Jack Smith

Jack Smith

American film director and actor
Date of Birth: 14.11.1932
Country: USA

  1. Biography of Jack Smith
  2. Influence on Avant-garde Theater
  3. Notable Works
  4. Acting Career and Photography
  5. Later Years and Legacy

Biography of Jack Smith

Jack Smith, an American film director and actor, was a true pioneer in underground cinema. He is often referred to as the "father of American performance art" and a "master photographer." However, Smith produced very few photographs, and little is known about them. Jack Smith was born on November 14, 1932, in Columbus, Ohio, and grew up in Texas. In 1952, he made his first film, "Buzzards over Baghdad," in Texas. He moved to New York in 1953.

Influence on Avant-garde Theater

Smith was one of the early advocates of trash aesthetics and camp style, characterized by its artifice, irony, frivolity, and homoeroticism. He collaborated with John Vaccaro, the founder of the theatrical troupe "The Playhouse of The Ridiculous." Under Smith's strong influence, Vaccaro's avant-garde troupe, known for its shocking performances, featured non-professional actors, transvestites, and other "street stars." Smith's style also influenced the works of Andy Warhol and early films by John Waters. As part of the gay rights movement of the 1960s, Vaccaro and Smith disproved the idea that their sexual orientation was responsible for their art.

Notable Works

One of Smith's most famous works is the drama "Flaming Creatures" from 1962. This film satirizes B-movies and pays homage to actress Maria Montez, who appeared in numerous low-budget films. Some scenes in the film were deemed pornographic by authorities, and copies of the film were confiscated during its premiere. Formally, "Flaming Creatures" remains banned to this day, but some of its frames were shown during Congressional hearings. The film was also mentioned by right-wing politician Strom Thurmond in his speeches against pornography. In another Smith film, "Normal Love" from 1963, underground stars such as Mario Montez, Diane di Prima, Francis Francine, Beverly Grant, and John Vaccaro appeared. Smith's other works mainly consist of short films that became part of theatrical performances and were never shown independently. These films were frequently re-edited, including "Normal Love," to fit the needs of the theatrical stage.

Acting Career and Photography

As a film director, Jack Smith did not forget to explore his talents as an actor. He played the lead role in Andy Warhol's unfinished film "Batman Dracula" and Ken Jacobs' short film "Blonde Cobra." Additionally, he appeared in several theatrical productions by Robert Wilson. Smith was also a photographer who operated his own photography studio called "Hyperbole Photographic Studio" in New York. In 1962, he released "The Beautiful Book," a collection of photographs of New York artists, which was republished by Granary Books.

Later Years and Legacy

After the release of his last film, "No President," in 1967, Smith shifted his focus to experimental theater. He passed away on September 25, 1989, due to pneumonia exacerbated by severe immunodeficiency, namely AIDS. "He was the king of the underground," said George Kuchar about him.