Studied architecture, University of Southern California, Los Angeles.
1938–53—sketch artist and designer, MGM; then designer,
1953–61, and supervising art director, 1961–75, 20th
Academy Award, for
, 1966, and
The Wizard of Oz (Fleming)
Meet Me in St. Louis (Minnelli)
Yolanda and the Thief (Minnelli)
Holiday in Mexico (Sidney); Ziegfeld Follies (Minnelli)
The Pirate (Minnelli); Summer Holiday (Mamoulian); Easter Parade (Walters); Words and Music (Taurog)
Madame Bovary (Minnelli); On the Town (Kelly and Donen)
Nancy Goes to Rio (Leonard); Summer Stock (Walters)
Royal Wedding (Donen); Show Boat (Sidney); An American in Paris (Minnelli) (uncredited)
The Belle of New York (Walters); Million Dollar Mermaid (LeRoy)
I Love Melvin (Weis); Dangerous When Wet (Walters); Easy to Love (Walters)
Valley of the Kings (Pirosh)
White Feather (Webb); Soldier of Fortune (Dmytryk); Seven Cities of Gold (Webb)
Carousel (H. King); The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (Johnson); Bigger than Life (N. Ray); Bandido (Fleischer); Teenage Rebel (E. Goulding)
Boy on a Dolphin (Negulesco); An Affair to Remember (McCarey); Peyton Place (Robson)
The Barbarian and the Geisha (Huston)
Woman Obsessed (Hathaway); The Best of Everything (Negulesco)
Can-Can (W. Lang); North to Alaska (Hathaway)
All Hands on Deck (Taurog); The Comancheros! (Curtiz); Marines, Let's Go! (Walsh); Pirates of Tortuga (Webb); Return to Peyton Place (J. Ferrer); Sanctuary (Richardson); The Second Time Around (V. Sherman); Snow White and The Three Stooges (W. Lang); Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (I. Allen); Wild in the Country (Dunne)
Bachelor Flat (Tashlin); Five Weeks in a Balloon (I. Allen); Hemingway's Adventures of a Young Man (Ritt); Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation (Koster); State Fair (J. Ferrer); Tender Is the Night (H. King)
Cleopatra (Mankiewicz); Move Over, Darling (Gordon); The Stripper (Schaffner); Take Her, She's Mine (Koster)
Fate Is the Hunter (Nelson); Goodbye Charlie (Minnelli); The Pleasure Seekers (Negulesco); Rio Concho (Douglas); Shock Treatment (Sanders); What a Way to Go! (Lee Thompson)
The Agony and the Ecstasy (Reed); Dear Brigitte (Koster); Do Not Disturb (Levy); John Goldfarb, Please Come Home! (Lee Thompson); Morituri (Wicki); The Reward (Bourguignon); Von Ryan's Express (Robson)
Batman (Martinson); Fantastic Voyage (Fleischer); I Deal in Danger (Grauman); Our Man Flint (Daniel Mann); Smoky (G. Sherman); Stagecoach (Douglas); Way . . . Way Out (Douglas)
Caprice (Tashlin); Doctor Dolittle (Fleischer); A Guide for the Married Man (Kelly); Hombre (Ritt); In Like Flint (Douglas); Tony Rome (Douglas); The St. Valentine's Day Massacre (Corman); Valley of the Dolls (Robson); The Flim-Flam Man (Kershner)
Bandolero! (McLaglen); The Boston Strangler (Fleischer); The Detective (Douglas); Planet of the Apes (Schaffner); Pretty Poison (Black); The Sweet Ride (Hart); The Secret Life of an American Wife (Axelrod)
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (Hill); Che! (Fleischer); Hello, Dolly! (Kelly); Justine (Cukor); Daughter of the Mind (Grauman—for TV)
Beneath the Planet of the Apes (Post); Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (Meyer); Cover Me, Babe (Black); M*A*S*H (Altman); Move (Rosenberg); Myra Breckenridge (Sarne); Tora! Tora! Tora! (Fleischer, Masuda, and Fukasaku); The Challenge (Smithee); Tribes ( The Soldier Who Declared Peace ) (Sargent)
Escape from the Planet of the Apes (Taylor); Powderkeg (Heyes)
Fireball Forward (Chomsky); The Culpepper Cattle Company (Richards)
Ace Eli and Rodger of the Skies (Erman); Emperor of the North Pole (Aldrich)
The Reincarnation of Peter Proud (Lee Thompson); Bug (Szwarc); Strange New World (Butler)
The Great Scout and Cathouse Thursday (Taylor)
Pete's Dragon (Chaffey—animation) (co)
Film Comment (New York), May/June, 1978. In Dance in the Hollywood Musical , by Jerome Delamater, Ann
Arbor, Michigan, 1981.
Gussow, Mel, Don't Say Yes Until I Finish Talking , New York, 1971.
Fordin, Hugh, The World of Entertainment: Hollywood's Greatest Musicals , New York, 1975.
Barsacq, Leon, Caligari's Cabinet and Other Grand Illusions , Boston, 1976.
Delamater, Jerome, Dance in the Hollywood Musical , Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1981.
Classic Images (Muscatine), April 1994.
* * *
Jack Martin Smith symbolizes the master Hollywood art director. In a 40-year career he worked on the greatest of studio films, and the finest of location efforts. He probably reached his peak of public fame in the 1960s, beginning with the spectacle of Cleopatra and ending with the impressive work in Tora! Tora! Tora! . He won the Oscar (with others) for Cleopatra and an Academy Award nomination for Tora! Tora! Tora! . In between he also earned Academy Awards for Fantastic Voyage and Hello, Dolly! All these films were made for Twentieth Century-Fox during the final years of the reign of Darryl F. Zanuck. All established a style of the spectacular which Hollywood would abandon in the 1970s, and which we probably will not see again. Smith was among the best at plying the trade of the art director during an era when nonscience-fiction, noncomputer-generated images mattered.
But Smith's career had another equally significant phase. During his first 15 years in the business he labored as a member of the Freed unit on some of the greatest films ever made at MGM, including many of the famous musicals: Meet Me in St. Louis , Yolanda and the Thief , Easter Parade , and An American in Paris (the last uncredited). As such Smith and others built up the fantasy world which Arthur Freed, Gene Kelly, Vincente Minnelli, Judy Garland, and Fred Astaire set to music and dance.
Just consider the case of Meet Me in St. Louis . This film set a vision of St. Louis at the turn of the century which many film fans think perfectly represented that era. Surely it was a vision of American family life to which all aspired, but few actually achieved. Yet Minnelli and his skillful crew never ventured outside MGM's Culver City backlot. It was Smith, and others, who created the mythical "St. Louis" which thousands have grown to love.
In the 1950s, with the collapse of the MGM factory, Smith moved to Twentieth Century-Fox. There he became the supervisor of art directors, and participated in little actual day-to-day designing. During this period filming moved more and more on location, and Cleopatra was made in Italy rather than Hollywood. But still the flair of the art director was required. Smith moved easily from genre to genre. In Fantastic Voyage his design team created the inside of a human; for Hello, Dolly! he had to "best" the sets of a Broadway musical almost everyone had seen. These opportunities provided Smith with the conditions to project some of his greatest designs.