his position in Hollywood. Over the ensuing years he established himself as a highly creative director and received many accolades for his works. With a career that spanned 67 long years, he entered into Guinness World Records as having "The Longest Career As A Film Director."
Childhood & Early Life
King Wallis Vidor was born on February 8, 1894, in Galveston, Texas, U.S. into a middle class family. His father, Charles, founded the Miller-Vidor Lumber Co. in Texas.
King Vidor survived the great Galveston Hurricane of 1900 which wiped out a third of the city’s population. This horrific event would remain embedded in his mind for life.
He attended the Peacock Military Academy in San Antonio where he learned the importance of discipline and hard work. A creative individual from the very beginning, he was greatly fascinated by the emerging medium of films.
He started working as a ticket collector at a local Galveston theater to learn more about cinema. Soon, he was promoted to a projectionist. Enthralled by the opportunities the new medium offered, he began shooting news events in the area and selling the clips to newsreel production companies.
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King Vidor made the short films ‘Hurricane in Galveston’ and ‘The Grand Military Parade’ in 1913. He moved to Hollywood in 1915. Married by now, the young man took up a job as a clerk and a movie extra with Universal Studios.
Soon, he turned screenwriter and director with a series of six short juvenile-delinquency films for Judge Willis Brown. In 1919, he directed his first feature film, ‘The Turn in the Road.’ The success of ‘Peg o' My Heart’ in 1922 won him a long-term contract with Goldwyn Studios (later to be absorbed into MGM).
In 1925, he directed ‘The Big Parade’, a World War I film starring John Gilbert, Renée Adorée, Hobart Bosworth, and Claire McDowell in the lead roles. It was one of the early films that did not glorify war and is counted amongst the greatest war films of the era. The success of the movie established Vidor as one of the top-most directors in Hollywood.
The advent of the talkies in the late 1920s jeopardized the careers of many in Hollywood. Ever the adventurous soul, King Vidor was unfazed and made his foray into the talkies with ‘Hallelujah!’ in 1929. It was one of the first all-black films by a major studio. The ground-breaking film earned Vidor an Academy Award nomination for Best Director.
In 1931, he directed the movie, ‘The Champ’, which is the story of an alcoholic boxer who is struggling to rebuild his life for the sake of his young son. The Wallace Beery starrer was a huge critical as well as commercial hit that was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.
King Vidor’s career continued to flourish for the next several years and he routinely directed films that were appreciated for their poignant content as well creative presentation. His other notable films in the 1930s include ‘Our Daily Bread’ (1934), ‘The Wedding Night’ (1935), ‘So Red the Rose’ (1935), ‘The Texas Rangers’ (1936), and ‘Stella Dallas’ (1937).
Another one of his well-known films was the Western ‘Duel in the Sun’ (1946) which starred Jennifer Jones as a half-Native American girl who gets involved in prejudice and forbidden love. The film, which also had Gregory Peck and Lionel Barrymore in leading roles, was a controversial though popular one.
The great director’s career slowed down in the 1950s and he was not as prolific as before. One of the most popular movies from this era was the 1956 war drama film ‘War and Peace’ which earned King Vidor an Academy Award nomination for Best Director.
He directed very infrequently over the ensuing years and directed his last film, ‘The Metaphor’ in 1980, marking the ending of a career that lasted for almost seven decades.
The King Vidor directed silent film, ‘The Crowd’, was nominated for the Academy Award for Unique and Artistic Production. Though not a great success upon its initial release, the film has been consistently hailed as one of the greatest and most enduring American silent films.
‘The Champ’ is one of his most influential films. Not only was it a huge commercial as well as critical hit, but it also began the trend of the basic story where a struggling alcoholic tries to mend his ways for the sake of his child. The film won the Academy Award for Best Story and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.
Awards & Achievements
King Vidor was nominated five times for an Academy Award for Best Director though he did not win any. In 1979, he was awarded an Honorary Academy Award for his "incomparable achievements as a cinematic creator and innovator.”
He was awarded the Honorable Prize for the contribution to cinema at the 11th Moscow International Film Festival in 1979.
Personal Life & Legacy
King Vidor was thrice married. His first marriage to Florence Arto from 1915 to 1924 ended in divorce. The couple had one daughter.
He married Eleanor Boardman in 1926 and had two daughters with her. This marriage ended in 1931.
He tied the knot for the third time with Elizabeth Hill in 1932.
He died of a heart ailment on November 1, 1982, at the age of 88.