|Jack Pierce and Karloff, from en.wikipedia.org|
As impressive as it is to be the man responsible for one of the most famous monsters of classic Hollywood, we now add a few more high points to Jack Pierce's resume. This makeup genius is responsible for the classic look of Bela Lugosi's Dracula. (Lugosi insisted on applying his own greasepaint, but Pierce tweaked it to look better on film, which is why the Count's face carries shadows so well.) Lugosi's career took an upward turn after his role as Ygor in Son of Frankenstein, a character created for him by Jack Pierce using rubber appliances, applied hair, and false teeth.
Frankenstein wasn't his only famous Karloff work, either. Pierce was the makeup artist for The Mummy in 1932. He treated the fabric with acid and flame, dipped it in a syrupy chemical solution, wrapped Karloff, let it get wrinkly and dry, and then got it dirty so that it would look properly aged on film. Even though Karloff is only in the mummy costume briefly in that movie, it is again one of the most memorable parts of that film.
Speaking of brief, another iconic Pierce character, who in reality was only on screen for a few moments at the very end of the film, is Elsa, otherwise known as The Bride of Frankenstein.
So we've covered the Mummy, Frankenstein, his bride, and Dracula. Believe it or not, The Wolfman, starring Lon Chaney Jr., is also a Pierce makeup. A molded rubber nose appliance, fake claws, and thousands of individually applied yak hairs made this another of the most famous movie monsters in history. Pierce also designed Chaney Jr.'s character for Man Made Monster.
|Lon Chaney Jr. and Jack Pierce, from acertaincinema.com|
Jack Pierce did makeup for over 100 films from the 1920s through the late 1940s, including:
White Zombie, Werewolf of London, The Mummy's Tomb, The Ghost of Frankenstein, The Raven, Dracula's Daughter, The Mummy's Hand, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, The Scarlet Claw, and The Phantom of the Opera (1943).
|White Zombie, from nutshell-movies.com|
And last, but certainly not least, is a film that was actually one of Jack Pierce's first character concept projects, and which may even have reached farther across pop culture than his classic monster films: The Man Who Laughs (1928). The movie is an adaptation of an obscure Victor Hugo story, about a man whose mouth is cut upward at the corners to give him a perpetual grin. Pierce's interpretation of this character for the silent film is a documented source of inspiration for another one of the twentieth century's most notable characters: the Joker. See the resemblance?
|The Man Who Laughs, from http://hypenc.com/2010/2011/04/21/rexs-film-reviews-the-man-who-laughs/|
Sadly, Universal decided to cut back on scary movies, and they dropped Jack in 1947. He had a little more movie work in the 1950s, and then did makeup for the Mr. Ed television show. He died in 1968, a forgotten page of Hollywood history. But, he is part of the reason that there is an Academy Award for makeup design today. Pierce's work proved that a large part of a film's success comes from the makeup and concept design of the characters, and he was posthumously given a lifetime achievement award. He is now in the running for a star on the walk of fame. We think it's long overdue.
Information obtained from : www.imdb.com; www.tcm.com