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In 1922, Vidor emigrated to the United States. He worked as a basso for the English Grand Opera Company. He was a chorus boy in Love Song and worked on Hudson Bay as a longshoreman.
Vidor went to Hollywood where he worked as Korda's assistant. He attracted acclaim for a low budget short he made in his spare time with his own money, The Bridge (1929). This led to a contract at Universal Pictures to work in the editorial department.
Frank Capra got Vidor in to do some second unit work on Mr Smith Goes to Washington (1939), which was running behind schedule. Vidor directed the scenes in Smith's home town. "I had more money to spend than I was ever given to make a feature picture," he later said.
Back at Columbia, Vidor directed the studio's first Technicolor movie, The Desperadoes (1943). He followed it with the Rita Hayworth-Gene Kelly musical, Cover Girl (1944) which was a huge success. On June 11, 1944 Vidor signed a seven year contract with Columbia.
In 1946 Vidor sued Columbia, seeking to be released from his contract and $78,000 in damages. The case went to trial, where Vidor argued that he had been treated badly by Cohn, who swore at him. (Cohn admitted the swearing but said this was his way of expressing himself.) He also said Cohn would not loan him $25,000 to buy a new house and that Cohn made him cry twice by yelling at him. The judge ruled against Vidor, ordering him back to work.
Vidor began directing Ford and William Holden in The Man from Colorado (1949) but clashed with Cohn once more over the shooting schedule and was fired during filming for being too slow, being replaced by Levin.
The matter settled and Vidor was reunited with Hayworth and Ford for the expensive The Loves of Carmen (1948). Columbia exercised their option under Vidor's contract.
In 1948 Vidor announced he had purchased rights to Sirocco, a French Foreign Legion tale based on the novel Coup de Grace he wanted to make with Rita Hayworth and Humphrey Bogart. He was also preparing to do the film version of Born Yesterday and did a few days uncredited work on Under Cover Man.
In August 1949 Vidor was assigned the musical The Petty Girl (1950). He refused to do it, Columbia put him on suspension, and Vidor told Columbia that he considered his contract with them at an end. (He was replaced on The Petty Girl by Levin). In September Columbia sued Vidor to stop him walking out on the contract.
In October 1949 Vidor bought himself out of his contract for $75,000 at $15,000 a year for five years. Louis B. Mayer had acted as intermediary "for the good of the industry". Vidor's career had two years to run, at $3,000 a week then $3,500 a week.
In December 1949 Vidor signed a contract with MGM to direct The Running of the Tide which was never made.
Vidor's last film was an attempt to repeat the success of A Song to Remember, another biopic of a composer, in this case Liszt: Song Without End (1960) (originally titled A Magic Flame). He died of a heart attack three weeks in to filming.