William Tuttle, Dick Smith, and John Chambers
by Jordan Prejean
by Jordan Prejean
|William Tuttle with his makeup creations|
The suggestion, however, that such excellent achievements in special makeup effects on television are a recent development is wholly misleading. Television has been a showcase for innovative makeup designs from its earliest days and the medium has often displayed exceptional work from the most revered names in the industry.
If you were only to take three television anthology series from the early years 1959-1963 and examine the three artists who made each of these shows memorable for unusual, inventive, and highly influential makeup designs, you would have three of the most significant makeup artists in the history of the industry. Between them, these men would claim four Academy Awards and a slew of Emmy, Saturn, and BAFTA Award nominations and wins over the course of long and fruitful careers. In fact, one could likely trace the entire lineage of American special makeup effects artists of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries to the three men responsible for this early television work: William Tuttle on The Twilight Zone (1959-1964), Dick Smith on ‘Way Out (1961), and John Chambers on The Outer Limits (1963-1965).
In early 1959, Emmy Award winning writer Rod Serling, fed up with his confrontational scripts being censored by fearful corporate sponsors, developed a science fiction and fantasy television program with the CBS network, intending the science fiction genre to mask the controversial style of drama he was determined upon writing. Serling called his series The Twilight Zone and the West Coast production utilized the vast resources at Metro Goldwyn Mayer Studios.
|A publicity photo of Tuttle's work on "The Masks"|
William Tuttle had been the head of the MGM Makeup Department since 1950. When Serling and company arrived at the studio to produce their unique anthology series, Tuttle sensed an opportunity to contribute makeup designs that would set the series apart from television’s already crowded science fiction landscape. After the show’s fifth and final season, when the series began its continual existence in syndication, the aesthetic of Tuttle’s inimitable makeup designs would see reproduction and reinterpretation in a variety of marketing material, from comic books to board games to lunchboxes to toys to posters and art prints, not to mention the memories of any viewer who happened upon the show.
Tuttle was born in Jacksonville, Florida in 1912 and was forced to leave school early in order to support his mother and younger brother after his father abandoned the family. He gravitated early to art and music, trying his hand as both a comic and violin player in Vaudeville before making his way to the University of Southern California in the spring of 1930. Tuttle focused on art and developed a talent for molding and sculpture, skills he later utilized as an innovator in creating life masks to fine-tune the application of prosthetic appliances. Tuttle’s time at USC would direct the entire course of his professional life. He returned to the university to teach from 1970-1995, beginning a year after he vacated his position as head of the MGM Makeup Department due to a change in ownership of the studio. A permanent collection of more than 100 of Tuttle’s creations for film and television reside at the university.
Pioneering makeup artist Jack Dawn arrived at USC in early 1934 seeking a recommendation for a sculptor and a painter to assist in his increasing workload at MGM. Dawn was directed to Tuttle and Tuttle’s colleague Charles Schram. Dawn took both young artists under his tutelage and put them to work as assistants. It was at MGM and the 1935 production of Tod Browning’s Mark of the Vampire that a convincing bullet hole effect in the forehead of Bela Lugosi persuaded Dawn that Tuttle was capable of work beyond ordinary assistant procedures.
Two years later, Tuttle was applying Dawn’s innovative flexible appliances to transform white actors into Chinese farmers for the 1937 film The Good Earth. 1939 brought a career defining moment for Jack Dawn with The Wizard of Oz, perhaps the most intensive production in terms of makeup design and application in feature films to that point. Tuttle and Schram applied Dawn’s improved prosthetics as well as their own makeup designs to create the rigorous production’s iconic characters. Among the other uncredited makeup artists toiling on the set of the film was Fred Phillips, who fell under the mentorship of Tuttle and who would later work extensively with makeup artist John Chambers on properties such as The Outer Limits (1963-1965) and Star Trek (1966-1969).
For Tuttle, The Wizard of Oz was the beginning of a long climb to the top of MGM’s Makeup Department, earning the position after it was vacated by Jack Dawn in the fall of 1950. Tuttle became as renowned in the 1940s and 1950s for beautifying MGM’s contract stars (he was married to Donna Reed from 1943-1945) as he would become for his strange creations of the 1960s and beyond. By the time Rod Serling and The Twilight Zone came along in 1959, Tuttle had applied his skills to dozens of genre productions including Forbidden Planet (1956), North by Northwest (1959), and television’s Alcoa Presents: One Step Beyond (1959-1961).
|Tuttle's work aging Kevin McCarthy for "Long Live Walter Jameson"|
|Tuttle's designs for "Eye of the Beholder"|
Tuttle also displayed his ability for traditional stage makeup with the third season episode “Five Characters in Search of an Exit,” which required makeups for a traditional clown and hobo among others archetypal characters. Even when Tuttle’s makeup design was not particularly effective, such as in the second season’s “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?,” he is capable of producing an iconic image, in this case a man with a third eye in the center of his forehead. This effect was initially to be achieved by optical means, projecting the eye onto the head of the actor, only to be abandoned as unfeasible at the last minute, forcing Tuttle to scramble to create a workable application.
