Retrospective, Berlinale Classics & Homage

Oct 09, 2019
Berlinale 2020: Retrospective “King Vidor”

Bette Davis in Beyond the Forest

The Retrospective of the 70th Berlin International Film Festival will be dedicated to the American film director, producer, and screenwriter King Vidor (1894-1982) who holds a central place in the history of US cinema. Considered a key director towards the end of the silent era and in the Golden Age of Hollywood, Vidor left a lasting mark, combining his interest in social engagement with the desire to explore in depth the potential of cinematic language.

Vidor's cinematic oeuvre consists of more than fifty films. They range from silent film classics and works on socio-political topics, such as The Crowd (1928), to films depicting social upheaval, as in Our Daily Bread (1934), as well as the Western Duel in the Sun (1946) and the epic literary adaption for the screen War and Peace (1956). His breakthrough came in 1925 with The Big Parade. It is considered the first critical film about World War I, and has turned into a tremendous success for the newly founded MGM Studios. Vidor developed his art across many genres and was at all times interested in technical innovations – not to mention, his devotion in working with the most important actors of his time.

Carlo Chatrian, who as Artistic Director has headed the Berlinale alongside Executive Director Mariette Rissenbeek since June 2019, states: “We want to express our gratitude to the Deutsche Kinemathek for this extensive retrospective. We are sure it will give younger and older generations the opportunity to watch or re-watch a selection of great films that take them into the universe of a unique filmmaker. King Vidor was convinced cinema could convey a message to humanity and was willing to alter the cinematic language he used to achieve this end. Hence today he is, perhaps more so than other old masters whose respective styles are clearly identifiable, a source of inspiration for those wanting to depict our rapidly changing world.”

Rainer Rother, head of the Retrospective and Artistic Director of the Deutsche Kinemathek – Museum für Film und Fernsehen, comments: “Through King Vidor’s work, we can trace and understand not only the history of Hollywood over half a century, but also that of the United States over the same period: from the start, Vidor focused in his films on significant events and contemporary political developments – from World War I to the Great Depression and the New Deal. Equally remarkable was his versatile and artful staging.”

King Vidor was acquainted with both the bright and dark sides of the film industry and worked his impressions into Show People (1928). In it, Marion Davies gives a brilliant performance as an unknown slapstick performer who rises to become a movie diva.
Issues related to class, as well as upward and downward social mobility play a crucial role in Vidor’s films, as do immigration and social integration. The latter is dealt with in a nuanced and often humorous manner in films such as Street Scene (1931), The Wedding Night (1935), An American Romance (1944), and Japanese War Bride (1952). On the other hand, in The Champ (1931), Stella Dallas (1937), as well as Ruby Gentry (1953), he illuminates from many sides the inner life of characters who set out in search of their identity between the different echelons of society. He often engaged his favourite actors for several films. Under his care, the following stars gave stunning screen performances: Gary Cooper, Joseph Cotten, Marion Davies, Bette Davis, Henry Fonda, John Gilbert, Lillian Gish, Audrey Hepburn, Jennifer Jones, and Gregory Peck.

The Retrospective programme includes 35 films from five decades. They are to be presented in the best possible quality – for the most part on 35mm prints. Five of King Vidor’s films received Oscar nominations for Best Director: The Crowd, Hallelujah, The Champ, The Citadel, and War and Peace. In 1978, in tribute of his versatility and innovative powers, King Vidor received an Oscar, the Honorary Award for Outstanding Lifetime Achievement. His masterful choreography of mass scenes in The Crowd, The Big Parade, and War and Peace are still impressive today, as is his joy in experimenting with sound and rhythm: in Hallelujah, his first sound film – which is also regarded as one of the first big studio productions with an all African-American cast – he incorporated influences from contemporary jazz music. Vidor shot Billy the Kid (1930), his second Western, in black-and-white on 35 mm as well as 70 mm film – long before this wide-screen format had reached its zenith. His six dazzlingly opulent colour films, such as Northwest Passage (1940), Man Without a Star (1955), and Solomon and Sheba (1959), were all shot in Technicolor.

For the Retrospective, Bertz + Fischer Verlag will be publishing a bilingual book (in German and English) titled “King Vidor”. This richly illustrated volume will feature eight essays by renowned film scholars and prominent cineastes, including contributions on the central themes in King Vidor’s work: his special interest in socio-political issues, his Westerns, and the female characters in his melodramas.
The Retrospective film programme will also be accompanied by numerous events at the Deutsche Kinemathek – Museum für Film und Fernsehen.

