King Vidor

(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )

7.5 The Big Parade (1925)
6.0 La Boheme (1926)
6.0 Bardelys the Magnificent (1926)
7.8 The Crowd (1928)
6.4 Show People (1928)
5.0 The Patsy (1928)
7.0 Halleluja (1929)
6.4 Billy The Kid (1930)
6.5 The Champ (1931)
6.8 Our Daily Bread (1931)
5.0 Bird of Paradise (1932)
4.0 Cynara (1932)
5.0 Wedding Night (1935)
5.0 Muss 'Em Up (1936)
6.0 Texas Rangers (1936)
6.3 Stella Dallas (1937)
4.5 The Citadel (1938)
6.5 Northwest Passage (1940)
6.6 Comrade X (1940)
4.5 HM Pulham Esq (1941)
6.6 An American Romance (1944)
7.0 Duel in the Sun (1946)
6.8 Beyond the Forest (1949)
6.4 The Fountainhead (1949)
7.0 Ruby Gentry (1952)
7.0 Man Without a Star (1955)
6.0 War and Peace (1956)
4.5 Solomon and Sheba (1959)

King Vidor, immigrato giovanissimo a Hollywood dal natio Texas, intraprese la carriera cinematografica come assistente di Griffith, e presto cominciò a dirigere pellicole nelle catene di montaggio delle grandi case. The melodrama Wild Oranges (1924) is a mediocre adaptation of Joseph Hergesheimer's mediocre novel. John cannot control his mad horse and his carriages goes on a wild ride until his young and beautiful wife is ejected and dies. John becomes a recluse and travels for three years around the world on a sail boat with the only company of his friend Paul. One day they drop anchor in a remote bay. An old man watches them warily. His beautiful grand-daughter Millie too is afraid of the newcomers. They have been totally isolated for many years from the rest of the world. John explores the shore and meets Millie, who is initially afraid of him but then fascinated. In the forest there lives a primitive man, Nicholas, The brute is in love with her and tries to rape her. When she resists, he drops her in the middle of a swamp infested with alligators. He then watches sitting comfortably nearby while the alligators swim towards her. She eventually accepts to kiss him and then runs away. But she is falling in love with John, and John is determined not to fall in love with another woman. Nicholas is madly jealous. John invites Millie on his sail boat, but Millie is afraid of everything. Nicholas sees them returning to shore and attacks John with a knife, but John disarms him. Later a desperate Nicholas begs a terrified Millie to marry him. She barricades herself in her room. John, still haunted by the memory of his dead wife, has decided to leave. But love eventually prevails and he returns to the girl. She tells him that Nicholas is a wanted murderer who has been terrorizing her and her grandfather. John offers to take both of them on the boat at night. That night, however, Nicholas catches Millie and the old man as they are leaving the house, kills the man and takes Millie to her room where he ties her to the bed. John walks to the house and fights with Nicholas. He wins and leaves Nicholas unconscious while the house catches fire. Nicholas is mauled to death by the old man's dog while John, Paul and Mary take off in the sailboat and survive the storm. not seeing to rescue her from the world of torments in which she has become prisoner -- which sparks a fiery and violent battle for possession of the lonely swamp waif. Mentre studiava l'uso del suono nel cinema muto, giunse al primo successo, The Big Parade (1925), archetipo del film bellico sentimentale e retorico, una collaborazione con lo scrittore Laurence Stallings. In 1919, the USA is busy becoming an industrial power. Slim is one of the millions of humble Americans making a living in the big city: a construction worker who spends the day hanging from the scaffolding of a skyscraper. Bull is a bartender. Jim is a rich young man who has never worked in his life. War is declared. Jim has no intention of going to war, and even promises his mom that he won't, but then a simple parade of young men going to enlist (and his girlfriend's enthusiasm) is enough to convince him to join the army. Jim is assigned to the same company as Slim and Bull. They arrive in France, and at the beginning life is quite entertaining. The little village welcomes them, and Jim falls in love with a cute French farm girl. Then the order comes to move to the front (the girl, desperate, hangs to the truck who is carrying Jim away). Ligfe at the front is very different: airplanes shooting from the sky, machine guns, trenches, poison gas. When one night Slim is wounded outside, Jim disobeys orders and walks out of the trench to bring help, and Bull follows him. They find Slim dead. Furious and vengeful, Slim charges against the enemy, still followed by Bull. Bull is killed. Slim succeeds in destroying the German position, but his fury fades away when a German soldier dies in his arms. Now the commander orders all the American troops to attack the German lines. The following day there is another "big parade", the long convoy of ambulances carrying the dead and the wounded back to town. Jim is one of them. His wound is not serious, but he hears news that the his girlfriend's village is being overtaken by the Germans and decides to leave the hospital on crutches. He finds the village destroyed: the villagers have already left. The war is over. Jim returns home. He has lost a leg, but is a hero. Worse: his fiance' has become his brother's lover. In France, his French girlfriend is plowing a field and still thinking of him all the time. One day Jim reappears: despite the crutches, she is ready to hug him. Vidor dimostrò così di essere capace di fondere il grandioso e lo spettacolare imposte da Hollywood con la sua genuina ispirazione; esponente del mondo rurale del sud e del piccolo vecchio mondo del middle-west, non poteva far sue né la frenesia industriale delle grandi metropoli dell'est né l'epica ottocentesca dell'ovest. Attento piuttosto alla società e all'individuo nelle loro evoluzioni e interazioni quotidiane, Vidor divenne il naturale menestrello di un'altra civiltà americana, quella dell'uomo comune, scrupoloso cronista della storia passata e di quella presente viste dal basso verso l'alto, secondo un'ottica quasi biblica. Vidor era anche un talento naturale del cinema: era una dote innata il saper trasferire in un'ora e mezza di immagini un aspetto della vita americana, pur non essendo molto istruito; e all'istinto narrativo s'accoppiava un notevole istinto tecnico, che lo spinse prima a studiare e poi a sfruttare per primo il sonoro.

Vidor directed Puccini's opera La Boheme (1926) and the historical costume drama Bardelys the Magnificent (1926). In the latter the libertine who doesn't believe in marriage is depicted as the hero and the moral men of society are portrayed as either dumb or evil.

Bardelys is a noble womanizer in France during the libertine age. He specializes in seducing other aristocrats' wives. He comments that the men notice their wives only when he sets his eyes on them. Women gossip about their escapades with him. To all of them he gives the same gift: a lock of his hair. His servants are in fact busy all the time manufacturing such little souvenirs.
Meanwhile, a count who is Bardelys' main rival in facts of love faces defeat when he tries to seduce the virtuous Roxalanne. Invited to a banquet at court, he meets Bardelys who makes fun of him. The count bets his entire estate that Bardelys cannot seduce and marry the woman. Bardelys bets his entire estate that he will do just that. When the king arrives at the banquet, he is displeased to hear that Bardelys plans to take a leave of absence. Bardelys protests that his honor is more important than his duty to the crown. The king warns Bardelys that the troops will come and look for him if he dares flee the court against the king's will. Bardelys still leaves. Along the way Bardelys meets a fatally wounded man, Lesperon, who begs Bardelys to brings his last words to his beloved. He dies before he can tell Bardelys the name of the woman. When he is confronted by the king's troops, Bardelys tells them that his name is Lesperon. Unfortunately for him, Lesperon is a dangerous enemy of the king: the troops attack him to arrest him. Bardelys, wounded, manages to escape and reach the castle of the gorgeous Roxalanne. She shelters him and hides him when the troops come to search the castle. The following day her father treats him like a hero, because Lesperon is the leader of the revolt against the king, and her father is on the side of the rebels. Meanwhile, a suite of Roxalanne, St Eustache, has received a letter warning him that the famous womanizer Bardelys is set on seducing the poor Roxalanne. St Eustache alerts the father of the beauty and pledges to kill Bardelys the moment he shows up at the castle. Bardelays/Lesperon ridicules him. Bardelays spends a lot of time at the castle, in theory recovering from the wound but in practice seducing the girl. However, he truly falls in love with her. The jealous and vicious St Eustache reports the rumors that Lesperon is dead and that he had a fiance. A letter proves that the fiance exists. Roxalanne, disgusted, turns him in to the troops of the king who are searching for the dangerous traitor. Bardelys/Lesperon is arrested and taken to the court that has to judge him. It turns out the judge is none other than his rival the count. The count could save his neck by testifying that he is not Lesperon, but instead lets the tribunal find Bardelys/Lesperon guilty of treason and sentence him to death. Unbeknownst to both, the king is on his way. Roxalanne now feels guilty and pledges to do anything if the count will save the prisoner. She accepts to marry the count. As the marriage is being consummated, Bardelys stages a spectacular escape from the gallows. He kills countless soldiers and performs acrobatic stints. Just then the king arrives and is amused to watch the turmoil that his favorite knight is causing. The king also recognizes him publicly, thus removing the very reason for the death sentence. Bardelys rushes to Roxalanne's apartment but only to find her married to the evil count. Bardelys signs the paper that leaves all his belongings to the count because he has lost the bet but then challenges him to duel and wins. The king orders the arrest of the count. The count prefers to commit suicide. Bardelys gets his estate back and can marry Roxalanne.

Nel 1928 diresse a proprio rischio e pericolo The Crowd (1928), scritto da Joseph Farnham, al cui centro è un uomo come tanti, anonimo e insignificante, solo in mezzo alla folla, che non può fare nulla per difendere il mondo dei suoi affetti: è come se qualcuno avesse estratto un particolare a caso da un affresco della civiltà di massa e lo avesse ingrandito per mostrarne il groviglio di segni fini e delicati. Una delle milioni di anime della grande città chiusa in una bolla di sentimenti che un'inezia può frantumare. Il protagonista è uno delle centinaia di impiegati di uno delle centinaia di uffici di uno delle centinaia di grattacieli di New York. Abita in un povero appartamento di un povero quartiere di New York. Vidor adotta tecniche espressioniste per rendere l'atmosfera soffocante degli ambienti e il panico represso dell'uomo della strada schiacciato dalla metropoli. La macchina da presa lo estrae dalla folla e lo segue, crudele e pietosa al tempo stesso, nelle disavventure che lo portano a percorrere le strade bardato da uomo-sandwich e a trepidare per la vita della figlioletta, dall'entusiasmo del giovane succube del mito del successo, allo scoramento del capofamiglia travagliato da mille problemi.

Il protagonista nasce in una famiglia piccolo-borghese suscitando l'entusiasmo del padre che promette a se stesso di non fargli mancare nulla; dodici anni dopo il bambino vede l'ambulanza ferma davanti a casa sua e si avvia lentamente sulle scale, mentre la folla di curiosi lo osserva dall'atrio. L'orfano diventa uno dei tanti impiegati di New York; ha un solo amico, un ciccione spregiudicato, che gli fa conoscere una brava ragazza; si innamorano fra le giostre del luna-park; vanno in viaggio di nozze a vedere le cascate del Niagara e passano la prima motte di nozze in treno; la loro felicità domestica è guastata dai fratelli della ragazza, che ostentano i loro cappotti e guardano con sussiego e diffidenza il cognato; la moglie è dediziosa e comprensiva, anche quando lui sfoga contro di lei la rabbia di non essere nessuno; nasce un bimbo e poi una bimba; un colpo di fortuna procura alla famiglia una discreta somma, che lui si affretta a dilapidare in regali; i bambini accorrono festosi, attraversano la strada di corsa, e la bambina è investita da un camion; durante l'agonia della piccina il padre tenta invano di far tacere la folla che disturba il suo riposo; i parenti poi lo separano a forza dalla moglie che lo invoca, distrutta dal dolore; anche lui accusa il colpo: incapace di continuare il proprio lavoro, perde l'impiego e, mentre l'amico ciccione sale di grado, deve accettare mestieri sempre più umili; e tenta perfino il suicidio quando la sua disoccupazione diventa un fatto cronico, i cognati tentano di strappargli la moglie, anche se all'ultimo momento lei si impietosisce del marito e decide di dargli ancora una possibilità; per festeggiare la nuova vita vanno insieme al circo; la macchina da presa si allontana da loro e riprendendoli dall'alto fa vedere che tutti gli spettatori somigliano a loro. Lui è l'oppresso, l'alienato, il fallito: vuole uscire dalla folla, ma deve lottare con altri milioni di individui come lui; non ha nessuna probalità di farcela, anche perché sono favoriti quelli senza scrupoli. Lei è un'eroina domestica che con uno sforzo prodigioso sostiene la famiglia. La coppia si trova in una condizione fatale, che non ha colpe e non ha rimedi; Vidor non propone soluzioni, si limita a un appoggio morale, a esibire un generico umanitarismo; la folla incombe sempre sulla coppia inerme; Vidor dispiega la sua grande arte fotografica e allestisce un catalgo di tutte le situazioni nelle quali la folla schiaccia l'individuo anche se lui finge di divertirsi: i marciapiedi, la spiaggia, il luna-park; e quelle in cui l'individuo soffre circondato dall'indifferenza totale degli altri: dei parenti, dei vicini, dei disoccupati in coda come lui per un posto qualsiasi; in altre occasioni Vidor esagera gli ambienti secondo una tecnica tipica dell'espressionismo: l'ufficio percorso da geometriche file di scrivanie, la sterminata camerata d'ospedale piena di tanti lettini bianchi uno uguale all'altro, il capannone senza fine del teatro che contiene centinaia di risate come le loro. All'espressionismo si riallacciano anche la persecuzione da parte del mostro folla e il doppelganger infinito dell'impiegatucolo sdoppiato in milioni di altri impiegatucoli. La folla domina dal principio alla fine; è la protagonista patetica e al tempo stesso la nemica crudele del protagonista; nel circolo vizioso del protagonista perseguitato dalla folla che è però egli stesso l'individuo tipo della folla si presenta in un altro doppelganger, quello della folla vittima e persecutrice, a un livello di astrazione più alto; alla fine si ha l'impressione che la folla sia una macchina assurda, che consuma se stessa per produrre ancora se stessa; la vita non ha nessun senso, come non ha nessun senso quella risata alla fine del film; ma proprio in quella risata è pateticamente racchiusa l'essenza dell'uomo.

The Crowd

A New York da una famiglia piccolo borghese nasce John Sims; suo padre ha promesso a se stesso di non fargli mai mancare nulla perché possa farsi largo nella vita; ma suo padre muore che il bambino ha appena dodici anni, e anche per lui comincia la grigia vita dell'individuo nella folla. L'inquadratura del bambino che sale lentamente le scale, mentre la folla dei curiosi si è fermata nell'atrio; ha capito che l'ambulanza ha portato via di casa il cadavere del padre.
La scenetta da film comico degli impiegati che lasciano in massa le scrivanie, che si riversano nelle toilette (e fanno tutti le stesse battute), riempiono gli ascensori e si confondono con la folla dei marciapiedi. Lui la sera studia, ma fa un'eccezione quando un collega lo invita a uscire con due ragazze. La gita sull'autobus a due piani, per le strade contornate da una folla di anonimi, di umiliati e di falliti. Gli scherzi al luna-park e il primo bacio. Mentre il collega ciccione pensa solo a divertirsi e al ritorno non vede l'ora di rincasare, lui è già innamorato e le propone di sposarlo.
Partiti gli sposi la gente se ne va per i fatti suoi: l'allegria, l'entusiasmo erano solo di convenienza. Sul treno che li porta in viaggio di nozze i due sposi sono timidi e imbarazzati. Gli altri passeggeri ridono alle loro spalle. Nell'umile cuccetta, con cento reticenze, i due inesperti si coricano. Le cascate del Niagara.
Vivono in un bugigattolo dietro la ferrovia. La vigilia di Natale li vanno a trovare i fratelli e la mamma di lei; scambio dei regali fra familiari, ma freddezza nei confronti dell'estraneo, il marito, che guardano con sussiego e disprezzo; gli rimproverano di non fare carriera, osservano con aria critica tutte le sue azioni; va a cercare del whisky dal collega ciccione e s'imbatte in una festicciola; si ubriaca e torna a casa tardi; la moglie è già a letto, ma è ancora sveglia; non lo rimprovera neppure, lo comprende. Troppe cose non funzionano quando bisogna arrangiarsi con pochi mezzi (la vaschetta del water, il letto a muro, la porta). Lei è sempre comprensiva, sopporta di ammazzarsi in due, i suoi rimproveri, qualche litigio, ma lui sfoga su di lei la rabbia di non essere nessuno. Una parola di troppo scatena la crisi: lei fa le valigie, lui non prova neppure a fermarla ed esce seccato per andare in ufficio e a lei crolla il mondo; ma è ancora lei a sacrificarsi: lo richiama dalla finestra perché aspetta un bambino; la pace ritorna in famiglia: è lui a farsi in quattro per lei; lei si asciuga le lacrime e riprende a vivere.
Gli telefonano dall'ospedale che è diventato padre; nel grande anfiteatro delle scrivanie regna l'indifferenza; all'ospedale nessuno si cura di lui, trafelato che suda e trema. Una porta si spalanca: decine di letti tutti uguali in un enorme salone, e, in uno, sua moglie, spossata e felice.
Cinque anni dopo è nata anche una bambina, ma la situazione economica non è cambiata. Sulla spiaggia, in mezzo alla folla litigiosa e scontrosa, i bambini che non stanno mai fermi, la mamma che prepara il pic-nic mentre il papà suona il banjo; il pic-nic per lei è un giorno come un altro, anzi ancor più frenetico e stressante. Quando lui decide di darle una mano riesce soltanto a scottarsi un dito.
Sims vince 500 dollari con uno slogan pubblicitario ma, mentre lei prepara una lista di spese indispensabili, lui li sperpera in regali; i bambini accorrono festosi, ma mentre la bambina attraversa la strada un autocarro la investe; il padre corre a raccoglierla dall'asfalto, la folla gli si fa attorno curiosa.
Al capezzale della bambina accorrono i parenti rumorosi e lui li fa zittire; ma anche la folla in strada è rumorosa, e lui non la può zittire; esce in strada e supplica che stiano zitti; e quando il dottore annuncia la fine, la madre comincia a urlare e invoca il marito, i parenti li separano con la forza.
Sims torna in ufficio, in mezzo alle decine di file di scrivanie, a scrivere numeri su un registro; ma non ce la fa più; il suo collega ciccione è diventato capufficio perché non ha legami e prende la vita per scherzo; lui perde l'impiego.
Di lavoro in lavoro si abbassa a mestieri sempre più umili. E la moglie deve cominciare anche a lavorare, mentre lui perde anche l'ultimo posto. I fratelli di lei gliene trovano uno, ma lui crede di meritare di meglio e, nonostante la moglie si disperi, lo rifiuta. La moglie è stanca, lo schiaffeggia, lo insulta, lo butta fuori casa. E lui medita perfino di buttarsi sotto il treno, ma non ne ha il coraggio. Su quel ponte il figlio gli dà un po' di entusiasmo, perché è l'unico che crede ancora in lui. Ma la concorrenza è spietata: non è facile trovare un lavoro. Trova un posto da uomo-sandwich, ma i cognati gli portano via la moglie. Lui con i primi soldi le ha comprato un mazzolino di fiori e lei commossa finisce per rimanere: basta così poco per renderla felice. Vanno a teatro insieme e il film li lascia in un'immenso circo, affollato da migliaia di persone divertite come loro.
Lui vuole uscire dalla folla, ma deve lottare con altri milioni come lui; ma ha nessuna probabilità. Lei è un'eroina, che si sobbarca un peso raddoppiato dal carattere del marito.
Il film è un catalogo spietato di tutte le circostanze in cui la folla può schiacciare l'individuo:

Show People (1928) is a meta-film about film-making in Hollywood, and it is an odd indictment of Hollywood society by one of its most prominent members.

A Southern general drives all the way across the USA to bring his pretty daughter Peggy to Hollywood, convinced that she can become a movie star. They are fascinated by the big studios that line up the street, but they soon learn that being a general does not count much in Hollywood. Peggy has to stand in line with thousands of other aspiring actors. At lunch they are approached by a funny boy, Billy, who claims to have a role for Peggy in a movie. Peggy wants to become a dramatic actress, but on stage she realizes that the movie is a slapstick of the most debased nature. Nonetheless her naive attitude makes her look very funny, and the director decides to really make her a protagonist, except it's comedy not drama. Her ambition is such that she first feels humiliated when clowns wet her clothes but then begs for more water. At the premiere she watches herself on screen (we physically see scenes from a different film) and then she watches a drama by King Vidor himself. As they leave, Charlie Chaplin (played by himself) asks her for an autograph although she doesn't recognize him. Her first film is such a success that rival filmmakers hire her do to what she really want to do, drama. She is now so in love with Billy and almost refuses the job because they don't hire him, but he wants her to accept, resigned to remain a slapstick actor. Initially she has trouble forgetting her comedy routine, but eventually she triumphs. A French count, Andre, who is also a popular actor and womanizer, helps her become popular among the elite of Hollywood. She changes her name to Patricia, moves into a mansion and assumes the vain attitude of the aristocrat. Billy, who still lives in poverty, is all but forgotten. One day Patricia and Andre are filming in the woods. Nearby Billy's troupe is filming a slapstick. When Billy, dressed like a clown, approaches Peggy/Patricia, she is embarrassed. Andre has to rescue her from Billy's vulgar jokes. She is becoming more and more pretentious, and it shows also on screen. Her producer threatens to fire her because the audience doesn't like her acting anymore. Peggy is outraged and continues her progression towards artificiality by deciding to marry the count Andre and become a countess. The day of the wedding Billy breaks into the house and confronts Peggy. He forces her to get into a fight like the ones they used to concoct during while filming the slapsticks. She throws a pie at him and instead hits her fiance, just like in the slapsticks. But she doesn't laugh: she is humiliated. Billy leaves, defeated. Andre tries to console Peggy, but then Peggy starts laughing at him. Peggy is redeemed and realizes that Billy was the only real human among them. Everybody else is a fake. The effect is felt also on her acting. She makes a movie with King Vidor (played by Vidor himself) and recommends a new dramatic actor, Billy. They have to kiss on the set and the kiss goes on and on forever. The Patsy (1928) is a minor domestic comedy. A middle-class couple has two children, Grace and Pat. The mother is clearly partian towards Grace, her favorite, who gets all the attention and all the help, particularly in romancing the handsome Tony, while Pat is asked to do the dishes in the kitchen. Her father is on her side, but he doesn't have the will to stand up to his wife. After her mother has done everything to pull Tony towards Grace, a sophisticated aristocrat, Billy, shows up and steals her from Tony. Tony is heartbroken and finally realizes the beauty of huble Pat. Soon Grace realizes that Billy was not serious, and decides to take Tony back. Pat can do nothing because she told Tony a lie: that another man is in love with her. Pat then pretends to be trapped in Billy's house and calls Tony for help. Tony rushes to help her, but also to condemn her disreputable behavior. All problems are cleared when Pat confesses that Tony is the only man she has eyes for. In the meantime, the father has reasserted his authority on the household after a formidable scene.

Col sonoro Vidor gira Halleluja (1929), un film musicale dedicato al folklore negro e interpretato unicamente da negri. I suoi esperimenti nell'uso della musica e dei ruomori reali trovarono la loro naturale collocazione. Il quadro pittoresco, comico e tragico, dei poveri negri è condizionato dai soliti pregiudizi che volevano il negro superstizioso attaccabrighe sporcaccione e beone. Il film contrappone la solidarietà di un mondo contadino e primitivo alla disumana solitudine della città moderna di The crowd. La prima parte è ambientata nel profondo sud: negri che imbarcano balle di cotone, che giocano a dadi agli angoli delle vie, che fanno festa nelle bettole fumose; e in una di queste bettole, fra orchestrina jazz con batterista acrobata giocatori ubriachi e prostitute, scoppia la rissa nella quale il protagonista uccide per sbaglio il fratello; diventato predicatore, gira i paesi della zona suscitando l'entusiasmo delle folle e riesce a convertire anche la prostituta che causò la rissa; religione ed erotismo si compenetrano nella messa-orgia al termine della quale predicatore e prostituta fuggono per andare a vivere insieme in città, lui nei panni di operaio e lei in quelli di casalinga; quando lei fugge con il vecchio complice, lui li insegue, perdona la ragazza che muore nel tentativo e strangola il rivale nella palude; scontato il lavoro forzato, torna dai suoi.

Negri che lavorano e imbarcano il cotone, cantando spiritual col sorriso sulle labbra. Alla fine della giornata alcuni giocano a dadi, altri fanno festa attorno a una sgualdrinella. Il negro Zekiel se la porta via per una manciata di soldi. Realista fino al dettaglio dei carri e del battello, delle bettole fumose con orchestrina jazz, ironico e frenetico, molto musicale. (balletto dei camerieri nella bettola con batterista acrobata, Zekiel predicatore che imita il treno strisciando i piedi, match di pugilato fra il predicatore e i vizi).
Nella bettola incontrano Hot Shot, elegante e sofisticato; Zekiel, provocato, accetta di giocarsi a dadi la paga; spinto dalla ragazza, che è in combutta con il baro, Zekiel perde tutto. Capito il trucco, Zekiel minaccia il truffatore, che gli spiana contro la rivoltella; nella zuffa che segue Zekiel s'impossessa dell'arma e fa fuoco: uccide il fratello.
Scena patetica della famiglia che piange il morto, innalzando spiritual e lamenti e poi del funerale negro che trascende nel fanatismo. Durante il delirio collettivo Zekiel scopre la sua vocazione di predicatore.
Divenuto famoso e rispettato, Zekiel trova fra gli spettatori di una processione i due ladroni, che lo deridono e scandalizzano la folla con i loro lazzi osceni, Zekiel che cavalca un mulo, ne discende e affronta i due miscredenti; li intimorisce e riprende la sua marcia trionfale. La puttana sghignazza, lo sfida però in pubblico a far piangere anche lei; Zekiel tiene la sua predica. Sopraffatta dall'entusiasmo e dalla tensione emotiva che contagiano a poco a poco tutti i presenti, scoppia in lacrime e gli corre incontro rispondendo al suo richiamo. Zekiel battezza nel lago mentre la gente canta e la ragazza si converte fra atroci spasimi. Zekiel la porta nella sua capanna, e mentre lei singhiozza ancora, comincia ad accarezzarla e baciarla; la madre interrompe in tempo il suo raptus erotico.
Per fuggire la tentazione decide di sposare una brava ragazza.
La ragazza intanto è perseguitata dal baro Hot Shot, che tenta di sottrarla all'influsso di Zekiel; ma la ragazza si difende a colpi di attizzatoio.
Alla predica la ragazza è la più infervorata; il rito religioso della purificazione in un rito di perdizione (mentre altri sono colti da convulsioni e parossismi); Zekiel e la ragazza si allacciano, fuggono insieme, invano inseguiti dalla fidanzata, mentre nella chiesa continua la danza tribale.
Zekiel e la puttana pentita vanno a vivere in una grande città. Zekiel è operaio in fabbrica. Ma lei è di nuovo quella di una volta: il baro l'ha ritrovata e i due se l'intendono di nascosto.
Mentre Zekiel riposa, lei fa le valigie e se ne va. Zekiel se ne accorge e li prende a fucilate; loro fuggono sul calessino, lui li insegue a piedi. Quando lei cade nel fango, il suo compagno di fuga l'abbandona e Zekiel la raggiunge. Prima di morire gli chiede perdono. Zekiel poi completa l'inseguimento nella palude e strangola il rivale.
Sconta il lavoro forzato e poi torna, in libertà condizionata, dai suoi.

Il realismo del lavoro, delle abitazioni e degli svaghi nella comunità è annacquato dai numeri musicali, dai deliri religiosi a base di spiritual e dal patetismo che dilaga nelle scene del funerale e della conversione. Inquietante lo sdoppiamento predicatore/erotomane, che trasforma tutti i negri in satiri pagani.

Dopo questo film Vidor si piegò sempre più a compromessi con il cinema spettacolare di Hollywood, e in particolare con il western, a cui aveva dato già un Billy the Kid (1930). La depressione imponeva di fare film di sicuro successo e forse spingeva anche istintivamente a scegliere soggetti che non avilissero ulteriormente l'uomo della strada.

Billy The Kid (1930) revisits the Far West legend. It's a Western that stays faithful to the historical record (most of the pioneers are immigrants with an accent).

Tunston and his religious friend are pioneers looking for a lady to settle in. They find a wonderful land but soon learn that Donovan the sheriff owns it all and runs the region like his own personal fiefdom. Tunston organizes the other settlers so they can stand up to Donovan's gangsters. One of the gangsters tries to shoot them and a young handsome stranger, Billy, kills him, saving the life of Tunston. Tunston hires him and a for a while peace reigns on the region. Billy treats Tunston like his own father. Tunston calls for his girlfriend Clare to join him. The deputy sheriff, Pat, is the second best shooter after Billy: he works for the sheriff but is an honest man. Donovan decides to eliminate Tunston. His men attack his carriage on the day of the wedding. To save his friends, Tunston attracts the gangsters and gets killed. Billy swears revenge. Next the sheriff wants to arrest Tunston's friend. Billy organizes the resistance in the religious man's house. A very slow siege begins, with Clare making coffee for the men and the religious man reading the Bible. They negotiate for the women to be allowed to leave the house. Days later finally the religious man decides to end the siege by walking outside and letting the gangsters kill him. Billy kills the sheriff. Pat, who was only willing to arrest the religious man, calls off the siege, but the gangsters, led by Bob, revolt and decide to continue the siege until they kill them all. The gangsters set fire to the house. Most of Tunston's men die trying to flee, but Billy succeeds. He becomes a renown outlaw. Pat is the new sheriff and it is his duty to arrest him. Eventually the war between Billy and the gangsters of the old sheriff, now headed by Bob, attracts the attention of the authorities. The governor marches on the town leading an entire regiment. He tries to convince Billy to surrender and make peace with the gangsters, but Billy refuses, even when Clare comes in to beg him and to tell him that she loves him. It is now Pat's duty to organize a posse. They surround Billy who hides in a cave, and they starve him. Pat captures him by offering him a warm meal. Billy is taken to Pat's prison. Pat and Billy behave like friends who mutually respect each other, but Billy is still determined to take his revenge on Bob, who murdered Tunston. Playing cards with Pat, Billy manages to steal his pistol and flees. Clare finds him and begs him to take her with him. Billy loves her but thinks it would be a miserable life for a girl like her, so he lies to her and tells her he doesn't love her so she would go away. Pat, in theory, has followed her to catch Billy but actually lets him run away again in the direction of the border, and then smiles.

The Champ (1931)

Andy is a boxer who is training to get back in shape. He trains in humble places, for example running behind a car on a dusty road with his child Dink. He ruined himself by drinking but now he swears to his child that has cleaned up. Now he has to fight small-time boxers to make a living. His son finds him drunk in a bar when the crowd is waiting for him to get on the ring for a match. He shares a humble room with his son, who takes care of the place like a good housewife. Dink has one friend who is like a brother, a black boy. Andy is lucky at the horse races and uses the money to buy a race-horse for Dink. At the first race Dink convinces a nice lady, Linda, to bet on the horse. Outside Andy runs into her husband Tony and the two, who obviously know each other well, exchange unfriendly words. The horse loses the race badly and Andy is broke again. Linda recognizes Andy, her former husband, and realizes that the boy is Andy's son: her son. She begs her husband Tony to find a way so that she can see the boy. It turns out that she gave up any rights on the child to obtain a divorce and marry Tony. She had married Andy when he was a famous champion, but dumped him when he started drinking, and then married the higher-class Tony. Tony offers Andy money to bring Dink to the hotel, and Andy cannot refuse. Dink meets his half-sister and then Linda, who tries in vain to get him to love her. She's a stranger to him, even after she tells him that she's his mother. He is indifferent to her love. When he leaves, Linda tells Tony that she desperately needs the boy. While Dink is sleeping next to him, Andy gambles all the money he got from Tony and loses it. He also loses the horse. When Dink finds out the following day, he is heart broken. Andy has to promise that he will buy the horse back, but he has no money. So he visits Linda and asks for the money. Linda gives him the money but on the condition that Dink be allowed to decide by himself if he wants to continue living like a vagrant with Andy or start a new life with Linda, who would send him to school and keep him in a nice house. While treating Dink to a fancy meal, Andy brainwashes the kid to dislike Linda's lifestyle. Andy tells Dink that he bought the horse back, but then Andy can't resist and gambles the money again, and loses it again. Dink and his little friends see a big commotion and Dink gets a glimpse of his drunk father being arrested. Dink is humiliated in front of his little friends. In jail Andy has time to think, and concludes that Dink would be better off with Linda. Dink has already forgiven him, yet again, and comes to the jail to bring him food. In order to convince Dink to choose Linda over him, Andy tells him that he doesn't want him anymore. Dink starts crying: no matter what, Dink sees his father as his best friend. Finally Dink accepts the verdict and moves in with Linda. They dress him up and clean him up and put him on a train, but Dink escapes and runs back to Andy. Andy is galvanized by the event and starts training seriously to return to boxing. Dink is painfully aware that his father is out of shape, but Andy is determined not to disappoint his son. The night of the match the doctor tells Andy that his heart is weak, but Andy ignores the warning. Tony and Linda came to watch the match. They have accepted that Dink wants to live with his father. Tony is a gentleman: he offers money to Andy to keep him from boxing, but Andy is determined to win the match and the prize. Despite being beaten mercilessly, Andy refuses to throw in the towel and eventually, against all odds, manages to knock down the rival. Andy has a surprise for Dink: he bought back the horse. But he doesn't feel well and soon collapses to the floor. He dies of a heart attack. Dink is desperate. When Linda enters the room, he finally calls her "mother".

His exploration of the world of the humble peaked with Our Daily Bread (1931). The film is inspired to the social realism of the Soviet Union, not only because it praises the idea of a commune (as opposed to the greedy selfish heartless capitalists of the city) but also because of the final scene of the triumph of the peasants.

A woman begs the landlord to extend the deadline for paying rent. Her husband John is jobless and has to compete with hundreds of people for the few jobs available. But she has an idea: she has invited a rich uncle to dinner, hoping that he will give her husband a job. The uncle offers them a farm that he doesn't want anymore and that the bank doesn't want either. They decide to try it out, leave the city and move to the country. They know nothing about farming but luckily a farmer who has been kicked out of his farm decides to stay with them. Soon there is a crowd of unemployed men looking for a chance to work at the farm. John becomes the leader of an agricultural commune. Soon the farm is transformed into a beautiful town and a huge field is plowed and seeded. One day the sheriff shows up to sell the property because the bank wants its money back but the men intimidate the rich people who would like to buy it and eventually the men buy it themselves for very little. A sexy blonde, Sally, gest stuck at the farm after her father died on the road. She doesn't seem too sorry and is more trouble than help. The crop is not enough to feed everybody, and one of the men, who has always been cold and reserved, Louie, confesses that he is a wanted criminal and offers to turm himself in so that they can use the reward to buy food. The blonde accepts to be the one who turns him in and then she delivers the cash to John. However, that doesn't solve the number-one problem: a drought that is killing their crop. John's wife understands that Sally is trying to seduce John, and confronts her, but Sally is cynical and indifferent. John's wife tells her to get out. Sally replies that she accepts but John will follow her. John is in fact ready to give up and leave with Sally, but the very night that they start driving he hears a noise that tells him that the irrigation canal is working. He runs back in the middle of the night and wakes up the men to start working immediately. The men don't trust him anymore, but he convinces them to build a ditch between the canal and their farm. They work day and night, with the women holding torches so that they can work also in the dark. They build the ditch in record time and exult when the water starts flowing and flooding their field. Il film si schierava apertamente dalla parte dei contadini che in quegli anni erano ridotti sul lastrico e li illudeva con una sorta di piccola utopia.

Bird of Paradise (1932) is an exotic melodrama, a very minor film offering a ridiculous representation of life among the "savages" via several musical/dancing rituals.

Wealthy tourists are touring the Pacific islands on a private yacht, fascinated by what they believe to be happy carefree people. When they stop at an island, they are in fact welcomed by dozens of islands of islanders. When a shark appears, the handsome John tries to capture it but instead falls overboard. A beautiful girl, Luana, risks her life to save his. The foreigners are invited to a shamanic ritual during which they discuss how the tribe is known to sacrifice virgins to placate the ire of the island's volcano when it erupts. When John grabs Luana, he upsets the shaman: Luana is the daughter of the king, and only princes are allowed to touch her. Nonetheless she visits him at night and they swim together. John decides to stay on the island while his friend continue their cruise. His love affair with the princess is rudely interrupted when she is seized by warriors and ordered to marry a prince. Jim is ties to a tree, but a crazy old lady frees him and then trades a canoe for Jim's phonograph. This way Jim can reach the place where yet another tribal feast is being held to celebrate the wedding, and kidnap her. He takes her to a desert island where they start a new life (and she rapidly learns English). One day the volcano erupts. The king sends warriors to kidnap Luana and bring her back for the sacrifice. Jim follows them and is captured and condemned to die with her. Just then Jim's friends return to the island and free both of them. The natives come asking for Luana, though, believing that only she can appease the volcano. Luana herself demands to return to the natives, both to save Jim's life and to fulfil her destiny.

Cynara (1932) is a mediocre and tedious adaptation of Robert Gore-Brown's play "Cynara" and Gore-Brown's novel "An Imperfect Lover", possibly his worst film ever.

Jim is a lawyer who is about to leave his wife to star a new career and life in Africa withour her. She begs him to explain what happened inside his heart. A flashback shows how his silly sister-in-law spoiled their seventh wedding anniversary by inviting his wife Clemency to a trip to Venice. Alone in London, Jim accepts the invitation of an older friend to dinner. At the restaurant they meet Milly and Doris, two lively shopgirls. His older friend John is a shameless womanizer and invites the girls to join them. At the end of that evening Jim is determined not to see the girls again. But John plots against his purity of heart. When Jim is called to be the judge of a pageant contest, he tells Milly and Doris, and Doris enlists as one of the contenders. Jim can't resist awarding him the first prize. She slips and sprays and ankle. Jim offers to take her home. They slowly become attached, but she accepts that he will not break his marriage. When his wife returns from her trip, Jim is tempted to tell her the truth but then doesn't find the strength. At the same time Doris is fired from her job, and clearly needs Jim more than ever. Jim decides to terminate their affair and sends her a farewell letter with some money. Having learned of Jim's behavior, Milly walks furious to Jim's house to insult him. While they are arguing, a police officer comes to tell him that Doris has committed suicide, and they found his note in her room. There is a public trial, at which his affair is exposed and Milly accuses him of having caused Doris' suicide. He has to admit that the girl was a virgin when he met her. The flashback ends. The wife is surprisingly rather understanding. He tells her that Doris was not a virgin after all, but at the trail he didn't want to ruin her reputation. He bids his wife farewell and heads for the ship. John talks to his wife and convinces her to join Jim at the ship and leave with him for a new life.

Wedding Night (1935) is a comedy that turns into melodrama.

Tony (Gary Cooper) is a writer who has lost his inspiration and is rapidly becoming an alcoholic. His full-time job is partying in the big city together with his wife, but they are now broke. When the publisher refuses his new book, they are forced to move back to their little mansion in the countryside. The wife hates it, but Tony falls in love with the family of Polish immigrants who live next door. Using the money that they give you to purchase part of his land, Tony sends his wife back to the city and focuses on writing a book about his neighbors. His main target is the young daughter whose father has promised her to a young man without asking for her opinion. The sophisticated novelist and the simple farm-girl fall discreetely in love with each other. One night she has to stay at his house because of a blizzard. The father comes to rescue her in the morning, furious at her shameless behavior, and then orders her to marry the young Polish man in two days. At the same time Tony's wife comes back. She has overheard something and then reads in Tony's book the love story of the writer and the farm girl. When Manya comes to see Tony one last night, and perhaps to ask for his help to disrupt the marriage, she and Tony's wife have their first meeting. The wife tells Manya that the farm girl in the novel has no hopes against the wife of five years: she is talking to the real farm girl about the real wife. Manya goes back to her father's home without seeing Tony, realizing that Tony's wife is right. Then the wife confronts her husband: Tony admits that he is in love with the girl and that he wants a divorce, but his wife tells him that he won't give it to him. And she doesn't tell him that the girl is to be married in a few hours. When Tony learns of the wedding, it is too late to intervene, but Tony shows up at the party and makes the bridegroom jealous. At night the drunk bridegroom walks to Tony's house with homicidal intents. Manya tries to stop him and she is accidentally killed while the two men fight.

Stella Dallas (1937) is the remake of Henry King's 1925 film adapted from Oliver Higgins Prouty's novel, the melodramatic parable of a mother who sacrifices everything of her daughter and is happy just to see her happy.

Stella is a young girl in a blue collar town. Her father and her brother work every day at the local factory. Her only excitement is that she found out a young handsome man, Steven, is the son of a wealthy man who went bankrupt and committed suicide. She is madly in love with him and eventually finds a way to get his attention. She leaves the miserable home of her parents for a much nicer mansion. They get married and have a baby. He is disappointe though that she never tried to get an education and become a lady: she is still a working class girl. In fact she enjoys the company of people whome he would rather avoid, like the noisy Ed. When Steven is offered a promotion to New York, she refuses to follow him and raises their daughter alone, consoled by Ed who becomes her best friend. Her daughter Laurel has a rather lonely childhood. When she turns 13, her mother goes out of her way to prepare a nice birthday party for her, but nobody shows up, probably ashamed of her mother. Laurel sees her father only during her vacations. He has met again his old flame, whom he gave up when his father killed himself. She has three children and Laurel becomes good friend of them. Laurel is mesmerized by the ladylike composure of her father's friend. Back home, her mother looks like a much more mundane woman. Her only friend is Ed, a man who is a lot of fun and has a good heart, but hardly a gentleman. On Christmas, her mother invites Ed for dinner. Ed shows up drunk. Steven shows up unexpected to surprise his daughter and invite her to spend the Christmas holidays with them. Her mother does not have the heart to oppose something that would make her daughter happy, even if it means spending Christmas alone. Steven realizes it, and invites her too. Stella is happy that Steven still cares for her and would love to accept, but drunk Ed comes out of the kitchen and ruins everything. Little by little her daughter gets used to the lifestyle of her father's friends, all aristocratic and wealthy. One day she falls in love with one of the young men of this crowd. And while she is with him she witnesses people making fun of her mother, who looks like the typical poor woman pretending to be a lady. She is so ashamed that she runs away without telling her boyfriend who the woman is. Because she loves her mother, she simply tells her that she wants to go home: she is running away from a world that would never accept her mother. But on the train, by coincidence, a few of the girls who were making fun of her mother talk about it, and her mother overhears them. Thus she understands. Stella visits her husband's new companion and asks her to take Laurel with them. Laurel is initially happy but then understands that her mother is sacrificing for her, and wants none of it. She decides to go back to her mother. Her mother, though, is determined that Laurel should live the wealthy, not the poor, life. The only way to get her to leave is to pretend that she, her mother, doesn't want her around. She even pretends that Ed is rich (in reality, he is now an alcoholic bum) and that they are leaving for South America. Laurel is heartbroken but Stella's plan works: Laurel goes back to the huge mansion of her father and to the aristocratic life of her stepmother. Time heals the wound, and Laurel announces her wedding with a young man of the high society. Nonetheless, she hopes that her mother would read about it in the newspaper and come to the wedding. She did: she is outsite in the rain, trying to catch a glimpse of her daughter getting married. Then Stella walks away, smiling. sono molto piu` convenzionali.

Il detective film Muss 'Em Up (1936)

The Citadel (1938), adapted from Cronin's novel, is a terrible morality tale.

Andrew is an idealistic new doctor in a destitute British town. He realizes that the town is plagued by an epidemics of typhoid. Fellow doctor Philip has tracked the disease to the sewer. Corruption and indifference are ubiquitous in the system. Philip thinks that the only way to get a new sewer is to blow up the old one. Meanwhile he finds out that the local schoolteacher, Christine, is keeping a child with measles at school, but can't quite get himself to report her to the authorities. He helps his friend blow up the sewer, romances Christine, and then finds a new job in a much nicer coal-mining region. He finds out that a widespread disease is caused by work in the mines, and demands higher wages for the miners who are affected. This makes him enemies. In the meantime he has been conducting some research study with Christine that has generated interest among the scientific community. His enemies cripple his reputation among the patients and destroy his laboratory. He resigns and move elsewhere. When he meets his old schoolfriend Fred, a new world is revealed to him. Fred and his partner Charles are getting rich as "society doctors", catering to wealthy patients only. Andrew finally gets rich, but he loses his wife's admiration. One day he meets a surgeon who explains a new sophisticated technique, but Andrew thinks he is unqualified. Andrew now has a dumb but rich lover, Frances, one of the many patients who are not sick at all but pay for being "cured". When his old friend Philip asks him to join a project for a clinic that instead would cater to the poor, Christine is excited but Andrew ignores him. They are dining at a restaurant and the owner tells him that her little daughter is very sick. Andrew ignores her too, although he just learned about that surgeon who could cure the child. His old friend is so hurt that he gets drunk and is run over by a car. Charles and Andrew operate on his friend, but Charles makes a colossal mistake and Philip dies. As soon as they leave the room, Charles simply puts on a tuxedo, ready to return to his social duties. Andrew realizes that Charles has always been totally incompetent, and accuses him of murder. Devastated by remorse, Andrew walks alone in the streets for hours. He decides to return to his ideals. He delivers the sick girl to the revolutionary surgeon who cures her. But that surgeon is not licensed, and a commission tries Andrew for breaking the law. Andrew has to defend himself with a moving speech. (In the novel, instead, Philip lives and at the end they set out together to start the clinic for the poor).