|Tuttle's design for the Morlocks in George Pal's "The Time Machine"|
After vacating his position as head of makeup at MGM in 1969, Tuttle concentrated on teaching and occasional, but memorable, freelance film and television work. He created the makeup effects for the Mel Brooks film Young Frankenstein in 1974 as well as contributing makeup to the futuristic design of Logan’s Run in 1976. Tuttle’s last great work was as supervisor of special makeup effects for director Brian de Palma on The Fury in 1978, for which he shared a Saturn Award with Rick Baker. Tuttle’s last film work was for Zorro: The Gay Blade in 1981 for Twentieth Century Fox and director Peter Medak.
In 1989, Tuttle established his own makeup company, Custom Color Cosmetics, and was the subject of a 1968 MGM documentary short titled King of the Duplicators, in which he discusses his techniques alongside frequent collaborator Charles Schram. Tuttle died at his home in Pacific Palisades on July 27, 2007, age 95.
|Dick Smith with his creations|
David Susskind, like Rod Serling, was committed to producing intellectually engaging material for the young medium. Two years before, in the formative year of 1959, which marked the beginning of both Alcoa Presents: One Step Beyond and The Twilight Zone, NBC passed on Susskind’s idea for a series of macabre half-hour plays, partially due to the unreliability of an anthology series to garner a dedicated viewership. The idea stayed with Susskind, however, and he pitched the idea to CBS as a possible replacement for the Gleason show. CBS, in a more receptive position, gave Susskind the green light and a hurried production began in New York on the series Susskind titled ‘Way Out.
Susskind hired Roald Dahl to host the program as well as provide the script for the premier episode. At the time, Dahl was best known for his ghoulish short stories published in the pages of The New Yorker, a half-dozen of which had been adapted for Alfred Hitchcock Presents during the three years prior. Dahl’s stories contained a humorously macabre tone in accordance to that which Susskind desired for ‘Way Out. It quickly became apparent to Susskind and his production team that the nature of the show required a talented makeup artist to achieve the bizarre effects indicated by several of the scripts for the series. Susskind recruited a makeup artist he’d previously worked with at NBC named Dick Smith.
Smith was a native New Yorker, born in Larchmont in 1922, and initially set out on a path in dentistry. He was admittedly not a traditionally talented visual artist but was inspired to try his hand at makeup from the discovery in his late teen years of Ivard Strauss’ 1936 book Paint, Powder and Make-up: The Art of Theater Makeup from the Amateur and Class Room Viewpoint. Several attempts failed to land him a position at a Hollywood studio so Smith began submitting his work to the emerging arena of television networks, eventually landing a position at NBC in 1945.
By 1961 and the beginning of production on ‘Way Out, Smith had mastered a technique for the sectional application of prosthetics to allow an actor greater freedom of facial expression. Despite the participation of Susskind, Dahl, and a host of talented stage and television actors, ‘Way Out is most often remembered today for Smith’s shocking makeup effects.
‘Way Out lasted a mere 14 episodes from late March to the middle of July, 1961, where it directly preceded The Twilight Zone, airing at 9:00 P.M. EST on Friday nights. Despite such brevity, the series provided enough material to showcase Smith’s prodigious talent for makeup effects.
|Dick Smith erases half of Barry Morse's face|
|Smith's Quasimodo makeup on Martin Brooks|
|Smith's makeup on Alfred Ryder|
For the claustrophobically frightening eighth episode, “Dissolve to Black,” Smith created a believable pallor of death across the faces of several actors using heavy black around the eyes and a withered, textured composition on the skin. “Side Show” is the memorably chilling twelfth episode which required Smith to craft a horrifying old hag makeup using a fright wig and appliances to exaggerate the nose and lower portion of the face while creating a wrinkled, aged appearance which would become a trademark of his skill set. Smith completed the effect by adding stitching where the head had been sewn to a beautiful body.
|Smith's aging makeup on Jonathan Frid for Dark Shadows|
Though Smith, working with Ben Nye, then head of the makeup department at 20th Century Fox, created the makeup effects for 1959’s The Alligator People, starring Beverly Garland and Lon, Chaney, Jr., his first significant film work was again with producer David Susskind, for Columbia’s production of Rod Serling’s Emmy Award-winning Playhouse 90 drama Requiem for a Heavyweight in 1962, starring Anthony Quinn, Jackie Gleason, and Mickey Rooney.
