Vidor. King Vidor to be specific (not Charles Vidor who directed Gilda) is the #117 best director of all-time. His strength is his depth of quality in his body of work- especially having 6 films that fall into the top 100 of their respective decade. That’s an accomplished career. As you can see here on the page, Vidor was known for big films– superior visuals (or I’d have a bunch of film posters here as I have to resort to sometimes). His weakness is the zero films in the top 350 of all-time.
Best film: The Crowd. I’ve got The Crowd ranked ever-so-slightly ahead of The Big Parade as his best film.
total archiveable films: 12
top 100 films: 0
top 500 films: 2 (The Crowd, The Big Parade)
top 100 films of the decade: 6 (The Crowd, The Big Parade, La Boheme, Stella Dallas, Duel in the Sun, The Fountainhead)
most overrated: Nothing egregious. I’d have to say The Crowd (though it kills me as it’s an excellent film and my #1 Vidor) but I have it at #357 and the TSPDT consensus has it at #234. The Crowd is one of only two films in the TSPDT top 1000- the other is Duel in the Sun which is ranked correctly—they have it at #967.
most underrated: The Big Parade and Stella Dallas are both overrated—these are films that couldn’t find a spot in the TSPDT consensus top 1000 and I don’t understand why. The Big Parade shows the size and scope of The Crowd and Stella Dallas is just about as good as narrative melodrama on celluloid gets.
gem I want to spotlight: War and Peace isn’t Vidor’s finest, far from it, but it has the reputation as an outwardly bad film and that’s just not the case. I ran across it recently (in 2019) so this is a good spot for it here.
- Adapted/written by 6 people— never a good sign
- Music by Nino Rota between his legendary work with Fellini in La Strada (1954) and La Dolce Vita (1960)
- Henry Fonda admitted himself he was too old for the role (and to be paired with Audrey Hepburn she’s 27 here and he’s 51). He’s still good here but how about stealing from another prestige Russian literature adaptation (albeit a decade later) Doctor Zhivago– Tom Courtenay’s role and performance. Not sure who is that equivalent in 1956—maybe like Sal Mineo
- The performances are good and there are fine actors here across the board- but we never get below the surface with any
- Some structure/formal issues with us lazily going into Hepburn’s head via inner-monologue more than an hour into the film and then we go back to the normal narration (albeit with a fantastic shot of a peace treaty being signed in a courtyard)
- Mel Ferrer looks and acts like a young Leslie Howard in Gone With the Wind– virtue
- 128 minutes in we get the big moment in the film artistically. A great use of the wide frame in a spectacle shot of Fonda rotating on a hill to see the battles all around him. It’s a wow moment. Epic- lots of extras. We see him dropping a flower behind him- really special filmmaking—it’s not on that level but part of it reminded me of Kurosawa’s Ran (with the soldiers looking like ants)
- easily the artistic high point sequence of the film
- Not a major achievement for Fonda or Hepburn
- Herbert Lom is really good as Napoleon I thought
- Recommend- not in the top 10 of 1956
stylistic innovations/traits: Stella Dallas (one of the best melodramas of the 1930’s) is a bit of an outlier. Vidor was a director of large set pieces, big epics—scale is important in The Crowd, Big Parade, Duel in the Sun and The Fountainhead– 4 of his best 5 films. Vidor was an excellent director—particularly his work in the 20’s with The Big Parade and The Crowd. Even in a weaker Vidor film- War and Peace– the big events is where he shines. The fox hunt, the duel, and the big sequence with Fonda up on the hill viewing the carnage around him.
- The Crowd
- The Big Parade
- Stella Dallas
- The Duel in the Sun
- The Fountainhead
- La Boheme
- Northwest Passage
- The Champ
- War and Peace
- Show People
By year and grades
|1925- The Big Parade||MS|
|1926- La Boheme||R|
|1928- Show People||R|
|1928- The Crowd||MS|
|1931- The Champ||R|
|1934- Our Daily Bread||R|
|1937- Stella Dallas||MS|
|1938- The Citadel||R|
|1940- Northwest Passage||R|
|1946- Duel in the Sun||HR|
|1956- War and Peace||R|
*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives