Friday, March 11, 2011

2nd "Honorary Academy Award for Makeup"

1968: Oscar for "Outstanding Achievement in Makeup": John Chambers

"Planet of the Apes"
Astronauts from 20th century Earth are flung into the future and crash land on a planet ruled by apes.

Producer: 20th Century Fox
Director: Franklin J. Schaffner
Starring: Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans

Makeup & Hair Credits:
Special Makeup: John Chambers
Makeup: Ben Nye and Dan Striepeke
Hairstyles: Edith Lindon

The Film:
This science fiction film follows a cynical astronaut, Taylor (Charlton Heston,) and his crew on a space mission testing light-speed travel which will return them to Earth a hundred years in the future. In his final log entry before entering suspended animation sleep, Taylor hopes when they return, that “Mankind” will have outgrown their baser behaviors and be a better race of beings.

The crew awakens to a crash landing and Taylor with two companions escape the sinking spacecraft and find themselves on another planet 1000 years in the future. They eventually find themselves amongst a tribe of mute “human” creatures who are being hunted by Apes (specifically gorillas). Tayor is wounded in the throat during the gorilla raid and captured. He ends up as a prized laboratory specimen for Drs. Zira and Cornelius (chimpanzee played by Kim Hunter and Roddy McDowall) and held in contempt by Dr. Zaius (an orangutan played by Maurice Evans).

The movie turns the tables on human/animal relations. In fact, all modern culture is satirically mirrored: from showing humans as the subjects for experimentation. to museum exhibits with stuffed “human” artifacts, to the deliberate censoring of scientific facts in favor of religious tenets.

In the end, Taylor’s hopes are dashed regarding his hopes for the betterment of the “human race” and the film, as a whole, does what any good science fiction film should do, hold up a mirror so we can see ourselves for what we are and offer us a viewpoint for change.

The Makeup:

Almost every major Makeup artist of my generation speaks of “Planet of the Apes” as one of the seminal moments in their careers, one that sparked their initial interest in Makeup.

Gorialla Raiders
 I remember sitting in a theater in 1968 and being absolutely blown-away by the first appearance of the gorilla hunters during the raid upon the humans. Unbelievable! Literally unbelievable, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The filmmaker did an excellent job of giving me quick, fast glimpses of the gorillas. It put me right into the mindset of Taylor, “Am I seeing what I am seeing?” Fantastic! Then to top it off I got to see these “creatures” up close and they were so convincing. Especially as they go about the expected actions of a hunting party after a hunt, such as having their pictures taken with their "trophies" ... except these are gorillas and the "trophies" are humans.

Drs. Zaius, Cornelius and Zira
(Maurice Evans, Roddy McDowall, and Kim Hunter)
The are three varieties of apes in the film: gorillas, chimpanzees, and orangutans.  The makeup is similar for each: a foam latex muzzle and browridge, ears, eyebrows, and facial hair surrounding the perimeter of the face.  Hair was also applied to the backs of hands.  Feet were dealt with cleverly by showing the apes wearing "shoes" which cover their ape-like appendages. The muzzles extended the depth of the mouth, but the corners were kept close to the actors own lips to allow for as much flexibilty as possible. The foam was soft, but as anyone who has used foam latex knows, the depth of the foam restricts flexibility of the muzzle. There are moments when the muzzles seem clumsy, such as when Drs. Zira and Cornelius "kiss," bumping muzzles in more of a nuzzle than a "kiss."  But, those moments are few and most of the time the audience can suspend their disbelief.

Dr. Zira (Kim Hunter)
The best example of this is Dr. Zira, a chimpanzee zoologist studying humans and their behavior, played by Kim Hunter. This is my favorite makeup, because Hunter plays through the makeup so well! As an actress, I can only assume she spent many hours looking at herself in the mirror to be sure she could express her emotions though the layers of rubber. The scenes between her and Taylor are fabulous as you see her react with fear, delight, sympathy, anger, and the makeup doesn’t get in the way. It proves yet again, without a consummate actor behind it, the makeup is only so much rubber and greasepaint.

Dr.Zaius (Maurice Evans)
Another example is Dr.Zaius (Maurice Evans), as the minister of Science and Religion (how do those two really go together?) who has excellent scenes with Taylor, Zira and Cornelius, where Evans’ Shakespearean classical training makes him appropriately substantive. It is through his character we hear our own 20th century prejudices and sense of entitlement in the mouth of the future which could be turned against us. Not an easy thing to do wearing several inches of rubber on his face.

Dr. Zaius is also a part of a classic “send-up,” when Taylor is on trial for heresy and the three orangutan judges enact a classic “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” moment.

