Saturday, March 17, 2012
ADDING AGE TO MOVIE PLAYERS PUTS ART OF MAKEUP TO TEST
By Robin Coons
Hollywood, May 10
The paint, powder and wig men of the studios are busy these days.
Since the rags-to-riches theme gave way to films in which flaming youth lives and suffers and emerges into old age it is up to the makeup men to exercise genius in effecting the transitions.
And if you think it’s just a simple matter of touching up the dark young hair with powder or a wig of dabbing a few artificial wrinkles on the face, you don’t know your artist – your real artist – of cinema makeup.
In “Forbidden” you saw Adolphe Menjou and Barbara Stanwyck grow old and gray.
In “The Sin of Madelon Claudet” Helen Hayes changed from a young girl into an old woman.
In “So Big” Miss Stanwyck again bows to the years.
And now in “Strange Interlude” Norma Shearer, Clark Gable, Alexander Kirkland and Ralph Morgan all age gradually through 30 years of plot development.
In Miss Shearer’s case, according to Cecil Helland, the M-G-M makeup man, aging was comparatively simple. In the film her years are marked by worry, mainly, and therefore her hair streaks gradually with gray, while the accentuation of natural shadows in her face remarks the gentle attacks of time. She remains, even nearing 50, a woman of beauty.
It was Gable who presented a problem. Clark has, besides strong features, sparkling eyes. Old folks’ eyes don’t sparkle like Clark’s. They had to “shade out” those optics by softening the eyebrows and toning down the lashes. They each eyelid was lifted and lined inside with a harmless fluid to dim the sparkle.
Adding spectacles furthered the effect. To complete the transformation he is given a mustache, his hairline is pushed back and his face is grayed generally.
Baldness, double chins and wrinkles added age to Kirkland, but in some scenes it was necessary to “rejuvenate” Morgan who in reality is a middle-aged man.
In the final scenes, however, even Morgan’s middle-age didn’t suffice and the art of the makeup man was called upon.
Considering this make-up problem, even without the extra recording work involved in getting “Strange Interlude’s” spoken thoughts, it is little wonder that the set is called the busiest in Hollywood.