Films of the Retrospective:

An American Romance
USA 1944
with Brian Donlevy, Ann Richards, Walter Abel, John Qualen

Bardelys the Magnificent
USA 1926
with John Gilbert, Eleanor Boardman, Roy D’Arcy, Lionel Belmore
Restored version 2008

Beyond the Forest
USA 1949
with Bette Davis, Joseph Cotten, David Brian, Ruth Roman

The Big Parade
USA 1925
with John Gilbert, Renée Adorée, Hobart Bosworth, Claire McDowell
Restored version 2004

Billy the Kid
USA 1930
with Johnny Mack Brown, Wallace Beery, Kay Johnson, Wyndham Standing

La Bohème
USA 1926
with Lillian Gish, John Gilbert, Renée Adorée, George Hassell

Bud's Recruit
USA 1918
with Wallis Brennan, Robert Gordon, Ruth Hampton
Restored version

The Champ
USA 1931
with Wallace Beery, Jackie Cooper, Irene Rich, Roscoe Ates

The Citadel
United Kingdom / USA 1938
with Robert Donat, Rosalind Russell, Ralph Richardson, Rex Harrison

Comrade X
USA 1940
with Clark Gable, Hedy Lamarr, Oscar Homolka, Felix Bressart

The Crowd
USA 1928
with Eleanor Boardman, James Murray, Bert Roach, Estelle Clark, USA 1928,
Restored version

USA 1932
with Ronald Colman, Kay Francis, Phyllis Barry, Henry Stephenson

Duel in the Sun
USA 1947
by King Vidor and William Dieterle
with Jennifer Jones, Joseph Cotten, Gregory Peck, Lionel Barrymore
Restored version

The Fountainhead
USA 1949
with Gary Cooper, Patricia Neal, Raymond Massey, Kent Smith

H.M. Pulham, Esq.
USA 1941
with Hedy Lamarr, Robert Young, Ruth Hussey, Charles Coburn

USA 1929
with Daniel L. Haynes, Nina Mae McKinney, William Fountaine, Harry Gray

Japanese War Bride
USA 1952
with Shirley Yamaguchi, Don Taylor, Cameron Mitchell, Marie Windsor

Lightning Strikes Twice
USA 1951
with Ruth Roman, Richard Todd, Mercedes McCambridge, Zachary Scott

Man Without a Star
USA 1955
with Kirk Douglas, Jeanne Crain, Claire Trevor, William Campbell

Northwest Passage
USA 1940
by King Vidor, Jack Conway and Harold Weinberger
with Spencer Tracy, Robert Young, Walter Brennan, Ruth Hussey

The Other Half
USA 1919
with Florence Vidor, Charles Meredith, ZaSu Pitts, David Butler

Our Daily Bread
USA 1934
with Karen Morley, Tom Keene, Barbara Pepper, Addison Richrards

The Patsy
USA 1928
with Marion Davies, Marie Dressler, Lawrence Gray, Orville Caldwell
Restored version

The Real Adventure
USA 1922
with Florence Vidor, Clyde Fillmore, Nellie Peck Saunders, Lilyan McCarthy
Restored version 2011 (incomplete)

Ruby Gentry
USA 1952
with Jennifer Jones, Charlton Heston, Karl Malden, Tom Tully

Show People
USA 1928
with Marion Davies, William Haines, Dell Henderson, Paul Ralli
Restored version

The Sky Pilot
USA 1921
with John Bowers, Colleen Moore, David Butler, Harry Todd
Digital restored version 2020

So Red the Rose
USA 1935
with Margaret Sullavan, Walter Connolly, Randolph Scott, Janet Beecher

Solomon and Sheba
USA 1959
with Yul Brynner, Gina Lollobrigida, George Sanders, Marisa Pavan

Stella Dallas
USA 1937
with Barbara Stanwyck, John Boles, Anne Shirley, Barbara O’Neil

Street Scene
USA 1931
with Sylvia Sidney, William Collier Jr., Estelle Taylor, Beulah Bondi
Restored version

The Texas Rangers
USA 1936
with Fred MacMurray, Jack Oakie, Jean Parker, Lloyd Nolan

War and Peace
Italy / USA 1956
with Audrey Hepburn, Henry Fonda, Mel Ferrer, Vittorio Gassman

The Wedding Night
USA 1935
with Gary Cooper, Anna Sten, Ralph Bellamy, Helen Vinson

Wine of Youth
with Eleanor Boardman, James Morrison, Johnnie Walker, Niles Welch
USA 1924

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October 9, 2019