Nel seguito Vidor si distinse sopratutto nel western, genere che gli consentiva di mettere in luce la qualità di "self made man" dell'americano tipo immerso nei grandi spazi e un gusto anomalo per la violenza e il sesso, elevati a struttura portante della frontiera.

Texas Rangers (1936) due banditi fannulloni, il bello e il burlone, si arruolano per scherzo e per approfittare della situazione; ma davanti all'abnegazione, all'eroismo, al sacrificio, si trasformano anche loro in paladini, soprattutto il bello, che gode le simpatie della figlia del comandante; questi assegna a lui l'incarico di catturare vivo o morto un suo ex compagno di malfatte, ora famigerato bandito; lui si rifiuta e il comandante lo fa arrestare per complicità. Dal comico- burlesco passa al tragico-eroico, il suo amico cerca di catturare il bandito da solo, ma viene ucciso e il bambino che lo seguiva sempre viene tenuto in ostaggio; il bello chiede allora di essere liberato, rintraccia il bandito, lo bracca senza pietà e lo uccide. Il primo muore, il secondo lo uccide e sposa la figlia del comandante.

Comrade X (1940) is a romantic comedy and a grotesque satire of the Soviet Union (at the times of the continuous purges).

A mysterious foreign correspondent, diguised under the moniker of Comrade X, is causing great embarrassment to the Soviet government. A Soviet commissar (replacing the previous one who has just been mistakenly executed) summons all foreign correspondents to inform them that their activities will be severely curtailed until the identity of Comrade X is revealed. Missing among the journalists is a USA drunkard, Mac (Clark Gable). He arrives the following day, welcomed by the hotel porter and old friend Vanya. Nothing works in Moskow, and there is no room available at the hotel. Mac does not hesitate to impose himself on a fellow German reporter, who has a suite at the hotel, and to hire his secretary Olga for himself. Then he invents a story that Germany just invaded Russia, so that the hotel manager kicks out the German. Jane is another USA journalist who used to be an admirer of him and his girlfriend before he dumped her for a geisha in Tokyo. Mac attends the funeral of the executed commissar and witnesses an attempt on the life of the new commissar. Then at his hotel he gets his secretary drunk (she's a Russian spy) and frantically types his exclusive report. Vanya walks in and starts telling him that his daughter is in danger because she's a communist: having realized that communists have caused great damage, the new regime is eliminating communists so that communism can succeed. Vanya begs Mac to help her escape from the country. Mac ignores him. Vanya pulls out the camera (disguised as a radio) that Mac uses: Vanya knows that Mac is Comrade X, and can blackmail him. Mac has to accept the deal. He meets Golubka, who works as a streetcar conductor under the name of Theodore (because the union only allows men to drive streetcars), but she has no intention of leaving Russia, and in fact she believes that there will soon be a communist revolution in the USA. So, pretending to be a communist himself, he has to convince her that by emigrating to the USA would help the cause of communism. He pretends to be indifferent to female beauty, although he casually kisses her. The following day Golubka shows up with her suitcase, ready to emigrate. Just one catch: they have to get married, the only way she can be allowed to leave. Golubka coldly executes the marriage and walks into his bed. She recognizes Olga as her communist idol. Upon learning from Golubka the whereabouts of the leader of a dissenting communist faction, he wants to leave her and rush to interview him. But Jane walks in and, jealous and incredulous, she tells Golubka that Mac has never been a communist. Golubka senses treason and demands to go to the secret police. Just then the secret police break into the room and arrest both. Mac is taken at the office of the commissar who presents him with the radio-camera, found in Vanya's room. The commissar doesn't believe that Vanya is Comrade X but is puzzled that Vanya pretends to be. He becomes even more suspicious when he learns that Mac has married Vanya's daughter and was trying to take her abroad. They are thrown in jail, where they meet the dozens of strict communists who are being arrested, as Vanya feared. They are all to be executed, accused of being counter-revolutionaries. Mac makes a deal with the commissar: their freedom in exchange for the name and photograph of the name who tried to assassinate him. Mac is surprised to be taken to the new commissar: the assassin himself, the former leader of the "counter-revolutionaries" and Golubka's political idol, who has replaced the previous commissar, who has died of "pneumonia". He explains that he has ordered the execution of his own former disciples because they were stupid enough to admire him and believe in him. Mac and the turncoat commissar work out a deal. Mac, Vanya and Golubka leave in a car driven by a commissar's man. Golubka is shocked to learn of the ideological betrayal by her idol. Mac doesn't trust the commissar and hijacks the car. Chased by police with machine guns, the fugitives dump the car and steal a tank. Chased by dozens of Soviet tanks, their tank heads for the border. They enter Romania creating panic among the population. The following day the newspapers announce the invasion of Romania...

HM Pulham Esq (1941) è una commedia sentimentale tratta dal romanzo di John Marquand.

Northwest Passage (1940) si svolge in Alaska ed è una tipica storia della frontiera: un manipolo di bianchi guidati da un indomito maggiore deve portare avanti la civiltà, verso gli estremi confini del continente, lottando con le intemperie e con gli indiani.

An American Romance (1944) about a humble worker who becomes a tycoon.

Duel in the Sun (1946) è il più barocco sensazionalista all-star e colossal dei suoi western. Il tema superificiale e` quello dei vecchi pionieri delle terre selvagge contro il progresso della ferrovia, ma c'e` anche un triangolo amoroso con erotismo incontrollato (il doppio amore della ragazza con relativo doppio sacrificio, prima il sesso e poi la morte).

