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:


  1. I love your blog. your style and vibe are great.Check out mine and follow me back if you like it! Id appreciate the support. makeup artist sydney

  2. It is really outstanding makeup for the movie "Planet of the Apes".The makeup of the apes are natural and the hair style and the dress is perfect for them.The makeup artists John Chambers,Ben Nye and Dan Striepeke have done the great makeup that looks natural for the movie.For more makeup related stuffs ask the experts in

  3. Thank you for these blogs. We recently wrote a two-part essay called The Make-Up of 2012, and used this site as a reference (you were credited at the end of part two).

    If you, or anyone reading this blog is interested, it can be found at:

  4. Dear genial host, You asked "Science and Religion (how do those two really go together?)". What English speakers usually call science was invented by medieval Christian churchmen, all Catholics. The first person to describe the scientific method in writing went on to be elevated to bishop by the Church.

    Also, the Church does not try animals for heresy. Animals lack the rational capacity that would allow them to be a Christian believer and knowingly teach the Faith in error.

    Most of what Americans (and Frenchmen like Pierre Boulle) think they know about religion and natural science was acquired osmotically from pop culture and is just plain wrong. Movies feed popular prejudices and errors.

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