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Texas Originals

Filmmaker King Wallis Vidor

He was a filmmaker who made his mark in the movies. His career included the highest grossing silent film of all time.



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behind the scenes
L. to R. : Hendrik Sartov (cinematographer), King Vidor (director), Irving Thalberg (producer) & Lillian Gish, on the set of La Bohème – publicity still, 1926

King Wallis Vidor
February 8, 1894–November 1, 1982

Born in Galveston in 1894, King Vidor grew up with the movies. Over the course of his career, he directed both silent and sound films and worked with many of Hollywood's top stars, from Charlie Chaplin to Audrey Hepburn.

Vidor began his career in film as a teenager, working as a projectionist in a Galveston theater.

His first hit came in 1925, with The Big Parade, the highest grossing silent film of all time. Shot partly in Texas, the film follows Jim Apperson, an idle young man who joins the army to fight in World War I. In France, Jim experiences the horrors of combat and loses a leg in battle. Vidor's film emphasizes the human costs of war.

Later masterpieces in Vidor's career include The Crowd, Stella Dallas, Duel in the Sun, War and Peace, and an adaptation of Ayn Rand's controversial novel The Fountainhead starring Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal.

King Wallis Vidor
King Vidor, 21 August 2012. Film Daily (New York, Wid’s Films and Film Folks, Inc.) Vol. 9 & 10 1919 (scanned for Wikipedia

Often drawn to social themes, Vidor hoped his films would "help humanity to free itself from the shackles of fear and suffering that have so long bound it with iron chains.”

A sculpture of the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz now stands in the front yard of Vidor's childhood home in Galveston. Vidor directed the film's Kansas scenes as a favor to MGM. The fanciful sculpture is a memorial to this Texan's remarkable life in American film.


Selected Bibliography

The David O. Selznick Collection. The University of Texas at Austin Harry Ransom Center.
Dingus, Anne. "King Vidor." Texas Monthly, February 2001.
The King Vidor Collection (1924–1941). The University of Texas at Austin Harry Ransom Center.
Kirkpatrick, Sidney D. A Cast of Killers. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1986.
Sloan, Kay. "Vidor, King Wallis." Handbook of Texas Online.
Thomson, David. "The Man Who Would Be King." DGA Quarterly, Winter 2011.
Vidor, King. A Tree is a Tree. New York: Garland Publishing, 1977.