Wednesday, June 30

THE WESTMORE MONSTERS OF HOLLYWOOD

 I have a guest blogger this week - the one and only Scott Essman. Scott has rallied tirelessly in support of classic monsters and their creators, and his latest venture is a DVD dedicated to the family of makeup artists, The Westmores. This DVD is a 30 minute docu drama featuring rare photos. This was put together to make a case for the Westmores getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

http://www.amazon.com/Tribute-Westmores-Mark-Arnott/dp/B003U6ZYJS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=dvd&qid=1277938714&sr=1-1

Featured in the video are detailed descriptions of the greatest Westmore monster makeups, including the classic Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with Fredric March, the Hunchback of Notre Dame with Charles Laughton, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein with Béla Lugosi, Glenn Strange, and Lon Chaney Jr., Man of a Thousand Faces with James Cagney, Raging Bull with Robert DeNiro, and Blade Runner with Harrison Ford.

Below is an article Scott wrote about the amazing Westmore family. Enjoy!




THE WESTMORE MONSTERS OF HOLLYWOOD
By Scott Essman

In the history of the modern American cinema, there are but few legacies of makeup artists. While the legendary Burman and Dawn names each include three generations of makeup artists, there is but one lasting family that features four working generations: the Westmores of Hollywood. With ties to virtually every studio in the annals cinema, the Westmores have created classic makeups in top contemporary film and TV shows back to the earliest years of silent film.

George Westmore, the patriarch of the Westmore clan at the turn of the century, worked as a wigmaker in his native England — where he was born in 1879 — and gave birth to sons Mont (born in 1902), twins Perc and Ern (born in 1904), Wally (born in 1906), and a daughter, Dorothy (born in 1907). The young family traveled to the U.S. to seek better opportunities and maintained a wig-making and beauty salon business which floated amongst various cities, settling in Cleveland in 1914. George taught his elder sons the art of wig-making and hairdressing, leading to their move to California three years later. Upon his arrival in Los Angeles in 1917, George worked at the swank Maison Cesare, a hairdressing salon that catered to the general public, making wigs and hairpieces. Sensing that his future rested in the nascent motion picture business, George started the first makeup department in movie history when he talked his way into a $25 per week job at the Selig Studio that same year. George eventually became Billie Burke’s personal makeup artist, created Mary Pickford’s legendary hair curls, then began making up her friend Douglas Fairbanks, all the while maintaining his chores at Mason Cesare.

Without a doubt, the Westmore family fortunes turned in 1920 when Perc, who was helping his father at the salon with janitorial duties, was startled by a customer who burst through the door, demanding to see George. It seemed the man, an actor, had shaved off half of his moustache accidentally and was due on the set of a big movie. Perc convinced the man that he could fix the problem, telling him the celebrity that he was a wigmaker as skilled as his father. Ninety minutes later, an astonished Adolphe Menjou couldn’t determine which side was Perc’s ventilated moustache piece and which was his real hair. Menjou left the salon for the set of The Three Musketeers, and another Westmore vaulted into the motion-picture business.

On the heels of his “discovery,” Perc Westmore established the second Westmore-run makeup department with his brother Ern at First National Pictures (later absorbed by Warner Bros.) in 1923. Supervising the makeup concepts for countless stars of the era, Perc remained the studio’s makeup department head until he left in 1950 to manage the House of Westmore beauty salon which he opened with his brothers in 1935. Among his many significant contributions to the field was the invention of the hairlace wig. Eventually, all of the Westmore brothers were significant figures in movie makeup. Mont was Rudolph Valentino’s makeup artist and worked for David O. Selznick on films such as Gone with the Wind before his untimely death in 1940 before his 38th birthday. Youngest brother Frank worked for Cecil B. DeMille and Ern was a staple of RKO pictures. What happened was that after Ern and Perc had jointly opened the first makeup department at First National which became Warner Bros, Perc remained at the latter while Ern left to open a makeup department at RKO. Then, Ern was one of the first special effects makeup artists and in 1931 won the Academy Cup for best makeup for his work on Cimarron starring Richard Dix and Irene Dunne. It was the first Academy recognition of a makeup artist and took 33 years before it officially happened again with Bill Tuttle and The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao. In addition to these accomplishments, the other brothers would create some of the screen’s most memorable movie monsters of all time.

