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Various Authors 6:38 p.m., Sept. 24
Normally a derisive terms, Hollywood collagist Jacques Kapralik was the master of the cut-and-paste job.
My fascination with sculpted, 3-dimensional caricature dates back to character design on a Colorforms set my Aunt Jen presented me with on the occasion of my 6th birthday.
Long before taking my first hit of acid, I sat and studied the Popeye box art like a Deadhead would the cover of Anthem of the Sun. The fuzzy texture and shadowy depth of the brightly-lit 3D models was like looking into a View Master minus the cardboard reels.
Somewhere in my youth, I must have spied Jacques Kapralik's "shadow box" designs and the images took root in my brain. More likely than not it was in relation to my lifelong obsession with the Marx Bros. Theirs was the first name I entered into the search engine upon discovering the Media History Digital Library. Ads for A Day at the Races and Go West were two of the first entries to appear.
The identity of the man behind the 'circle K' signature, the artist responsible for these painstakingly detailed arrangements of fabric, balsa wood, and whatever else Mr. Kapralik found lying around his studio, was but a mouse click away.
Sadly, there's not much information available on Hollywood's more playful version of Saul Bass. All I know about Mr. Kapralik is contained in this brief biography from the Rocky Mountain Online Archive: "Jacques Kapralik was born in Romania in 1906, and immigrated to the United States in 1936. He was a commercial artist and caricaturist whose art was used in the promotion of motion pictures. Kapralik's distinctive style involved the creation of miniature models from paper and balsa wood. The models were then photographed. These photographs were used as promotional posters for motion pictures, predominantly MGM films. They primarily appeared in trade magazines and press kits. He also created movie posters in the more traditional caricature format for other companies, such as Universal Pictures, and for motion picture advertisements in the Pictorial Review, a newspaper insert on motion pictures of the time. Kapralik also created advertisements for companies such as Nutrilite and S&W."
In addition to his colorful heralds for the trades, Kapralik was responsible for posters and title sequences for several theatrical features as well as a wide variety of ads. You can find more of Mr. Kapralik's artistry here and here.
All of the ads in this post were taken from The Film Daily and have been lovingly restored by yours truly. The images contained in this post are confined to the chapter in Mr. Kapralik's life devoted to designing trade advertisements for M-G-M. If you like what you see, let me know. There are dozens more in the vaults.
Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland:
The Best for Last - Vincente Minnelli's The Clock:
Unlike Paramount and Columbia, Metro was quicker to tout a roster of 'more stars than there are in heaven' than their earthbound stable of star directors. It's the classic argument of studio as auteur. For every talented helmsman like Mervyn LeRoy, George Sidney, and Stanley Donen there were dozens of personality-less "Action!"-callers like Richard Thorpe, Jean Negulesco, and Curtis Bernhardt on the studio payroll. If you look at the classic M-G-M films released during the '40's and '50's, it's a good bet that half of them were signed by either Vincente Minnelli or George Cukor.
Those who believe that Vincent Minnelli did his best work in the service of Hollywood musicals start here and work your way through his superb series of 'Scope melodramas. A Hollywood romance that gives sentimental fantasy a good name, credit Minnelli with making audiences forget that The Clock was shot entirely on a studio backlot.
Under Kapralik's steady scissors, Judy Garland's profile brings to mind the Woody Allen joke about the woman who had her nose fixed by a golf pro.
The majority of Kapralik's promotional artwork was limited to a single image that faced a page of ad copy. The Clock warranted twice as much space.