Makeup helps express narrative elements, and a makeup artist decides how best to convey this information. A historical period's cosmetic oddities, or its lack of them, have to be plausibly recreated for a modern audience. The presentation can be faux-historical, as in Satyricon ( Fellini Satyricon , 1969), which though set in ancient Rome, was conceived, on the director Federico Fellini's insistence, as dreamlike by the consummate costume designer, Piero Tosi (who did not create costumes for the film, only the makeup). Lois Burwell's and Peter Frampton's makeup for Braveheart (1995), set in about thirteenth-century Scotland, was accurate though it looked fantastical. Fantasy makeup, such as Benoît Lestang's for La Cité des enfants perdus ( City of Lost Children , 1995) or John Caglione Jr.'s for Dick Tracy (1990), sets the mood for the film. Oppositely, Toni G's makeup for Charlize Theron as a hardened prostitute in Monster (2003) was a feat of realist metamorphosis that made her look like Aileen Wuornos, the convicted killer on whom the film was based.
Cinema makeup has been an unusual but very effective arena for issues around public prejudice, regarding women's social and sexual status. In the early twentieth century, women benefited from the new caché of stunningly made-up stars on screen. Though creams, powders, and rouges were widely used and advertised (endorsed by theatrical idols such as Gaby Deslys, Sarah Bernhardt, and Lillian Russell), overt makeup had been questioned as déclassé or degenerate by fashion mavens since the turn of the twentieth century. Film makeup revolutionized the social acceptance of cosmetics as early as 1915, making them increasingly respectable for women to wear, and in every decade since, trends in makeup have thoroughly altered society's aesthetic concept.
The makeup artist has at times launched new looks. In the late 1920s the style established by Greta Garbo's arched eyebrows, deep eyes with black-lined eyelid indents, and full mouth banished the tight, down-sloping eyebrows and bee-stung lips of Mary Pickford and the Gish sisters that had been popular in the 1910s. In 1930 Marlene Dietrich's face, already beautiful, was adapted for the top lighting favored by her frequent director, Josef von Sternberg. Paramount's Dottie Ponedel, the first woman in the Makeup Artists guild, plucked Dietrich's eyebrows into single elevated lines, which became the signature look of the 1930s. Shading under her cheekbones accented them until they were hollow enough to appear so on their own. A white stroke under her eyes made them appear bigger. A silver one down her nose diminished its curve. Dietrich passed this trick on to the Westmores, who used it frequently and, when eye shadow was still greasepaint smudges, she showed Ern Westmore how to make it from match soot and baby oil and apply it in the gradual upward motions still used today. Ponedel went to MGM in 1940 to work exclusively for Judy Garland. Ern Westmore gave Bette Davis her signature "slash" mouth (where her top lip's indent was covered by lipstick), and Perc remade her face in over sixty films. "I owe my entire career to Perc Westmore," Davis once stated. Perc Westmore also cut Bette Davis's and Claudette Colbert's trendsetting bangs and Colleen Moore's classic Dutch boy bob, twisted Katharine Hepburn's hair into her ubiquitous top knot, and introduced the red-haired Ann Sheridan to a perfect match of orange lipstick. Sydney Guilaroff (1907–1997), head of hairstyling at MGM from 1935, originated the signature haircuts of Louise Brooks and Marilyn Monroe. Some changes were more drastic. Helen Hunt, Columbia's key hairstylist, painfully raised Rita Hayworth's hairline by electrolysis. A scene in A Star Is Born (1954) satirizes these beautifications when Judy Garland accidentally goes through the makeup department's process to suddenly emerge with new features.