In the early years, movies had curious monsters. We had amazing European contributions such as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, starring Conrad Veidt and Der Golem starring Paul Wegener with stateside triumphs including John Barrymore as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. From Europe also came Nosferatu with Max Schreck as a vampire and MGM had numerous monsters with actors such as Lon Chaney and makeup genius from silent films’ Cecil Holland at the studio. He created many memorable characters such as Fu Manchu with Boris Karloff before handing the studio reins of makeup over to Jack Dawn. Of course, at Universal Studios, Jack Pierce created the most timeless of monsters in such 1930s and 1940s films as Frankenstein, The Mummy, and The Wolf Man.

On Perc’s recommendation, Wally Westmore became head of the new makeup department at Paramount Pictures in 1926 — he was only 20 years old at the time. Through his career there, reputedly among the most stable of his brothers, Wally created makeups for Bing Crosby, W.C. Fields, and many Cecil B. DeMille movies. One of his more celebrated early achievements was the Mr. Hyde makeup for Frederic March in 1932. Paramount’s version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde called for March to hideously transform into his evil incarnation, an effect achieved in-camera without time-lapse photography through the use of special red filters and re-colored makeup. Using his father’s ventilated wig technology, Wally fashioned a bushy wig for March and added special protuberant teeth from a wax mold. He built up March’s face in a Neanderthal style, using soft clay on his nose, cheeks, jaw and ears. The combination of makeup and performance garnered March the Academy Award for best actor, still to this day an unprecedented feat for a horror film.

In 1933, Wally worked on another landmark monster film with Island of Lost Souls, starring Charles Laughton who would make his mark six years later with another Westmore makeup. In Lost Souls, however, he played Dr. Moreau, creator of part-man part-beast things, which challenged Wally to develop another hybrid group of characters. Among those in the film was a notable Bela Lugosi, just two years removed from Dracula, wearing Wally’s complex hair work as a self-proclaimed “thing”. For certain, Lost Souls remains a haunting early sound horror film to this day.

At the end of the decade, one project would stand at the forefront of the Westmore legacy legacy. 1939 itself was undoubtedly a landmark year for makeup, with the ingenious characters that Jack Dawn developed for The Wizard of Oz and Jack Pierce’s striking creations in Son of Frankenstein. Not to be outdone, RKO was planning a lavish re-make of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, though decidedly without the makeup and acting talents of Lon Chaney. The film was to star Charles Laughton, with overall makeup supervision by the studio’s department head, Mel Berns.

According to his widow, Francine Berns, Mel Berns joined RKO Pictures in 1929 supervising over 30 hairdressers and makeup men on films like King Kong. He and Perc were buddies. They were both honored in the 1950s at the old Palladium in Hollywood at a dinner where they received plaques as being pioneers in makeup. To execute the Quasimodo makeup on Hunchback, Berns recommended Perc who was brought in to RKO at the unheard of sum of $10,000 to create Laughton’s makeup design. With the advent of George Bau’s new foam rubber formula, a lightweight facial makeup and hump were designed for Laughton after the actor rejected 12 of Perc’s early designs. The final concept, with a copper nose-bridge and eyelid to actuate Quasimodo’s fallen eye, was the crowning achievement of Perc’s career.

Bud Westmore, the second youngest of the makeup artist brothers to Frank, was born in 1918. After toiling in the makeup trenches for year s – often going uncredited in the 1930s, he finally broke through in some major 1940s films. Then, when Jack Pierce’s methods became considered passé, Bud, still in his 20s, was promoted to head of the makeup department at Universal Studios where he remained for 25 years. Bud presided over every Universal film of the period, working on some classic monster pictures.

The first of those was Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. For that film, a sequel to the Universal classics of the early 1930s through mid-1940s, Bud had to recreate the famous characters of Count Dracula, the Frankenstein Monster, and The Wolf Man.

The big difference was where Jack Pierce created the characters with hand-laid materials, going on one step at a time, Bud used prefabricated foam rubber appliances. So, while Bela Lugosi as Dracula was created much the same with basic greasepaint, Glenn Strange as Frankenstein was created with rubber pieces. Glenn had played the role twice for Jack Pierce, in House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula, but when Bud was tasked with recreating the famous hulking character, he had his top foam latex makeup artist, Jack Kevan, do the job. Kevan made a rubber head piece for Strange and used other techniques that too modern for old guard artists like Pierce. Many could not tell the difference, but aficionados can see that the Abbott and Costello Strange monster is just different enough from the Pierce monster to discern between the two.

