Florence Vidor was born Florence Arto on July 23, 1895 in Houston, Texas to John F. Arto, a realtor, and his wife Ida. Educated in both public and finishing school systems, she was also a student at the Convent of the Sacred Heart. After a chance meeting with two local aspiring filmmakers, Edward Sedgwick and King Vidor, she became romantically involved with Vidor and the two married in 1915. (They had one child together, Suzanne Vidor Parry). The couple moved to California and settled in Santa Monica, both finding employment at the Vitagraph studio. Florence knew actress Corinne Griffith from her days in Houston and was introduced around the sets. Vitagraph Studios was quite taken by Florence’s exquisite beauty and quickly signed her to a contract in 1916. She started with some minor roles in such comedy shorts as “The Yellow Girl” (1916) and “Curfew at Simpton Center” (1916).
Florence first turned heads portraying the tragic seamstress “Mimi” in “A Tale of Two Cities” (1917). Audiences took notice and the attractive brunette was immediately promoted to leading lady status opposite such established stars as Sessue Hayakawa and Julian Eltinge. Florence and Hayakawa appeared together in “Hashimura Togo” (1917), “The Secret Game” (1917) and “The White Man’s Law” (1918), among others. She co-starred with the popular Eltinge, who often outdressed his leading ladies, in 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 his brother, Cecil B. DeMille, but still preferred to work for her husband, King, who had by this time established himself as a formidable director after opening his own studio in 1919. Florence became a huge star under her husband’s guidance operating under the banners of King Vidor Productions and Florence Vidor Productions, starring in 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). Her best-regarded film of that period, was King’s comedy-drama “Alice Adams” (1923).
The following year in 1924, Florence and King divorced. She went on to appear for other well-known directors, notably Ernst Lubitsch, in such popular pictures as “The Marriage Circle” (1924) and “The Patriot” (1928). Florence also portrayed the famous female Revolutionary War figure in “Barbara Frietchie” (1924). But she earned most of her acclaim specializing in sophisticated comedy in films such as “Marry Me” (1925), “Are Parents People?” (1925), “The Grand Duchess and the Waiter” (1926), and “The Magnificent Flirt” (1928).
Florence retired from movies at the height of her popularity after making her first major talking film “Chinatown Nights” in 1929. Filming of “Chinatown Nights” began as a silent movie and then finished as an all-talking sound one via dubbing. Florence did not dub her own voice and the unhappy experience was enough for her to quit the movie business immediately afterward, preferring not to work in sound films. Florence had just married a second time to the famed violinist Jascha Heifetz in 1928, and chose instead, to raise a family. The couple went on to have two children, Josepha and Robert. Florence and Heifetz divorced in 1946 and she continued to live her life completely out of the limelight. She later resided in Pacific Palisades, California, where she died at the age of 81 from heart failure on November 3, 1977.