King Vidor

King Vidor
Los Angeles Times


King Vidor
Film: North side of the 6700 block of Hollywood Boulevard
Born King Wallis Vidor on Feb. 8, 1894 in Galveston, Texas
Died Nov. 1, 1982 of congestive heart failure in Paso Robles, CA

King Vidor was one of the great early filmmakers who helped invent the language and define the possibilities of the motion picture. He was the first to depict and celebrate the lives of ordinary men and women when he made "The Big Parade" (1925) and "The Crowd" (1928), two classic silent films. Vidor's acclaimed film, "Hallelujah" (1929), was the first major Hollywood film with an all-black cast.

Among his other acclaimed films were the original "The Champ" with Jackie Cooper and Wallace Beery (1931); A. J. Cronin's "The Citadel" with Robert Donat (1938); "The Fountainhead" with Gary Cooper (1948); and "Ruby Gentry" with Jennifer Jones and Charlton Heston (1953). Through most of his films ran Vidor's sketches of a world as it was and a world as it someday might be.

Vidor first started working as a child in the family lumber business but abandoned it immediately upon seeing his first one-reel film. He found work as a projectionist at the Globe Nickelodeon. After watching the reels of "Ben Hur" 147 times, he grew critical of the hammy acting and stilted action, nursing a passion to make his own films. He built his first camera from a cigar box, using some used projector parts.

He experienced modest success making newsreel footage, one-reel comedies and industrial films in Galveston. In 1915 he, along with his wife, Florence Arto, and a friend, set out for California in a Model T. shooting promotional footage for the Ford Motor Co. along the way. They arrived broke in San Francisco, where, according to legend, they survived on free food samples at the World's Fair until a check caught up with them.

Next, they headed for Los Angeles where Vidor began hanging out at studios, working as an extra and writing treatments for one- and two-reel comedies. Eventually he sold one to Vitagraph for $30, called, "When it Rains it Pours." It was his 52nd submission. It was not long thereafter that he made his first feature film, "The Turn in the Road" (1919).

King Vidor was married three times. He had three daughters, eight grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

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    Academy Awards

    Year Category Work
    1927 Best Director The Crowd Nomination
    1929 Best Director Hallelujah Nomination
    1931 Best Director The Champ Nomination
    1938 Best Director The Citadel Nomination
    1956 Best Director War and Peace Nomination
    1978 Honorary Award Win

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