Shirley Clarke

Shirley Clarke

American director
Date of Birth: 02.10.1919
Country: USA

Biography of Shirley Clarke

Shirley Clarke, whose real name was Shirley Brimberg, was born in 1919 in New York City. She was the daughter of a Polish immigrant and a Jewish multimillionaire inventor. From an early age, Shirley was drawn to dance, but her father strongly opposed it, considering it an unworthy pursuit for his daughter.

Shirley Clarke

After finishing school, Shirley studied at various educational institutions, including Stephens College, Johns Hopkins University, and the University of South Carolina. It is known that she trained in the Martha Graham method of dance at all of these establishments.

Shirley Clarke

Eventually, Shirley married Bert Clarke and moved to New York, where she began performing in avant-garde dance collectives. In the 1950s, a psychiatrist advised Shirley to change her career as a dancer to something else, which led her to choose filmmaking.

Shirley Clarke

In 1953, Shirley directed her first film, "Dance in the Sun," which was immediately acclaimed as the best dance film of the year. Following the success of her first film, she took lessons from the famous German avant-garde director Hans Richter and became a member of the Independent Filmmakers of America in 1955.

Shirley Clarke

In 1960, Shirley released the short film "Skyscraper," which was based on the construction of a skyscraper on 5th Avenue in New York City and the associated problems. The film, which lasted only 20 minutes, earned Shirley Clarke an Oscar and an award at the San Francisco International Film Festival.

Throughout her career, Clarke addressed contemporary social issues such as drug addiction and racism in her films. She often spoke out against the strict censorship prevalent in American cinema.

In 1967, she released another film titled "Portrait of Jason," which consisted of an hour-long interview with a homosexual man, exploring themes of racism and freedom of sexual orientation. The documentary received the New York Film Festival award a few months after its release, shocking many American critics. The film was distributed by the organization Clarke founded, Film-Makers Distribution Center.

In the 1970s, Clarke formed her own dance collective called "Videofreex" and performed numerous live shows, most notably at the prestigious Chelsea Hotel in New York City. The group often collaborated with various American youth ensembles.

In the 1980s, Shirley Clarke returned to filmmaking, releasing films such as "Tongues," "Savage/Love," and "Performance." Her final work as an actress was the documentary film "Ornette: Made in America," which was released in 1985.

In her later years, Shirley Clarke worked as a film professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. She suffered from Alzheimer's disease starting in 1985. Shirley Clarke passed away at the age of 78 in Boston, Massachusetts, on September 23, 1997.

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