Another dimension to social change appears in the provocative use of makeup to disguise race. White men typically have pretended to be black or Asian, often as figures of fun or malice, but by the end of the twentieth century, social ambiguity or political comment underlay some of these representations. The trope of white (and even black) players "blacking up" as racial stereotypes for nineteenth-century minstrel shows passed into vaudeville and film. Though Bert Williams, one of the few black vaudevillians, wore blackface in Darktown Jubilee in 1914 because he did so in his stage act, the common character of a white with blackface appeared in such important films as The Birth of a Nation (1915) and The Jazz Singer (1927). This image has continued through the twentieth century into the twenty-first. Caucasians masqueraded as Asian in the Charlie Chan films of the 1930s and 1940s, and Boris Karloff's (1932) and Christopher Lee's (1965) characterizations as the arch villain Fu Manchu are especially well known. African Americans at times used makeup to modify their skin tones. In the films of African American director Oscar Micheaux from 1919 to 1948, a lightskinned black actor might wear makeup to appear even lighter. In other circumstances, a light-complexioned black actress such as Fredi Washington would wear dark makeup because she photographed too white. In the 1970s, whiteface on black actors began to appear, often to raise questions about racism. In Watermelon Man (1970), Ben Lane made up African American actor Godfrey Cambridge as a white man who suddenly becomes black. In the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s, "whiting up" appeared in films such as Coming to America (1988), where Rick Baker transformed young African American actors Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall into old white men; The Associate (1996), where Greg Cannom turned Whoopi Goldberg into a middle-aged white man; and White Chicks (2004), where Cannom transformed Shawn and Marlon Wayans into young, white, female twins.
Transvestism in films can also have a social dimension, and since the 1990s there has been a shift in its representational meaning as seen in Linda Grimes's transformation of Wesley Snipes, Patrick Swayze, and John Leguizamo into sexy transvestites in To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar (1995) and Morag Ross's of Jaye Davidson in The Crying Game (1992). More conventional transvestitism appeared in the earlier Some Like it Hot (1959), where Emile LaVigne (1913–1990; makeup) and Agnes Flanagan (hair) transformed Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon into cute women and in Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), where Greg Cannom changed the slight Robin Williams into a dowdy, overweight matron. Women have played men less often, but Katharine Hepburn, made up by Mel Berns (uncredited) in Christopher Strong (1933), and Hilary Swank, made up by Kalen Hoyle in Boys Don't Cry (1999), made memorable attempts in films with political undertones.
From the outset, some lasting relationships have existed between stars or directors and their makeup artists. Maurice Seiderman (1907–1989), another Russian with a background in wigmaking, worked with Orson Welles on Citizen Kane (1941), The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), and Touch of Evil (1958). Seiderman invented techniques for aging the Kane character and other principles, involving three-dimensional casts, which were painted in layers to achieve a striking realism. The director Clive Barker has often had FX makeup artist Bob Keen create his unusual villains, such as Pinhead in Hellraiser (1987). Chris Walas developed much of David Cronenberg's scare makeup and special effects ( Scanners , 1981, and The Fly , 1986) and Rob Bottin, whose talents run from science fiction to the historical, has collaborated with John Carpenter ( The Thing , 1982, and The Fog , 1980).
Jack P. Pierce (also known as Jack Pearce or Jack Piccolo) invented the iconic images of Frankenstein, Dracula, the Werewolf, the Mummy, and the Invisible Man during his twenty-one years at Universal Studios. Pierce emigrated to the United States, hoping to be a baseball player, but instead he found itinerant jobs as a nickelodeon manager, cameraman, actor, and stuntman. He entered the world of film makeupin 1910, working for various independent companies until the early 1920s, when he went to Vitagraph and then Fox. In 1926 he came to Universal and in 1928 became its head of makeup when Carl Laemmle Jr. took over the studio.
Pierce's first notable design was the silhouette for Bela Lugosi's Dracula in Tod Browning's Dracula (1931). Pierce's genius flourished on James Whale's 1931 version of Frankenstein , with Boris Karloff in the lead. For Karloff he made, arguably, the most famous face in cinema. Departing from previous monkeylike Frankenstein depictions (as in Thomas Edison's 1910 Frankenstein ), Pierce imagined what a nineteenth-century scientist might have created. For months he made sketches and models while researching surgical procedures and electrical experiments of the time. It took Pierce four hours a day to apply Karloff's makeup, layering his head with padding, greasepaint, cotton, and collodian (a solvent that hardens into a shiny elastic), coloring it blue-green to photograph as dead gray, then covering it in paste and baking it to make a flaky appearance. Karloff's forty-pound costume (seventy including the cement shoes) was also made by Pierce. The effect was so successful, the opening credits did not include Karloff's name, only that The Monster was acted by "?" trying to give the impression that perhaps the monster was not an actor but real. The Mummy, also played by Karloff, in Karl Freund's The Mummy (1932), was Pierce's favorite. His research of Egyptian embalming and processes of decay brought him to make a crepelike, parchment skin that took eight hours a day to apply.