A creole girl, Pearl, lives around a saloon, where her mother is a famous ballerina and her father is simply someone to make fun of (everybody knows the ballerina is not faithful to him). That night the man sees her wife walk away with a "gentleman" and then walk into their house. The girl tries to stop her father, but this time he is determined to defend his honor: he shoots both wife and lover. At the trial, he asks to be hung. And dies like a hero. The girl takes the stagecoah to a town of Texas where her uncle and aunt live. An elegant young man, her cousin Jessie, is waiting for her, but he is expecing a child and she, a hot-blooded woman, does not talk to strangers, so their encounter is not very friendly. Her aunt is a sweet and lovely lady. Her uncle, the "senator", is an arrogant and imperious man on a wheelchair. He is a powerful man who owns a big ranch and a lot of land. Jessie's younger brother, Lewt, is all the opposite of Jessie: a rude, drinking cowboy. Jessie is the urban type: he wants to become a judge and believes in progress. Lewt is the rural type: he wants to succeed his father at the ranch and believes in the good old ways. Their father resents Jessie's betrayal (and does not appreciate any of his efforts) and spoils Lewt (and forgives him all of his sins). The two boys differ also in the way they court their cousin: Jessie is nice and understanding, Lewt is vulgar and scornful of her prudish behavior. Pearl is attracted to both sides of the male persona. Lewt's recklessness appeals to her rebellious temper as much as Jessie's good manners appeal to her female vanity.
When the news arrives that the railroad people have entered his "territory", the "senator" organizes a posse with all the cowboys of the area and personally rides in front of them. He threatens the railroad people to get out, but Jessie, who believes that the railroad is good for the future, abandons him and joins the railroad people. The cavalry arrives in time to avoid a bloody confrontation between father and son, but the father calls him Judas and expels him from his ranch (the sound of the train causes the old man's horse to jump and almost kill him). In the meantime, Lewt gets home after a trip and finds his sexy cousin alone, He rapes her, but she doesn't try to stop him. She is clearly more attracted by Lewt's flesh than by Jessie's spirit. Jessie comes home to say goodbye to his mother, and finds Lewt in Pearl's room. Jessie is hurt but remains kind, and Pearl cries, knowing she has lost him. Lewt makes fun of his brother and walks out whistling. Pearl tries in vain to explain herself to Jessie, but Jessie tells her he will never forget. Jessie slaps his brother in the face and then goes away.
Now that Jessie is gone, Pearl hopes at least to become Lewt's wife, but at a party she realizes that the thought never crossed Lewt's mind. At the same party, Pearl hears that Jessie is doing well, is engaged to a girl from a wealthy family and some day may become the governor of the state. Pearl accepts the proposal of one of the cowboys, a nice man who has saved money and wants to start a family. But Lewt provokes the man in front of the other cowboys and then shoots him dead. Now Lewt is wanted by the police. His father has now lost both sons, but would never admit he has erred. Lewt becomes a bandit and begins to attack trains. When she visits Pearl, she first threatens to kill him but then can't resist to the desire of the flesh. The sheriff shows up that very night looking for Lewt: both his father and Pearl lie to save his life. But Lewt hasn't changed: she is willing to leave the ranch and share his life as an outlaw, but he only wanted to use her. She begs him not to leave her, and he has to hit her to get rid of her. She, the proud creole girl, has humiliated herself. Pearl's aunt is dying. She lived a life of sacrifice. She dares speak up to her husband. At first he shouts back and accuses her of having ruined him. But then admits the truth: that he has always been wrong, and always loved her. She dies caressing him, the first tenderness between them in years.
Jessie, now a powerful politician, comes back to the ranch. His father is stubborn and still resents his betrayal. Pearl claims that she hates Lewt. Jessie invites her to move to town with him and his wife. She accepts. But this provokes Lewt, now a notorious bandit, who comes to town and confronts Jessie. Jessie refuses to gran a gun, but Lewt shoots him nonetheless. Jessie survives, but Pearl does not forgive: she sets out in the desert to track down Lewt and kill him. When she finally meets him, in a rocky landscape under scorching sunshine, she shoots him without any warning. Then she cries and walks towards him. He is not dead and shoots her. She falls down. Lewt finally shows some remorse, but Pearl is not dead and she shoots him again. They crawl towards each other. As they are dying, they try frantically to touch each other. They manage to hug and kiss just before dying.
Un dignitoso elegante bianco ha sposato una ballerina pellerossa, da cui ha avuto una figlia meticcia Pearl, onesta ma piena di vita. Tradito pubblicamente dalla moglie (scena del balletto selvaggio lungo il banco del saloon), uccide lei e il suo amante. Dopo l'impiccagione dell'uxoricida, la figlia si trasferisce da una zia nella prateria del Texas, e, appena arrivata, incontra il figlio maggiore Jacky. Al ranch.comanda un vecchio scorbutico su una sedia a rotelle, "il senatore", subito prevenuto verso la nuova arrivata; sua moglie l'ha sposato per la posizione, ma ne è stata felice; l'altro figlio, Zonis (G.Peck), è il cocco del vecchio, giocatore, donnaiolo, spavaldo e senza scrupoli, che tenta subito di conquistarla con la forza; ma Pearl si è messa in testa di rimanere sempre una brava ragazza; Zonis la compromette, facendo credere agli uomini e alla zia che lei sia la sua amante; Jacky è cortese e gentiluomo, ma Pearl, che a parole odia Zonis, a fatti ne è attratta. La zia, preoccupata, la fa confessare seminuda in piena notte, da un predicatore.
Jacky, pecora nera della famiglia, desidera intraprendere la carriera della legge, è favorevole alla ferrovia che stanno costruendo nel Texas, ma il senatore è deciso a non lasciarla passare. Quando la compagnia sta per varcare i confini della sua proprietà, raccoglie gli uomini e va a presidiare il filo spinato. Jacky lo abbandona, chiede un paio di cesoie, e sotto i fucili spianati degli uomini del ranch si accinge a tagliare il filo, quando giunge la cavalleria a imporre la legge e togliere dall'imbarazzo il vecchio testardo. Ma questi lo scaccia dalla sua terra, chiamandolo "Giuda".
Al ranch intanto Pearl cede alla passione e alle maniere forti di Zonis, mentre il vecchio ritorna sconfitto e umiliato e Jacky saluta la madre. Prima di andarsene ha la sorpresa di cogliere in flagrante i due amanti, Zonis trionfante e Pearl già pentita. Pearl è contesa fra la carne (Zonis) e lo spirito (Jacky).
Prima di andarsene Jacky dice a Pearl che non potrà dimenticare cos'è successo quella notte, Zonis dice a Jacky che è un vigliacco (per ciò che ha fatto al confine), Jacky lo schiaffeggia, Pearl dice piangendo, mentre cerca di resistere alla tentazione, che Zonis è un vigliacco (per come approfitta della sua debole carne). Appena Jacky se n'è andato, Pearl smette di piangere e, per vendicarsi della frase di Jacky, va da Zonis. Ne diventa l'amante, e tenta di farsi sposare dall'erede designato, mentre Jacky lavora ormai per la ferrovia ed è fidanzato con la figlia del padrone. Zonis però dice al padre che pensa soltanto di "spassarsela". Per accondiscendere al disprezzo che il padre prova per lei, Zonis sacrifica senza dolore l'amante per l'eredità. Pearl se ne rende conto alla festa quando Zonis rifiuta di annunciare il loro fidanzamento. Accetta allora di sposare lo stalliere, ma Zonis lo ammazza. Zonis è ricercato; il senatore se la prende con Pearl; ma la moglie si oppone, e gli rinfaccia di essere la causa di tutto.
Datosi alla macchia, Zonis sabota un treno e poi torna a prendere Pearl ammalata, rimasta vedova prima di sposarsi. Pearl minaccia di ucciderlo, ma poi gli cade fra le braccia, e mente allo sceriffo che perquisisce la casa. Lo implora di portarla con lui, ma Zonis non la vuole e se ne libera con un calcio; riparte senza aver neppure salutato la madre, condannata da un male inguaribile. In punto di morte questa riesce a far pentire il marito: egli rimase invalido una notte che lei fuggì di casa, e da allora l'aveva sempre odiata, pensando che lei fosse corsa dal padre di Pearl (suo cugino).
Jacky, che viola il divieto paterno per venirla a trovare, la trova già morta. Tenta allora di portare via Pearl, per darle una casa dignitosa. Pearl è stata condannata da Jacky quella notte. Ma Jacky ha fatto bene perché Pearl appartiene a Zonis, è attratta da lui più che da ogni altro singolo.
Ma Zonis lo viene a sapere: i due si danno appuntamento all'alba. Jacky disarmato, viene colpito, ma sopravvive.
Il padre capisce di essere un fallito: ha fatto morire una moglie brava e fedele di crepacuore, ha scacciato il figlio migliore, e ha fatto dell'altro un assassino vigliacco. Si convince di doversi riconciliare con Jacky.
Pearl, determinata a farsi perdonare da Jacky e da se stessa, si reca a un appuntamento con Zonis per ucciderlo. Soltanto così potrà impedire che Zonis riprovi a uccidere il fratello. Ma non lo odia ancora: dopo averlo colpito scoppia a piangere. Lui è ancora vivo: ha inizio un duello all'ultimo sangue fra le rocce. Lui le spara come a una ladra, e lei lo ricambia con la stessa arma, la subdola vigliaccheria. Si vantano a vicenda, si danno la caccia senza pietà, trascinandosi senza forze. Ma quando Zonis sente la morte addosso, implora un ultimo bacio, e lei capisce dal tono che questa volta è vero; si trascina disperatamente per arrivare in tempo, si allacciano e muoiono insieme.
Due anziani coniugi del Texas, un dispotico e scontroso pioniere ridotto su una sedia a rotelle e la brava e mansueta moglie (Lilian Gish), accolgono una nipote meticcia, il cui padre è stato impiccato per aver ucciso la moglie e il suo rivale. La ragazza è subito contesa fra l'amore galante e sincero del primogenito (in rotta col padre perché favorevole al progresso e avviato alla carriera di avvocato) e quello rude e arrogante del secondogenito (viziato dal genitore perché duro e virile). Questi tronca la rivalità alla sua maniera, violentando la giovane, che peraltro è attratta più dalla carne di questo che dallo spirito dell'altro. Il maggiore invece viene scacciato dal padre per aver osato difendere la ferrovia che vuole passare sui loro terreni; quando la ragazza capisce che lo scapestrato non ha intenzione di sposarla, si fidanza con uno stalliere, ma l'amante glielo uccide; ricercato dalla polizia, e protetto tanto dal padre (che testardamente non vuol ammettere di aver perduto due figli per colpe sue) quanto dalla ragazza (che non sa resistere alla passione), l'assassino si dà al banditaggio e, quando apprende che il fratello ha portato via dal ranch la sua ragazza, giunge a sparagli addosso; è la ragazza stessa allora a mettersi sulle sue tracce per ucciderlo; in un duello feroce fra le rocce del deserto i due si ammazzano a vicenda, ma alla fine muoiono abbracciati. Conflitti generazionali (i vecchi pionieri delle terre selvagge contro il progresso della ferrovia), triangolo amoroso con erotismo scatenato, (il doppio amore della ragazza con relativo doppio sacrificio, prima il sesso e poi la morte). Melodramma (la morte della madre e il pentimento in extremis del padre), il retroscena del loro astio e tutti gli stereotipi del genere (l'assalto al treno, il duello, il giusto e il bandito) si fondono in un groviglio altamente spettacolare.

The Fountainhead (1949) is an adaptation of the 1943 novel by Ayn Rand.

Beyond the Forest (1949) is his best film noir.

