Thursday, September 19, 2013

Hollywood's Golden Age: Behind The Scenes With The Masters of Makeup - The Westmores

Wally Westmore with Audrey Hepburn

"Without the artistry of makeup, cinema would be just a blank canvass with a faceless ghost." -M

 In today's post, I will be shedding some recognition on another team of artists who's skills kept them in high demand with studios for over 40 years yet their numerous film credits seemingly have been taken for granted becoming a distant memory.

 For years I grew up drooling over the beautiful starlets of yesteryear, wondering how their beauty on screen appeared so flawless and pure or how one could be transformed into a hideous monster and look so real. Even though I figured that there were many makeup artists working on these movies, I was under the illusion that there was only one man in town who ruled the makeup world, that being Max Factor.

Now keep in mind Factor is considered one of the if not THE forefather of modern day cosmetics for film and non film use. However, until about two years ago, I recently discovered another set of innovative make up artists when I came across a couple of books they published back in their hey day. These guys not only rose to the ranks of a one stop shop powerhouse when it came to special effects makeup but also took their knowledge a step further and made their secrets available for the everyday women to utilize making them the go to team in beauty secrets of the stars.

Unless you have a career in makeup or are studied up on the history of film, then these guys are probably not well known to you due to the contagious popularity Max Factor received throughout his life which tends to overshadow them a lot. Even though the founding members of this talented family have all since passed on, I feel they deserve an honorable mention in this week's post as one of the many unsung heroes who's contribution played a tremendous role in the Golden Age era of movies we still cherish today.

The Westmore Brothers

Top Facts About The Westmores:

1. Father George Westmore established Hollywood's first makeup department in 1917.
2. Eldest brother Monte worked at Selznick International where the enormous make up demands and amount of work he did on "Gone With The Wind" was credited as the cause of his death when he had a fatal heart attack a few months after the release of the film.
3.  Perc established a blazing career at First National-Warner Bros and, over 27 years, initiated beauty trends and disguises including the faces of Charles Laughton's grotesque "Hunchback Of Notre Dame" and Bette Davis' eyebrowless, almost bald, whitefaced look in "The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex".

"Hunchback of Notre Dame"

4. Wally headed Paramount makeup from 1926, where he created Fredric March's gruesome transformation in "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" as well as the makeup on such films as "Double Indemnity", "Sunset Boulevard", "A Place In The Sun", "Rear Window", and "Breakfast At Tiffany's".


5.  Bud led Universal's makeup department for twenty-three years, specializing in rubber prosthetics.
6.  Perc introduced a description of shades of hair color in order to use different types of make-up more appropriately. Whereas prior to this studios described actresses simply as blonde or brunette, Perc introduced a chart of thirty five shades of blonde alone which helped diversify hair color.
7. Perc created a detailed latex hand for a close-up shot on one particular film that was so detailed he was visited by doctors to study it and the process was adapted for use by the medical industry.
8.  In 1951, Perc worked with the US Navy to develop a hair style for female personnel that could stand up to sea breezes and prevent the hair from falling against the collar, which at the time was against regulations.

9. Ern was considered the most talented of the Westmore brothers and worked at Warner Bros., RKO, and Eagle-Lion Studios. He was the director of make-up on over 50 films during his career.
10. Frank worked on films such as "Farewell, My Lovely", "The Ten Commandments", and "The Towering Inferno". His television work include "The Munsters", "Planet of the Apes", and "Bonanza".

11. Bud is credited on over 450 movies and television shows, including "To Kill A Mockingbird", "The Andromeda Strain" and "Creature From The Black Lagoon". 

Truly, a contribution to cinema worthy of a star on the Walk of Fame.

You can get expert beauty advice for vintage hair and makeup from the brothers themselves by checking out these books they published back in the 40's & 50's. They have now been republished and are available via Amazon.


1 comment:

Amanda Hughes said...

Thanks for the helpful article! It will aid me in my research on my next novel set in Hollywood about a makeup artist.