Slavko Vorkapić  

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"He devised vivid montages for numerous pictures, mainly to get a point across economically or to bridge a time lapse. In a matter of moments, with images cascading across the screen, he was able to show Jeanette MacDonald's rise to fame as an opera star in Maytime (1937), the outbreak of the revolution in Viva Villa (1934), the famine and exodus in The Good Earth (1937), and the plague in Romeo and Juliet (1936)." --Ezra Goodman in The Fifty-year Decline and Fall of Hollywood

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Slavko Vorkapić (March 17 1894October 20 1976), was a Serbian-American film director and editor, university professor and painter, one of the most prominent figures of modern cinematography and film art, best-known for The Life and Death of 9413: a Hollywood Extra.

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Early life

Slavko Vorkapić was born on March 17 1894 in the small village of Dobrinci near Sremska Mitrovica in Syrmia, Vojvodina (at that time part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, later Yugoslavia, now Serbia). His father Petar, the town clerk, insisted that young Slavko should be well-educated. After finishing his primary education, he became a student in a well-known regional high-school in the nearby town of Sremska Mitrovica, where he made his first steps in art and drawing. (Mileva Marić-Einstein, the first wife and work associate of Albert Einstein went to the same high-school). He continued his high-school education in Zemun and later in the famous Art School in Belgrade. With a scholarship received from Matica srpska, Serbia's highest cultural and scientific institution at the time, Vorkapić went to Budapest, Hungary, where he studied art. At the beginning of World War I he immediately returned to his homeland where, with the country besieged on all sides, he survived the tragic Serbian retreat across Albania in order to reach Allied positions in Greece. From there he sailed to Italy, from where he reached France. He managed to enter Art Academy in Paris but soon after moved to Montparnasse among other Avant-garde artists. He took part in the 1917 and 1919 collective painter exhibits.

Career in the United States

Film work

Slavko Vorkapić's dream to go to the United States was fulfilled in 1920. For a short time, he lived in New York City. Then, for almost a year, he roamed the country nearly homeless, until his arrival in Hollywood in July 1921. Although he started his film career as a painter and an actor, he became best-known as a special effects expert, film artist, film teacher, director, editor and became one of the most respected filmmakers in the period between the two World Wars. Vorkapić made a great number of documentaries and experimental films. He was appointed as head of the cinema department of the University of Southern California. Vorkapić co-directed the experimental short film The Life and Death of 9413: a Hollywood Extra (1928) with Robert Florey, and Moods of the Sea (1941) and Forest Murmurs (1947) with filmmaker John Hoffman (1904-1980).

He is best known for his montage work on Hollywood films such as Viva Villa (1934), David Copperfield (1935), San Francisco (1936), The Good Earth (1937), and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939). In October 2005, the DVD collection Unseen Cinema: Early American Avant Garde Film 1894-1941 included a one-minute montage sequence Vorkapich did for the otherwise lost film Manhattan Cocktail (1928), directed by Dorothy Arzner.

An effects technique, the vorkapich, is named after him. His protege, Art Clokey, learned kinescope animation techniques under him and went on to create the Gumby animated series. During 1950s he was in Yugoslavia and worked as a professor on Belgrade Film and Theatre Academy. In Yugoslavia in 1955 Vorkapić made his last full-length movie Hanka.

Slavko Vorkapić died of a heart attack in Mijas, Spain, on the estate of his son on October 20 1976.

Two of his many master drawings, his gift during a visit to Yugoslavia, are kept in the Syrmia Museum in Sremska Mitrovica. Recent reports say that his descendants are ready to fulfill Vorkapić’s last will and testament to donate the same museum with all of his remaining art drawings.

Film work




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Slavko Vorkapić" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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