"See no evil, Hear no evil, Speak no evil"

Ape Crowd
It is a testimony to Chambers’ the lengths he went to to differentiate the various apes' “characters."  In one scene Taylor is chased through a public square and the crowd of terrified “apes” are each very individual in their appearance. No two are alike, and each of them is well played by the actor underneath.

Taylor & Dr. Zira
(Charlton Heston & Kim Hunter)
This film was ground-breaking when it was released in 1968 and the Makeup was state-of- the- art.  Ground-breaking because for 90% of the film the leading cahracters are completely disguised behind the makeups, so the makeups had to be convincing.  Also, the sheer number of prosthetic makeups for the film were astounding, requiring hundreds of hours to keep up with production.  State-of-the-art because Chambers formulated his own foam latex, developed a matte adhesive for applying hair goods, and pre-painted his prosthetics to speed the application process; all of which became industry standards.

Drs. Zira and Zaius
(Kim Hunter & Maurice Evans)
The film and the makeups still hold up well today.  Looking at them from today’s standard, the inflexible muzzles seem a bit clunky. In the 2001 remake, featuring makeups by Rick Baker, Baker's makeups made the muzzles less obtrusive which allowed for greater flexibility, which served the makeups and the actors well. Unfortunately, Tim Burton’s update was an action-adventure flick which excised most of the philosophy, which also removed the heart of the story.

For my money, the original “Planet of the Apes” will never be surpassed, if for no other reason than that first glimpse of the gorilla raiders. Filmmaking doesn’t get any better than that!

Use this link for further info about John Chambers:

Saturday, March 5, 2011

1st "Honorary Academy Award for Makeup"

1964: Oscar for "Outstanding Achievement in Makeup": William Tuttle

"The 7 Faces of Dr. Lao” - The Chinese circus of Dr. Lao turns the western town of Abalone and its citizens topsy-turvy.

Producer: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Director: George Pal
Starring: Tony Randall, Barbara Eden, Arthur O’Connell, John Ericson

Special Makeup: William Tuttle
Hairstyles: Sydney Guilaroff

The Film:

This is a classic western tale of a greedy landowner, Clinton Stark (Arthur O’Connell,) who wants to buy up the entire town Abalone, homes, stores, and everything in between. The intrepid newspaperman, Ed Cunningham (John Ericson), is the only citizen willing to stand up to Stark. Cunningham is enamored of the town schoolmarm and librarian, Angela Benedict (Barbara Eden), a lonely widow living with her son and mother-in-law. Benedict fends off Cunningham’s advances, but together they are the only two citizens who question Stark’s motives.

Into this turmoil come the magical Dr. Lao (Tony Randall) and his Chinese circus. Lao and his circus denizens; Merlin the Magician, Apollonius the Seer, Pan the God of Joy, Medusa, the Giant Serpent, and the Abominable Snowman (all played by Randall), teach the townspeople about who they are and remind them what life is all about. In the end, the town is saved and even the villain is redeemed. This is a charming film which touches the heart while it teaches a moral. It also falls into the category of a good film, the fact that the Makeup is also fantastic is the frosting on the cake!.

The Makeup:

The “Special Makeups” created by veteran makeup artist William Tuttle are magical. Tony Randall plays all seven of the faces of “Dr. Lao:” Dr. Lao, Merlin, Apollonius, Medusa, Pan, the Abominable Snowman, and the Giant Serpent. The most remarkable aspect of these characters, Randall, is still recognizable in each. Tuttle uses prosthetic eyelids, noses, lips, along with wigs, beards, moustaches, and contact lens to effect his transformations.

My favorite character is the title character of sprightly mischievous Dr, Lao with Randall in a bald cap, Chinese epicanthic eye folds, a wispy long moustache and beard. This makeup is very convincing changing Randall’s Caucasian visage into an Asian one. This makeup allowed Randall a full range expression, which was necessary for Lao’s chameleon-like emotional changes appropriate from one situation to another.

Even under the convincing age makeup for Merlin, you can see Randall, playing the feeble old magician. This is an extensive makeup including a bald cap, long nose, age prosthetics, and long white hair, beard and moustache. Randall’s Merlin is heart-wrenching as the old magician who’s magic has been reduced to tricks.

Randall is even more recognizable as the beleaguered Apollonius, the blind Seer, in a false nose, watery contact lens, and a mane of wavy blond hair with beard and moustache to match. Randall does a fine job of portraying the weariness of Apollonius who carries the weight of the future on his slender shoulders.

As Pan, the God of Joy, Randall sports sensuous pouty lips, a hooked nose, pointed ears and horns, and dark curly hair with moustache and goatee (pardon the pun). In the sequence when Benedict (Eden) falls under the seductive influences of Pan, he transforms into her admirer Cunningham (Ericson) as her seducer. It is very steamy stuff!

