King Vidor is unusual in the series "The Men Who Made the Movies" in that of all the directors, as a person, he had the least edgy, vibrant, quirky personality possessed by so many - Raoul Walsh, Hitchcock, and Sam Fuller, to name a few. Rather, for all his imagination and tremendous creativity, he is smiling and understated, looking more like a businessman than a great director. Interestingly, he is also the most optimistic of the men I've seen interviewed. "I think it's a beautiful world," he said. Where Sam Fuller had three villain types in "Pickup on South Street," Vidor felt he never had a complete villain in any of his films.
This documentary takes a somewhat spotty look at Vidor's accomplishments - but manages to hit the high points - looking at his work, which reaches back to the sound era with classics like "Show People," "Hallelujah," and "The Big Parade," then moves into talkies with films like "The Champ," "Our Daily Bread," "The Citadel," "Duel in the Sun," ""The Fountainhead," and "Beyond the Forest," which gave us Bette Davis' "What a dump" line and was Vidor's foray into film noir. Well known for his battle scenes, the documentary opens with a magnificent battle scene from "Solomon and Sheba," and we also see the ditch-digging scene from "Our Daily Bread," and the sentimental end of "The Champ." Vidor was certainly versatile, taking over for Victor Fleming in "The Wizard of Oz" when Fleming was called to do "Gone With the Wind." "Every time I see 'Over the Rainbow,' I get a thrill, because I directed that," he commented.
Vidor took great pride in his work and came up with inventive ways of using the camera before it could easily be moved, and speaks with frustration about his failure to synchronize the sound in "Hallelujah." "There was no playback," he explained. "They were just singing into the air." Vidor, however, never directed into the air - he was totally grounded and organized. The films - epics like "The Big Parade," melodramas like "Stella Dallas," and comedies like "Comrade X" speak for themselves.
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