To create the famous Wolf Man makeup, again on Lon Chaney Jr. as it had been during Pierce’s films including The Wolf Man, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, and House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula, again Westmore needed to streamline the process. So, he enlisted Emile LaVigne, a veteran of Jack Dawn’s team at MGM from films including Wizard of Oz where he had co-created the Tin Man on Jack Haley. In lieu of Jack Pierce’s hand-laid yak hair to create the famous Wolf Man, LaVigne used rubber pieces like Kevan did with the Frankenstein Monster. This not only made the process more comfortable for Chaney, Jr, it drastically reduced the application time of the makeup. Again, Chaney’s appearance is altered from the Pierce version in the new visage that Bud had LaVigne create. Needless to say, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein became an all-time classic and put Bud firmly on the makeup map for the rest of his career.

In the 1950s, Bud Westmore’s department expanded and he was given some big projects. In 1953, he created Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, with old pro Boris Karloff as the titular characters. By this time, Karloff was in his 60s, so cutting down on the makeup process was a must. Again, Bud brought in Kevan to do the makeup. Now with his own style coming through many of his makeups, Kevan’s familiar look permeated his Mr. Hyde. As in earlier Hyde projects such as that of his older brother Wally, this Hyde required a transformation which Kevan created step-by-step with dissolves. In most of the Hyde scenes, however, Karloff is wearing mask-like pieces. At this time, Bud also was able to goof on the Universal mummies with Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy.

But it was a project that came to the studio in 1953 that presented Bud with his biggest challenge. The Creature from the Black Lagoon was a huge project which required a full head-to-toe Gill –Man suit and mask that would be worn by two actors – Ben Chapman for the land scenes at Universal in Los Angeles, and Ricou Browning for the water scenes to be shot in Florida. For this daunting task, Westmore had Kevan by his side to break down and organize the suit but brought in key others to do the job. Artist Milicent Patrick designed the creature while Chris Mueller sculpted his key features. Kevan had a busy sizeable lab running at Universal with artists like Tom Case and Bob Dawn – Jack’s son – presiding over the molds and fabrication. In fact, it was Bob himself who suited up Ben Chapman on a daily basis. Though Bud’s name is the only one to appear in the credits, his astute assemblage of these key artists made the Gill-Man one of Universal’s most unforgettable monster characters of all time!

If the 1950s weren’t already busy enough with various science fiction and monster projects, many of which Kevan ran for Bud, a 1957 project was perhaps their most challenging yet. Man of a Thousand Faces was a Lon Chaney biopic which required the recreation of some of Chaney’s most famous screen characters. Bud knew that to provide accurate likenesses of the famous Chaney makeups – many of which Chaney created himself with secretive techniques – would be an impossibility. Thus, he enlisted Kevan to “reinvent” the makeups and capture their spirit in lieu of a literal translation of them. Adding to their problem was the casting of James Cagney, who while a fine actor, had a small round face unlike Chaney’s original features. Thus, though Kevan created a clown, Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Phantom of the Opera, these makeups failed to approximate those of Chaney’s originals, though providing a touching homage to the grandfather of movie monster artists.

Bud worked through the 1960s on Universal’s films and increasingly popular TV projects, but he was let go after 25 years at the studio and passed away in just a year later in 1973. He was just 55 years old. His final film as an artist was doing makeup on the cult sci-fi classic Soylent Green.

Marvin G. Westmore is a six-time Emmy-nominated makeup artist with a history of over 45 years in consumer makeup and in the motion picture and television industry. Marvin, Mont Westmore’s middle son whose older brother Mont, Jr. was a longtime makeup artist and whose younger brother Michael won numerous Emmys and an Oscar, eventually got into the business on his own terms. “I didn’t get into the business through nepotism,” he said of his early years of struggle. “Eventually, my older brother Mont – who was also a full-fledged makeup artist – put a makeup case in my hand and sent me to Universal.”

Marvin ended up working over six years at CBS and moved to 20th Century Fox, where among many projects, he did makeup on the 1960s children’s classic, Doctor Doolittle. Stints at Paramount and Universal followed before Marvin ultimately went freelance. “That’s when I felt that I was able to grow the most,” Marv stated.

