Slavko Vorkapich (1894-1976)

Moods of the Sea (with John Hoffman, 1941)

Slavko Vorkapich (1894-1976) was both a major film theorist and a distinguished Hollywood practitioner of his own famous theory of montage editing. His forty-year career in Hollywood included providing montage sequences for such directors as Howard Hawks, George Cukor and Frank Capra. Vorkapich was also a pioneer for the American experimental film, having co-directed 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). The now-common montage sequence often appeared as notation in Hollywood scripts of the 1930s and 40s as the "Vorkapich", because of his mastery of dynamic visual editing, wherein time and space are compressed using a variety of editing techniques and camera moves. Vorkapich used kinetic editing, lapse dissolves, tracking shots, creative graphics and optical effects for his own stunning montage sequences for such features as Meet John Doe, Maytime, Crime without Passion, Manhattan Melodrama, Firefly, and Manhattan Cocktail.

The Yugoslavian-born "Vorky" already had distinguished himself as a portrait photographer, writer, commercial artist, dance director, set designer (for Rex Ingram's Scaramouche and Prisoner of Zenda), director-photographer of short films, second unit director, and co-director of RKO's recent The Past of Mary Holmes. He had become a specialist in creating montage sequences for RKO, Paramount and MGM, adding spice to the likes of Viva Villa, Dancing Lady and Manhattan Melodrama. Later he would become a leader in the field of education, lecturing often at the Museum of Modern Art and serving as head of the film department at USC 1952-56. Although he died in 1976, his writings and theories are still widely studied and used.