Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Make Up Artist Dick Smith Passes On

Dick Smith, the legendary make-up artist who worked on such films as Little Big Man, The Gofather, and The Exorcist, died on 30 July at the age of 92.

Dick Smith was born in Larchmont, New York on 26 June 1922. He attended Yale University with the intention of becoming a dentist. While he was there, however, he found a book entitled  titled Paint, Powder and Makeup. Fascinated by the subject, he began experimenting with make-up and even did make-up for Yale's drama department. His first film work was on the movie The Cowboy and the Blonde in 1941. During World War II he served in  the United States Army. Following the war he went to work at WNBC-TV. He served as the head of its make-up department for 14 years. In the late Forties he worked on such films as Captain Eddie (1945), Call Northside 777 (1948), The Iron Curtain (1948), Down to the Sea in Ships (1949), and  House of Strangers (1949).

During the Fifties much of Mr. Smith's work was in television. He worked on such shows as Fireside Theatre, The Philco-Goodyear Playhouse, Kraft Theatre, Robert Montgomery Presents, and Hallmark Hall of Fame (specifically, their production of "Alice in Wonderland"). He worked on the films From Hell to Texas (1958), The Flame Barrier (1958), and The Alligator People (1959).

In the Sixties Dick Smith's career shifted more towards film, although he did still work in television. He did make up for episodes of Way Out, The Untouchables, Dark Shadows, and a 1968 television movie adaptation of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  That having been said, the majority of his work during the decade was in film. He worked on such films as The Cardinal (1963), The World of Henry Orient (1964), What a Way to Go! (1964), Midnight Cowboy (1969), House of Dark Shadows (1970), and Little Big Man (1970).

In the Seventies Mr. Smith worked on such films as The Godfather (1972), The Exorcist (1973), The Godfather: Part II (1974), The Stepford Wives (1975), The Sunshine Boys (1975), Taxi Driver (1976), Marathon Man (1976), The Deer Hunter (1978), and Altered States (1980). In the Eighties Dick Smith worked on such films as The Fan (1981), Ghost Story (1981), The Hunger (1983), Amadeus (1984), Starman (1984), Sweet Home (1989), Dad (1989), and Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990). He worked some in television, including the miniseries North and South and its sequel North and South Book II, as well as the TV shows Monsters and Golden Years.

In the Nineties Mr. Smith worked on the films Death Becomes Her (1992), Forever Young (1992), and House on Haunted Hill (1999).

Dick Smith was quite simply the one of the greatest make up artists of all time. He was a true pioneer in the field. He was one of the first make-up artists to make prosthetics in multiple pieces rather than a single piece, as had been usually done before. Dick Smith's method of creating multiple foam latex pieces is now the industry standard. What is more, Dick Smith certainly achieved results with his work. He transformed Dustin Hoffman into a 110 year old man in Little Big Man and created the spectacular makeup effects for The Exorcist. It should be little wonder that Dick Smith won an Oscar for his work on Amadeus, although arguably he should have won many times more.

Of course, many make-up artists could achieve spectacular results with the budget of a major motion picture, but Dick Smith could be impressive working on very small budgets as well. He did make-up for three episodes of Dark Shadows in which the vampire Barnabas Collins, undergoes a treatment to cure his vampirism and finds himself ageing at an accelerated rate as a side effect of the treatment. The effects were as incredible as any Mr. Smith did for major motion pictures. He also did a good deal of make-up work on the short lived series Way Out, creating impressive work on a budget that was low for television even in 1961. Dick Smith was incredibly talented and revolutionised make-up in film and television. Indeed, his make-up effects stand up against any CGI effects done today.

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