Among his numerous freelance makeup challenges was working as the department head of the 1982 science-fiction classic, Blade Runner. As the producers and director Ridley Scott were looking for unprecedented makeup concepts, Marvin was an ideal department head. “Every makeup I do is something that hadn’t been done before,” he said of his methodology. “Blade Runner had everything from beauty to blood and guts gore, character, old age, and a snake woman. I had a crew of up to forty, but the size didn’t make any difference since I had a really good quality of people. I picked a couple of key makeup and hair people on those big sets to be assistant department heads, and I did all of the principal characters.”

For his efforts on Blade Runner, which included only two weeks of prep in Marvin’s Beverly Hills salon followed by over three months on sets, Marvin received a British Academy of Film and Television nomination for best makeup of 1982. Among the many innovations on Blade Runner was the variety of makeup approaches used, such as Marvin’s decision to airbrush Daryl Hannah’s eye makeup onscreen for her climactic scenes.

Marvin is also the founder and CEO of the Westmore Academy of Cosmetic Arts right here in Burbank California across from NBC Television. With his Westmore Academy, Marvin Westmore and all of his students have a rich family legacy on which to draw. Due to Marvin’s experiences, every conceivable aspect of makeup is instilled in all students who attend the Academy.

In addition to his lengthy career in TV and film, starting as John Chambers’ apprentice in the early 1960s, Michael Westmore served as makeup department head of Star Trek for the franchise’s films and TV shows from 1987 to 2005. He was nominated for a Best Makeup Academy Award for Star Trek: First Contact in 1996 as well as for The Clan of the Cave Bear in 1986 and 2010 in 1984. He won the Best Makeup Oscar in 1985 for Mask.

But it was a 1980 film that possibly produced his greatest work, even though it came before the time when makeup was regularly awarded by the Academy. Raging Bull was director Martin Scorsese’s epic boxing biopic of real-life middleweight Jake LaMotta. A bruiser from the Bronx, LaMotta was known to be as tough outside the ring as he was in it, where he became middleweight champion in the 1950s after a decade’s struggle. Brought in to create the makeups and effects was Michael Westmore, coming off nearly two decades in the business at that point, including a sleeper boxing film of the late 1970s called Rocky.

For the new film, Westmore created various likenesses for LaMotta, played by Robert DeNiro in an Oscar-winning performance. In the story, the character goes from the 20-something Jake in his fighting prime, to the 40-something retired Jake 60 who is pounds overweight. DeNiro wore different foam rubber noses that Westmore fabricated for the various life stages. For the boxing sequences, Westmore also made eyelids for the extreme cuts and bruises that LaMotta endured.

For closeups of LaMotta’s nose breaking, Westmore made a nose rigged with a teeter-totter sitting over the bridge of DeNiro’s nose. Westmore said, “It had a wax nostril on one side. So, when you actually put the glove into the nose, it crushed the wax nostril which hit the teeter-totter which went across the bridge of the nose and pushed it down. It was made to actually look like it broke on camera.” Westmore rigged other effects such as eyebags hooked up to hypodermic needles with tubes under the skin to simulate blood coming out of LaMotta’s face when he’s received a punch to the head. On camera, with Scorsese’s slow-motion preferences and Michael Chapman’s black-and-white cinematography, these makeups and effects were of the highest caliber of realism.

Of his time on Raging Bull, Michael Westmore said, “When I finished Raging Bull, I literally said to myself, ‘I probably will never do another movie like this the rest of my life.’ I'm really glad and happy I've had my one shot on a film like this.” According to many film critics’ circles, Raging Bull was considered the best film of the 1980s.

The Westmore name, now with over 90 years in the business, is surely one of the proudest and most successful in the world of movie makeup and monsters. Clearly, with new Westmores always entering the business, now representing the fourth and soon fifth generations of the family name to do so, The Westmores of Hollywood will be well-known for a many years to come. Only one accolade remained for the family - a Star on Hollywood Boulevard’s Walk of Fame. It finally came to pass on October 3, 2008 with Marvin and Michael present, representing their entire family, including that legendary patriarch George, and his amazing sons and grandchildren. The star simply notes: “THE WESTMORES.”

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