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The King Vidor File – Part Two

The King Vidor File – Part Two

This part consists of comments on some of his finest and
most popular work, including The Big
, The Champ, and Street Scene, as well as one of his most
provocative, Ruby Gentry.


The films below are
listed in the order in which I saw them.


An American Romance (1944; d-p-w: King


1962: Very good
(Epic, large-scale drama about steel and a young immigrant’s rise from poverty
and work in the steel mines to an industrialist and car manufacturer. Superbly
edited and photographed documentary footage interspersed among a moving,
convincing story. Vidor knows how to handle intimate scenes as well as
mass-movement as excellently as anyone. Not as profound or completely
successful as his best, this is still an extremely fine piece of Americana,
completely personal and typically Vidor’s.)



The Texas Rangers
(1936; d-p-w: King Vidor).


1962: Fair (Strange combination of parody, serious drama,
and deep-voiced patriotism in this entertaining, minor Vidor film about two
robbers who join the Texas Rangers, and slowly become rather gung-ho on the
organization. Acted in late-thirties style by Fred MacMurray, Lloyd Nolan, Jack
Oakie, effectively directed. Still rather a weird piece in the body of Vidor’s
work; it somehow doesn’t quite fit.)



Street Scene (1931;
d: King Vidor).


1962: Excellent* (Only slightly dated—in dialogue—but
powerful, brilliantly directed and photographed film version of Elmer Rice’s stage
play about the happenings on a block in New York City. Confined to a basically
small area, Vidor’s camera roams around everywhere freely and inventively, also
catching the telling gesture, look, line of speech; his editing and the music
help tremendously, as does his flawless moving of actors and their effective
performances. A remarkable, often extremely moving achievement.)


Added 2016: Because the play was confined to one street,
Vidor told me he was trying to figure out how to shoot in such a small area. He
said he was having a haircut and noticed, across the way from him, that a
person who was sleeping had a fly walking over his face. Vidor had the thought:
to that fly, the man’s face was enormous. So, if he used his camera like a fly,
the street had plenty of room to spare.



The Citadel (1938; d:
King Vidor).


1962: Very good* (Robert Donat, Rosalind Russell, Rex
Harrison, Ralph Richardson, and an equally talented supported cast are all
superb in this sensitive and effective Vidor film about an idealistic young
doctor, corrupted by the mores of his profession, finally restored to his
senses by the death of his best friend. Moving, eloquently acted, filmed,
stylishly directed, intelligently written; not one of Vidor’s most personal
achievements, but nonetheless a strong and vivid one.)



The Champ (1931; d-p:
King Vidor).


1962: Excellent (Extremely moving, touching and stunningly
well acted [by Jackie Cooper and Wallace Beery] story of a washed-up boxer and
his young son who adores him; simple, starkly, yet eloquently directed,
written, photographed. One of Vidor’s most poignant pictures, and a
particularly memorable one.)



Beyond The Forest
(1949; d: King Vidor).


1963: Very good* (Bette Davis, Joseph Cotten, David Brian
are all excellent in this exciting and fascinating Vidor picture about an evil,
restless, opportunistic small-town woman and her destruction; effectively
written, personally directed, expertly photographed, well written.)



The Big Parade (1925;
d-p: King Vidor).


1963: Exceptional (Brilliantly directed, written, acted,
elaborately produced, long and exciting, moving and comic, stirring and
eloquent drama about the First World War, centering on the adventures of one
American in France; effective performances by John Gilbert, Renee Adoree, a
cast of hundreds; certainly an American classic, one of Vidor’s finest works,
and one of the great films of the twenties.)



Comrade X (1940; d:
King Vidor).


1963: Good* (Clark Gable, Hedy Lamarr in a generally amusing
[Ben] Hecht-[Charles] Lederer script about a reporter (American) and a female
streetcar operator (Russian) in Moscow; satirical barbs at the Soviet, most of
them well-aimed, lively pace, nice performances; not really Vidor’s meat, but
efficient and completely likeable.)



Ruby Gentry (1952;
d-p: King Vidor).


1963: Excellent (Striking, erotic, vividly directed and
passionate love story—a kind of modern “Duel in the Sun”—about a lovely,
willful, vital woman from the wrong side of the tracks who, not getting the man
she loves and persecuted by the class-conscious hypocrisy of the town she lives
in, proceeds to destroy the town and her beloved—and herself. Powerfully written
and well cast or played by Jennifer Jones, Karl Malden, Charlton Heston,
exciting, personal and uncompromising.)


Added 1965: (Even better the second time—among Vidor’s most
typical and effective works.)



War And Peace (1956;
d-s: King Vidor).


1963: Fair* (Certainly not among Vidor’s better
achievements, but still an engrossing, strikingly beautiful—in décor, color,
composition—and continuously interesting adaptation of Tolstoy’s mammoth novel;
long, nicely acted, particularly by Henry Fonda as Pierre, generally effective,
if less personal than the bulk of Vidor’s work.)

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