Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Florence Vidor

Florence, fate was sealed after meeting two aspiring filmmakers: Edward Sedgwick and King Vidor. Vidor, a freelance photographer, cast Florence in his very first two-reel picture, although she had no plans on becoming an actress. The two went on to marry in 1915. They would have one child, Suzanne, in 1919. The couple financed their trip to Hollywood by filming travelogue footage for the Ford Motor company.

Settling in Santa Monica, the both found employment at the Vitagraph studio. Florence knew actress Corinne Griffith from her days in Houston and was introduced around the sets. The studio was quite taken by her beauty and signed her to a contract, starting with some comedy shorts as The Yellow Girl (1916) and Curfew at Simpton Center (1916). King found work as a scriptwriter and movie extra.

Florence first performance was the tragic seamstress Mimi in A Tale of Two Cities (1917). Audiences took notice and she went on to leading lady status opposite such established stars as Sessue Hayakawa and Julian Eltinge. A frequent co-star alongside Hayakawa, they performed together in Hashimura Togo (1917), The Secret Game (1917) and The White Man's Law (1918). For the popular Eltinge, who often out shined his leading ladies, the actress graced the comedies The Countess Charming (1917) and The Widow's Might (1918). Within a short time Florence was starring in quality pictures for both William C. DE Mille and brother Cecil B. DeMille, but still preferred to work for husband King who had by this time established himself as a director after opening his own studio in 1919.

Florence became a huge star under her husband's, King Vidor Productions and Florence Vidor Productions. With such silent classics as The Other Half (1919), Poor Relations (1919), The Family Honor (1920), The Jack-Knife Man (1920), Real Adventure (1922), Dusk to Dawn (1922) and Conquering the Woman (1922), Florence best known film, was King's comedy-drama Alice Adams (1923), which was remade successfully a decade or so later by Katharine Hepburn. That following year (1924) she and King also divorced. Florence went on to perform for directors, Ernst Lubitsch in, The Marriage Circle (1924) and The Patriot (1928). She also played the famous female Revolutionary War figure Barbara Frietchie (1924), but actually she specialized in comedy with the films Marry Me (1925), The Grand Duchess and the Waiter (1926) and The Magnificent Flirt (1928). Her humor coupled with sensitivity put her on top throughout most of the 1920s opposite Adolphe Menjou, Clive Brook and William Powell.

Florence's first talking film would also become her last. The unhappy experience and end result of working on Chinatown Nights (1929), which used highly experimental sound equipment, was enough for her to leave films altogether. Divorced from Vidor, Florence had married a second time to violinist Jascha Heifetz in 1928, and decided to raise a family. The couple went on to have two children. Following her divorce from Heifetz in 1946, Florence continued to completely stay out of the limelight.

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