Lightning Strikes Twice (1951)

Japanese War Bride (1952)

Ruby Gentry (1952), scripted by Arthur Fitz-Richard and Silvia Richards, is yet another fresco of the traditional, sexist and violent, values of Southern society. A melodrama influenced by western movies, it is a powerful portrait of woman who tries in vain to fight against ancestral codes of honor.

The narrating voice opens the film by telling us that Ruby is a female skipper hated by the townsfolks, and the film is a flashback of her story. The narrator is the new doctor in town, who is introduced to the beautiful Ruby by her rich mentor Jim on the way to a hunting party. They stop by Ruby's place for a dinner with the other hunters. Ruby flirts with Boake, a young man who just returned from South America, but when he tries to touch her she scratches his face. She has a reputation for being a little wild. Her bigot brother Jewel foresees trouble for her and Boake. Jim tells the doctor that he and his wife took Ruby in when she was in high school and taught her the manners of a lady. Ruby was heartbroken because she had rejected Boake too harshly. After a couple of years in their mansion, she returned to her father and to a humble life. Boake arranges a meeting with Ruby during the hunting excursion, in which she's supposed to escort the doctor, who knows little of that primitive region. He tries to kiss her but she aims the gun at him. The beautiful and rich Tracy comes to pick up Boake. Ruby is furious to see that she treats Boake like a boyfriend. Boake and Ruby become lovers. She is convinced that he will marry her and her family tries in vain to explain to her that he needs money, not a poor wife. Tracy's father is lending Boake the money that he needs for a project to turn his family's swamp into a cotton plantation. Boake tells Ruby that he has decided to marry Tracy. Jim's wife dies just before Boake's wedding. The doctor tells Ruby how wonderful she is and feels sorry that Ruby is mistreated by the rich families of the region. He almost proposes. Ruby tells Jim that the doctor has a crush on her, and Jim realizes that he is jealous. And so Jim proposes to her. Their wedding takes place in New York, far away from the gossiping townsfolks. Back home, they throw a party to celebrate their wedding but most prominent families find an excuse to skip it: marrying a poor and much younger girl is viewed as a scandal. Further inflaming the scandal is an incident caused by Jim: he attacks Boake when he sees him romancing Ruby at another party, and also insults Ruby. The next day Jim and Ruby go sailing to make peace but instead Jim is killed in an accident. Soon the town turns against her. The newspaper accuses her of having murdered her husband. She receives anonymous calls. People surround the mansion honking their car horns. Ruby swears revenge. She takes control of Jim's financial records and realizes that a lot of respectable Southern gentlemen owed him money: she demands immediate repayment, and many go bankrupt. The newspaper is one of them. Her bigot brother Jewel tries in vain to make her stop her campaign. She is full of hate. She summons Boake: he too owed money to Jim. She wants him to leave his wife and stay with her, who is now rich. He refuses to be bought. She takes her revenge: she takes over his property and then floods the land that Boake has turned into a plantation. She then smokes a cigarette while the waters destroy years of Boake's hard work. He now surrenders to her but is resentful. During the yearly hunting party, Boake almost strangles Ruby, then kisses her. A delirious Jewel, the bigot brother, starts shooting at them determined to punish their sins. Boake and Ruby have to flee through the swamp. Boake hunts them down and eventually kills Boake. He is about to kill Ruby too but Ruby is faster and kills him, her own brother, and rolls the body in the mud. Now we are back to the first scene: Ruby has become a humble skipper on a fishing boat.

Man Without a Star (1955) è l'elegia del cavaliere solitario, che sotto la scorza di duro rotto a tutte le esperienze nasconde un eroico bisogno di pace libertà e giustizia; è un pistolero che educa un ragazzo imberbe e conquista la padrona del ranch dove sono capitati, ma, quando lei decide di imporre la sua legge con le cattive sugli altri allevatori, preferisce tirarsi indietro, almeno finché i nuovi lavoranti della signora non se la prendono direttamente con lui; allora scende in campo e il suo intervento è determinante per volgere le sorti della battaglia in favore dei piccoli allevatori e infliggere una dura lezione ai banditi della signora. La vicenda è complicata dal rapporto omosessuale fra il vagabondo e il ragazzo, dal contratto sessuale stipulato con la padrona (che viene regolarmente pagato quando lui si dimette) e dall'amore in agguato fra il ragazzo e la figlia di un allevatore, dai complessi che costringono l'uomo alla fuga perpetua dal filo spinato (simbolo della limitazione della libertà) e che lo fanno sentire colpevole di aver educato il ragazzo all'omicidio.

Il melodramma sudista di King Vidor conosce la vita dura della gente comune, ma anche i suoi istinti peggiori. Se negli anni della depressione Vidor descrive sopratutto la prima, nei western mette in risalto i secondi, denunciando in entrambi i casi, l'ambiguo limite che separa il bene dal male e come essi siano condizionati alla società.

Due vagabondi viaggiano su un treno: uno (Kirk Douglas è un duro che ama la libertà, l'altro è un ragazzo inesperto, assistono ad un omicidio di cui, all'arrivo, viene accusato il ragazzo; l'amico lo salva indicando il vero colpevole e guadagnando anche la taglia; in paese Douglas incontra una vecchia amica, che introduce agli allevatori della zona; dopo aver difeso il ragazzo da un prepotente, Douglas trova lavoro presso una delle fattorie più grosse, e ottiene che assumano anche il ragazzo.
La fattoria incuriosisce Douglas perché ha il bagno interno. Douglas litiga con un allevatore vicino perché questi ha intenzione di usare del filo spinato; ma fra il ragazzo e la figlia di questi si trovano subito simpatici. Arriva il padrone: è una donna, che Douglas tenta subito di conquistare, prima coi complimenti poi pestando il gradasso del ranch. La donna è senza scrupoli: vuole impossessarsi dei pascoli liberi (è una dichiarazione di guerra verso gli altri allevatori) e assume dei lavoranti capaci anche di sparare; davanti alle ritrosie del capoccia non esita a proporre il posto a Douglas; egli accetta, ma in cambio chiede di avere lei, e lei accetta.
Intanto Douglas continua ad addestrare il ragazzo al lazo e alla pistola.
Arrivano i nuovi uomini e scoppiano subito i primi incidenti. Il filo spinato messo dai piccoli allevatori sui pascoli liberi da loro occupati causa l'inizio delle ostilità. Il ragazzo dimostra lo stesso odio per il filo spinato del suo amico. Fra i nuovi arrivati c'è un texano poco di buono che Douglas conosce da tempo. Douglas spiega al ragazzo perché odia il filo spinato: sa che porta sempre la guerra e ne è stato lui stesso vittima; suo fratello morì così e assomigliava al ragazzo; lì per lì decide di partire, per evitare di dover scendere in campo e per non esporre il ragazzo; riscuote dalla padrona il pattuito, cioé lei, e se ne va in paese; ma lei si fa portare dal ragazzo nel saloon per scuotere la sua gelosia; nello stesso saloon c'è anche il texano, con aria provocante. Il ragazzo uccide il primo che dà fastidio alla signora. Douglas gli dà dell'assassino e se ne va, sentendosi colpevole (gli ha insegnato lui a sparare) e tradito.
Gli uomini della signora spadroneggiano e hanno buon gioco contro i miti allevatori del luogo; mentre Douglas passa il tempo ad ubriacarsi e a dormire a casa della sua vecchia amica. E' lei a gridargli in faccia la sua paura per il filo spinato, e a metterlo in guardia quando lui decide di ripartire: dovunque andrà troverà del filo spinato e non potrà fuggire in eterno. Mentre sta per andarsene lo prendono al lazo i texani della signora e lo pestano per divertirsi. Douglas passa dalla parte degli allevatori e aiuta sia a portare l'odiato filo spinato sia a difenderlo.
Gli uomini prendono la mano anche alla padrona e il texano ferisce il ragazzo, che prende il cavallo e va ad avvertire Douglas. Douglas salva il filo spinato. uccide un po' di ....? e insegue il texano e gli restituisce il pestaggio. Poi decide di andarsene e, quando il ragazzo fa per seguirlo, gli addita la ragazza che lo sta aspettando. Parte solo.

War and Peace (1956) is an adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's novel.

Solomon and Sheba (1959) e` un ridicolo kolossal biblico.

Dal 1960 Vidor si è ritirato nella sua fattoria a girare film da amatore che investigano la metafisica, a metà fra gioco e testamento spirituale.

Truth and Illusion (1964)

Vidor scoprì la società americana degli anni venti, scoprì l'individuo schiacciato dalla massa, la vita quotidiana nella metropoli, oltre a rivelarsi magistrale sessuologo. Fu uno dei primi a capire la portata del sonoro, curando i rumori di fondo (i passi, il traffico) e le musiche. Fondendo ispirazione e tecnica diede un quadro convincente della colorita varietà umana: frastuono sordo e crudele della città sullo sfondo, slanci commoventi e generosi qua e là.

- il marciapiede

- l'ufficio X

- le cuccette

- l'ospedale X

- la spiaggia

- le code dei disoccupati

- i vicini

- i parenti

- il teatro X

- luna-park




Man Without a Star

If English is your first language and you could translate the Italian text, please contact me.
What is unique about this cinema database