One Thousand Faces of Makeup: How Fx Makeup Came to Be

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  • Topic: Boris Karloff, Cosmetics, Kabuki
  • Pages : 5 (2124 words )
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  • Published : March 23, 2011
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One Thousand Faces of Makeup: How FX Makeup Came to Be

Makeup, by definition, means an assortment of things: the way in which something is composed or arranged, cosmetics applied especially to the face, and materials, such as cosmetics and costumes, that an actor or actress uses in portraying a role ("Makeup.") Aside from normal cosmetics, theatrical makeup has been around for as long as 4000 BC. In the earlier years of theater, makeup was used in order to portray different ages, genders, and classes of society. This makeup had to be applied heavily on the face, in order for the audience to see the character’s expressions from far away. Theater makeup was believed to have originated from Greece and became a worldwide tool in theater that many cultures, over time adopted ("Theatrical Makeup.") The Kabuki Theater in Japan is a great example of how theatrical makeup spread to different parts of world. The Japanese makeup consisted of white face paint made from rice, called Oshiroi. Different shades of white where produced in order for the actors to depict different attributes of characters. However, in order for the makeup to stick to their skin, they had to apply a mixture of waxes and oils beforehand. The Kabuki Theater makeup was also aided by the colors black and red to outline the performers lips and eyes, in order to express various expressions. White, black and red weren’t the only colors used in the theater. Japanese theater revolved around the culture’s folklore, so different colors of paint where needed in order to showcase the story’s characters. Thanks to an assortment of pigments found in nature, the Japanese created many colors such a dark red, blue, pink, green, and purple in order to depict gods, demons, and its heroes ("Kabuki Makeup.") Makeup stayed in theater for centuries, but as time passed and the popularity of film grew, theater makeup turned out to be far to “fake looking” for cinema because of its pasty appearance on camera. Notably, theater makeup has come a long way from being made out of white lead, red cinnabar, chalk dust, lard, and zinc ("Theatrical Makeup.") But luckily in 1910, Polish cosmetician Max Factor, created a whole new type of grease makeup (commonly known as greasepaint) specifically for filming. This type of new makeup was lightweight and flexible, ideal for the hustle and bustle of filmmaking ("Makeup.”) Factor’s insight continued to influence the world of cosmetics, as he created more and more different types of cover, suitable for filming. In 1928, he introduced pancake makeup, which provided a thinker matte coverage, and because it was water based, actors where likely not to sweat it off during filming, a valuable property in filming (Finley.) As previously stated, makeup can make a person flawlessly beautiful and communicate to the audience to whom that character is, but that’s not always the case in film. Credit must go to where credit is due, because if it hadn’t been for one man, Hollywood wouldn’t have the monsters they are famous for. Born on April 1, 1883, Lon Chaney grew up loving theater; being a stagehand in his early years he became an actor in film, and later a successful makeup artist. Back in the in the early hours of cinema it wasn’t uncommon for actors to apply their own make up. So when Chaney hit it big as the phantom, “Erik” in The Phantom of the Opera (1925) he had a specific idea of what he wanted this character to look like. In order to deform the phantom, Chaney inserted a device into his own nose (which was painful,) in order to flare out the nostrils, along with celluloid discs into his mouth to distort his cheekbones. False teeth and pale face paint where then added in order to complete the Phantom’s terrifying look. Chaney worked on many projects in his career, turning himself into different races, ages, and monsters, he soon became know as “The Man of a Thousand Faces” for his talent to turn himself into anything on the spot with his amazing makeup...
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