If there is one makeup that mildly disappoints, it is the Medusa. In this case, Randall is too recognizable as a man under the smooth skin, green lipstick, and hypnotic contact lens of Medusa. The wig of snakes is fantastic with heads moving this way and that. The Medusa is a Gorgon afterall, and therefore not necessarily “feminine." but, one could wish for a bit more to sell the illusion.

The only makeups which render Randall unrecognizable is the Abominable snowman, with his protruding cheekbones, sunken eyes, snaggle-toothed mouth, and shaggy bangs.
There is also the Giant Serpent, which has a stop-motion animated face of Arthur O’Connell, but is voiced by Randall.

Tuttle’s achievement in creating this array of characters is truly noteworthy. But, it is also a testimony to Randall as well. All of us know that a makeup doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Without the talents of the actor to bring it to life, makeup is nothing more than a bit of rubber, glue, and greasepaint.

This is a film where Makeup is at its best. It serves the script to create the world of the film without usurping the film and overshadowing the story.

Side Notes:

In 1980, I took the Film Makeup course with William Tuttle at University of Southern California (USC) film school. I had been a admirer of Tuttle’s work in “The 7 Faces of Dr. Lao,” so it was a privilege to meet him and be his student. He was a consummate artist and a very kind “gentle”man. Every week he would teach us what he thought we should know as well-rounded makeup artists. Coming from a theater background, I appreciated the time he took teaching us to do “painted” age makeup appropriate for film work. I remember him saying, when presented with an age makeup “too many of today’s makeup artists run to prosthetics for even a simple aging effect.” He demonstrated a technique for painting fine delicate wrinkle lines to create skin texture that I adopted and teach my theater students. Studying with Mr. Tuttle was a honor. His recent passing in 2007 was a true loss to the world of Makeup.

Further Info:

Use this link for further info about William Tuttle: IMDB Bio: William Tuttle

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Welcome to "30 years of Academy Awards for Makeup"

The 2012 Academy Awards (awarded for film year 2011) will mark the 30th anniversary of "Oscar" awarded for "Outstanding Achievement in Makeup."

It seems to me this occasion deserves recognition!

Since the inception of the annual award for Makeup, there have been 29 winning films, 61 winning makeup artists, and 175 nominees.  In addition, prior to 1981, two "Honorary Academy Awards," were presented, bringing the total winners to 30.

The first of these "honorary" statuettes went to William Tuttle for "The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao"in 1964. I remember seeing this film when I was eight-years-old. Years later, I marveled at the fact that all these characters were portrayed by the same actor, Tony Randall.

The 2nd golden prize went to John Chambers for "Planet of the Apes" in 1968. Once again, at the age of 12, I was astounded by the fantastic chimp, orangutan,and gorilla characters who upstaged all the humans, including Charlton Heston.

Finally, in 1981, the Academy inaugurated the first annual "Oscar" for Makeup. That year two films were nominated: "An American Werewolf in London" with up-and-comer Rick Baker at the helm; and "Heartbeeps" led by veteran makeup master, Stan Winston. This first coveted award went to Rick Baker, who has gone on to be the most celebrated makeup artist by the Academy (1984 nominated for "Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan", 1987 winner for "Harry and the Hendersons", 1988 nominated for "Coming to America", 1994 winner for "Ed Wood", 1996 winner for "Nutty Professor", 1997 winner for "Men in Black", 1999 nominated for "Life", 2000 winner for "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas", 2007 nominated for "Norbit", and 2010 nominated for "Wolfman").

Since 1981, makeup in film has advanced from the foam latex prosthetics makeups that distinguished "The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao" and "Planet of the Apes" to the  makeups for the films nominated in 2011:
Barney's Version: 2010

The Way Back: 2010
The Wolfman: 2010

“Barney’s Version” makeup by Adrien Morot; “The Way Back” makeup by Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng; and “The Wolfman” makeup by Rick Baker and Dave Elsey.

Many of my college-aged theater makeup students have never heard of many of these movies. It is my hope this blog will serve as a educational spur to their curiosity and encourage them to find these movies on DVD and see these award worthy makeups from "back in the day."

Over the next year, I'll be looking back over the 30 year history of Oscar's "Outstanding Achievements in Makeup."  I will begin by taking a look at the "Honorary" awards for "The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao" and "Planet of the Apes."  The week following the 2011 awards will begin the countdown to the 2012 awards with the films nominated in 1981: "An AmericanWerewolf in London" by the 1st Oscar winner Rick Baker; and "Heartbeeps" by nominee Stan Winston.

If you would like to follow me on this journey ... you are welcome to come along for the ride!

My best regards,

Gary Christensen