Though he was a name-above-the-title director back in the day and made some of the enduring classics of American cinema, the great Hollywood director King Vidor is no longer remembered as Hollywood royalty. The son of a Hungarian immigrant (King was his given name, not a boastful sobriquet), Vidor made some 50 feature films over the course of 40 years, was nominated five times for the Academy Award for Best Director (in 1979 he was finally awarded an Honorary Oscar), and some of his films—The Crowd (1928) and Hallelujah! (1929) in particular—are die-hard masterpieces. Starting today, New York’s Film at Lincoln Center will be showing 20 of Vidor’s features in an attempt to redress the balance and revitalize his reputation. It is the first major US retrospective of his work since “Rediscovering King Vidor” ran at the Public Theater in 1994, on the 100th anniversary of his birth. (Prior to that the Museum of Modern Art had run a two-and-a-half month long, 39 film tribute to Vidor in 1972, with the man himself, then 78, appearing in person at the screening of Show People).
Restlessly exploring multiple genres, working from the silent era through the waning days of Hollywood’s Golden Age, Vidor seems to be a quintessentially American director (Raymond Durgnat’s 1988 study is notably called King Vidor, American, positing his diversity above all as his most American virtue) but the American posters for Vidor’s films—with a few exceptions including the beautiful poster for My Daily Bread (1934) above and some of his silent-era posters—are not all that special. There is a lot of clinching and grappling going on (maybe more of a Hollywood marketing trope than anything specific to Vidor) but not a lot of graphic sophistication and they all seem cursed with too many characters and an abundance of type.
But Vidor’s popularity was global, and many of the international posters for his films are stunning. There are an especially large number from Sweden for some reason, but also terrific variants from France, Italy, Spain, and Poland, made by some of the great poster artists of their time such as Bernard Lancy, Anselmo Ballester, Francisco Fernandez Zarza-Pérez (a.k.a. Jano), and Jakub Erol.
So here below, in chronological order by film, are some of my favorite King Vidor posters from around the world.
The King Vidor Retrospective runs August 5 - 14, 2022 at Film at Lincoln Center in New York.