Pierce was an impeccable example of collaboration with the cinematographer, making lighting integral to his monsters' effect. Light on the Frankenstein visage, with its square head, ridged forehead, and heavy jawline, gave the monster's menace a necessary pathos. Lighting also malevolently animated the Mummy's crinkled skin.
Having never been given a contract, he was fired in 1947 when Universal downsized. Despite the 1950s surge in science-fiction subjects, Pierce never worked again on projects requiring his true ingenuity, only on low-budget films and television programs like Mister Ed (1961–1966). Although he died virtually forgotten in 1968, appreciation of Pierce's work was renewed in the first years of the twenty-first century with a DVD tribute, Jack Pierce: The Man Behind the Monsters (2002).
Dracula (1931), Frankenstein (1931), The Mummy (1932), The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
Pierce, Jack. Interview: http://www.hotad.com/monstermania/jackpierce (accessed 8 April 2006).
Modern FX—using materials such as latex, gelatine, and mechanization—can be traced to the ingenuities of Lon Chaney in the 1920s and those of Jack P. Pierce
(1889–1968), who in the 1930s devised prototypical monsters in Frankenstein (1931), The Mummy (1932), and The Werewolf of London (1935) for Universal Studios. Pierce and Chaney not only defined the look of their monsters forever but made makeup a box-office draw.
The advent of violent films in the 1960s, including Bonnie and Clyde (1967) and The Wild Bunch (1969), led the way for the 1970s taste in not-for-the-squeamish horror, while monkey men in films like Planet of the Apes (1968), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), and Star Wars (1977) brought a resurgence of the FX monster. With the popularity of special effects films, most late-twentieth-century FX makeup artists have made specialty careers. Beginning in television (for serials like Dark Shadows , 1966–1971), Dick Smith (b. 1922) changed prosthetic makeup forever when, to enable the actor greater mobility, he broke down the basic "mask" into components (nose, chin, eyes) with his groundbreaking work on Little Big Man (1970), where a young Dustin Hoffman ages into a very old man, and The Exorcist (1973). Rick Baker won the first Oscar ® for Best Makeup for his American Werewolf in London (1981), considered another makeup landmark. His range of work is wide, from the hairstyles in How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000) to the aging of Cicely Tyson into a one-hundred-year-old woman in The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1974), but he specializes in apelike beings. Stan Winston, who has a star on Hollywood Boulevard, is a master of mechanized human creatures such as the leads in The Terminator (1984) and Edward Scissorhands (1990). Tom Savini is known as the "King of Splatter" for his work on bloody films such as Martin (1977), Friday the 13th (1980), and Dawn of the Dead (2004).
The latest technological shift in the movie industry, which considerably affects makeup, is digital film. The digital enhancement process can do what was once the provenance of the makeup artist—manipulation of the actor's skin color, texture, and every other aspect of his or her experience. It remains to be seen, though, to what extent makeup's hands-on ability to camouflage, identify, and beautify will be superceded by this technology.
Chierichetti, David. "Make A Face." Film Comment 14, no. 6 (November–December 1978): 34–37.
Cripps, Thomas. Slow Fade to Black: The Negro in American Film, 1900–1942 . New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.
Finch, Christopher, and Linda Rosenkrantz. Gone Hollywood: The Movie Colony in the Golden Age . London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1997.
Gambill, Norman. "Making Up Kane." Film Comment 14, no. 6 (November–December 1978): 42–45.
Shreier, Sandy. Hollywood Dressed and Undressed: A Century of Cinema Style . New York: Rizzoli, 1998.
Timpone, Anthony. Men, Make Up, and Monsters: Hollywood's Masters of Illusion and FX . New York: St. Martin's Griffin, 1996.
Westmore, Frank, and Muriel Davidson. The Westmores of Hollywood . Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1976.