Once given the production values of a feature film, Smith would create some of the most enduring special makeup effects in the history of the medium. In 1970, he aged a thirty-two year old Dustin Hoffman into a 121 year old man in Arthur Penn’s Little Big Man. With a custom dental insert, he gave Marlon Brando the sagging jowls of an aged mafia don in Francis Coppola’s The Godfather in 1972. A career watershed arrived in 1973 with The Exorcist, from director William Fiedkin and author William Peter Blatty. Smith, assisted by a young Rick Baker, turned cherubic Linda Blair into the gaunt, lacerated figure of a demon-possessed girl and should have been given an Academy Award for the astonishing results.
The film brought Smith an array of offers to create makeup effects for technically challenging productions in the horror and science fiction genres. In 1980, he crafted the most effective full-body prosthetic suit since 1954’s The Creature from the Black Lagoon to affect William Hurt’s physiological changes in Altered States, creating a unique situation a year later when two of Smith’s films fostered a tie for the Saturn Award for makeup effects as voters could not decide between awarding his work on Altered States or his work on David Cronenberg’s Scanners, the latter for which he served as makeup effects consultant, working with future Academy Award winners Chris Walas and Stephan Dupuis. Four years earlier, Smith was recruited by Martin Scorsese to fit Robert De Niro with a menacing Mohawk hairstyle and compose the blood-splattered conclusion to Taxi Driver.
Smith’s highly accomplished makeup effects appeared in The Sentinel (1977), Ghost Story (1981), and The Hunger (1983) before garnering an Academy Award, with Paul LeBlanc, for his work aging F. Murray Abraham’s Salieri in Milos Forman’s 1984 Best Picture winner Amadeus. Smith would be honored with a special ceremony, “A Tribute to Dick Smith: The Godfather of Special Makeup Effects,” hosted by Rick Baker, from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2009 before being awarded a second Academy Award in 2012 in recognition of his astonishing career and his remarkable influence on the makeup effects industry.
Smith was always willing to teach artists interested in the industry and freely divulged the many secrets of his methods, something which was highly unusual at the time. Smith’s final film work was designing the makeup effects for House on Haunted Hill in 1999, after which he concentrated on Dick Smith Special FX Makeup Training, a series of courses for developing up-and-coming special effects artists. He was the subject of Scott Essman’s 1998 documentary short A Tribute to Dick Smith and died in Los Angeles on July 30, 2014, age 92.
|John Chambers with his ape creations|
|Chamber's makeup for "The Sixth Finger"|
The heavy lifting in the special effects department was accomplished by Project Unlimited, a freelance company established in 1957 by technicians Gene Warren, Wah Chang, and Tim Baar, designed to handle a multitude of special effects procedures for film and television productions.
|Chamber's makeup for "The Man Who Was Never Born"|
John Chambers was brought on board for episodes which required more intricate makeup effects as well as for simpler applications such as the manipulation of the eyes, nose, or chin of an actor. Once he began to find steady work in feature films in the 1960s, Chambers became particularly well-known for his ability to change or exaggerate a feature of an actor’s face or hands, undoubtedly resulting from earlier time spent in government service crafting dental and body prosthetics.
Like William Tuttle, Chambers used life masks to create molds in order to insure makeup appliances not only fit the unique contours of an actor’s face but also allowed the actor to be recognized beneath the makeup. Chambers worked on The Outer Limits with frequent collaborator Fred Phillips, who served as makeup supervisor for the series, and had a hand in a number of first season episodes, most notably “The Hundred Days of the Dragon” in which the face of an Asian spy is physically manipulated to resemble a murdered presidential candidate, and “The Man Who Was Never Born,” which sees Martin Landau changed into a malformed human from a bleak future Earth.
John Chambers was born in Chicago in 1922 and became interested in art at a young age, finding early work as a commercial artist and jewelry designer before serving in the Army first as a dental technician and later crafting prosthetics to repair the faces and bodies of wounded veterans. Chambers decided to apply his artistic skills in the entertainment industry, sensing an opportunity when his work with wounded veterans became a point of emotional stress.
In 1953, Chambers landed a position creating makeup for NBC’s live television programs. By 1959, Chambers had moved into regular feature film work under Bud Westmore at NBC’s parent company, Universal Studios.
Chambers soon became dissatisfied with the burdens inherent in being a contract artist for either a network or a studio and retrofitted a garage adjacent to his Burbank, California home to function as a freelance makeup laboratory. He remained firmly entrenched in the television industry, however, since by the early 1960s he had begun to receive positive recognition for his makeup effects on a number of programs. He created ghoulish makeups for Boris Karloff’s horror anthology series Thriller (1960-1962), working alongside longtime NBC makeup artist Jack Barron, who himself handled makeup duties for Alfred Hitchcock on both the director’s television series and films (Psycho (1960), Marine (1964) and Torn Curtain (1966)) and would later assist Chambers with the makeup effects on the Planet of the Apes films. For Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek (1966-1969), again working with makeup supervisor Fred Phillips, Chambers created numerous bizarre alien makeup effects as well as famously designing Mr. Spock’s pointed ears.
It was Chambers’ work creating disguises for the espionage television series Mission: Impossible (1966-1973) and I Spy (1965-1968) that drew the attention of the Central Intelligence Agency, who recruited Chambers in the early 1970s, along with makeup artists Tom Burman (who became a frequent collaborator) and Michael Westmore, to create disguises for government field agents. The declassification of CIA documents in 1997 revealed Chambers to be a crucial part of a 1979 operation that successfully freed six American diplomats during the Iranian Hostage Crisis. Chambers was portrayed by actor John Goodman in Ben Affleck’s Academy Award winning 2012 film about the operation, Argo.
Chambers continued to stay busy with television projects, working with Ben Nye on Irwin Allen’s Lost in Space (1965-1968) for CBS, and with Bud Westmore on Rod Serling’s Night Gallery (1969-1973) for NBC. It was Nye, then head of makeup for 20th Century Fox, who approached Chambers about working on a project adapting Pierre Boulle’s 1963 novel Planet of the Apes.
The resultant 1968 film marked a significant turning point not only in the career of John Chambers but in the area of special makeup effects as an industry. Chambers, who spent much of preproduction time on the film studying primates at the Los Angeles Zoo, would use life masks of the principle actors to craft pliable prosthetic appliances which would allow the actors an impressive range of facial movement beneath the heavy ape makeups. Chambers supervised nearly sixty makeup artists for the film, many of whom were non-union workers, in an effort to battle time and the required workload.
Many of the artists working under Chambers on the film were recruited from the Don Post Studios, a California-based producer of high quality masks and props for commercial consumption as well as for the entertainment industry. Chambers had previously assisted at the studio on mask designs pertaining to apes and primitive man. Noted mask designer Verne Langdon was hired to create the realistic ape masks worn by the many background performers. Langdon, who followed career paths ranging from professional wrestler to recording artist, became a legend among collectible masks hobbyists for his revolutionary work with sculptors Pat Newman and Ellis Burman (father of makeup artists Ellis Burman, Jr. and Tom Burman) at the Don Post Studios in the 1960s, crafting highly detailed masks based on famous monsters from film and television, as well as his own unique designs. Langdon, Newman, and the Burman brothers all used the time spent on Planet of the Apes as a springboard into regular work in the film and television industries.
For his work on Planet of the Apes, Chambers was given a Special Achievement Academy Award at the 41st Ceremonies in 1969. Chambers and William Tuttle were the only two makeup artists to receive such an award before 1981, when the award became standard.
Though Planet of the Apes was unquestionably the pinnacle of his career, Chambers continued to create impressive makeup effects in the years following. He worked with director Brian De Palma on the 1974 film Phantom of the Paradise and again worked with artist Tom Burman to create the beast-men in the 1977 film version of The Island of Dr. Moreau.
His final television work was for the short-lived series Beyond Westworld in 1980. He finished his film career on two high notes, however, by creating makeup effects on John Carpenter’s Halloween II (1981) and prosthetics for Ridley Scott’s future-noir Blade Runner a year later, after which Chambers quietly retired.
He is the subject of Scott Essman’s 1998 documentary short A Tribute to John Chambers and died in hospital on August 25, 2001, age 78.
It stands to reason that without the early television work of Tuttle, Smith, and Chambers, as well as the film work which followed, the special makeup effects industry would have evolved in a very different, and likely less interesting, way. To simply take an account of the young artists that each man took the time to mentor and teach would alone define the successive progression of the industry and continues to stand as a defining monument to three pioneering titans of special makeup effects.
Grateful acknowledgement is given to the following for providing information used in the text:
Bergan, Ronald. “William Tuttle: Eminent Hollywood Makeup Artist Who Worked With the Glamorous and Great,” The Guardian, 23 August 2007.
Essman, Scott. “John Chambers: Maestro of Makeup,” Cinefex, issue 71, September 1997.
Fox, Margalit. “William J. Tuttle, Master Makeup Man, Dies at 95,” New York Times, 4 August 2007.
Gilbey, Ryan. “Dick Smith: TV and Film Makeup Artist Who Transformed Hollywood Idols into Misshapen Grotesques,” The Guardian, 5 August 2014.
Nelson, Valerie J. “William J. Tuttle, 95; Pioneering Film Makeup Artist Was First to Get an Oscar,” Los Angeles Times, 3 August 2007.
Nelson, Valerie J. “Dick Smith Dies at 92; ‘Exorcist’ Makeup Man Won Oscar for ‘Amadeus’,” Los Angeles Times, 31 July 2014.
Yardley, William. “Disc Smith, Oscar-Winning Makeup Artist, Dies at 92,” New York Times, 1 August 2014.
Watch William Tuttle in “King of the Duplicators” here.