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What's wrong with King Vidor?


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I'm fortunate enough to live in Toronto where we have our very own annual silent film festival. Last Saturday featured a screening of The Crowd. I was over the moon about this, as it's a powerful film that's really hard to see.


But it didn't prompt me to wonder - what's wrong with King Vidor? It feels, at least, like he gets little attention. Certainly he doesn't get as much as the big boys. What's up with that? Why is Vidor somewhat neglected?



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I am not really sure that Vidor is neglected. But in answer to your question, he had a long career after silents which in some ways works for him and in some ways works against him. His sound films are variable and in my opinion not as impressive as his silents with a couple of exceptions. They seem to fit in the small spaces between the giant films of Hollywood. They don't have as overt or as singular a message as some other director's film works. His style is not showy. He's conservative as a filmmaker, though radical in thought.


He also is not particularly glamorous as a person. He doesn't have the flair of a Griffith or Ingram. His silent output is impressive, but the sound works tend to be scattered and either very commercial, or so quiet that people perhaps did not understand what he was getting at.


I think his major theme is that of the individual in opposition to normal life or what is expected of him...this is not a big picture type theme, although he was able to make epic films. His movies are generally intimate, even when they have a larger canvas. The common (or uncommon) man struggles in his films either with modern age expectations or against traditions which stifle him. His characters break from society in the end and pay the price for it.

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