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King Vidor was born in Galveston, Texas in 1894 (and yes, he was born with the most unusual first name of "King"!). When he was six Galveston was struck by a massive hurricane, which killed around 8,000 people, injured many more, and caused massive property damages, and while Vidor was unharmed, it no doubt lasted within him his entire life. In 1913, nineteen year old Vidor became a movie director, and that year he directed The Grand Military Parade, and also Hurricane in Galveston, a fictionalized account of the catastrophe, and it was filmed on location in Galveston. He next moved to Hollywood, and in 1918 began directing lots of movies (14 in 1918 alone, and 10 more between 1919 and 1924). In 1925 he directed The Big Parade for MGM, starring John Gilbert. Apparently the execs at MGM had no clue how big this movie could be, and they had written in Vidor's contract that he would get 20% of the profits. When the movie became MGM's biggest success to date, the execs fast-talked Vidor into selling his share (likely worth at least $1 million in 1925 dollars, a huge fortune) for a small amount of money! But The Big Parade made Vidor one of the most successful directors, and 1928 he made The Crowd (nominated for the Best Director Academy Award for this film), considered by most to be his best movie. It tells the story of a young man who moves to New York City with big hopes and dreams. He falls in love and gets married, but nothing works out, and he ends up a faceless member of the city's immense "crowd". The movie is wonderful, and it is made even better because Vidor cast mostly unknown James Murray as the lead, rather than a major star, and Murray delivered an incredible performance (sadly, after a few more starring roles in movies, Murray would become a drug addict and die in obscurity in 1935). In 1928, Vidor also made Show People, considered by many to be one of the best movies about making movies. It stars Marion Davies as a Georgia girl who goes to Hollywood to become an actress, and Vidor convinced many of the top stars to appear in cameo roles as themselves. In 1929, Vidor directed Hallelujah (nominated for the Best Director Academy Award for this film), his first talking picture, a musical, and it was the first all-black movie from a major studio. Vidor directed many of MGM's biggest movies of the 1930s. In 1931 he made The Champ (nominated for the Best Director Academy Award for this film), and in 1934, in the height of the Great Depression, he self-produced Our Daily Bread, a wonderful look at the ideals of socialism, showing a group of down and out city people going to the country to try to set up a utopian society. In 1938 he directed The Citadel (nominated for the Best Director Academy Award for this film), and in 1939, George Cukor was fired as the director of Gone With the Wind, and was replaced by Victor Fleming, who was directing The Wizard of Oz, and Vidor was called in to finish it, and he directed the scenes in Kansas (including the "Over the Rainbow" scene). Some later memorable King Vidor films include Duel in the Sun, The Fountainhead, and War & Peace (nominated for the Best Director Academy Award for this film). He retired in 1959, but he came out of retirement to direct a documentary in 1980, 67 years after he directed his first movie! There is much, much more that can be written about Vidor. Did he have a long term affair with Colleen Moore whom he met in 1921 when he directed her, and much later had a great friendship with? Some say yes, and others say it was a great love that was never consummated because they were both married to others. What was the full story of Vidor's obsession with the William Desmond Taylor murder case? He spent all of 1967 researching the famous murder, intending to make a movie of it, and then he dropped it completely. Some say he discovered the true story of the murder and did not want to embarrass or incriminate those who were still alive. Vidor passed away in 1982 at the age of 88. I highly recommend everyone seek out those Vidor movies mentioned above. He was one of Hollywood's very finest directors, who had no trouble making the transition from pre-talkie movies to sound, and he often does not get nearly as much attention as he richly deserves!
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