Makeup helps express narrative elements, and a makeup artist decides how best to convey this information.
A historical period's cosmetic oddities, or its lack of them, have to be plausibly recreated for a modern audience. The presentation can be faux-historical, as in Satyricon (Fellini Satyricon, 1969), which though set in ancient Rome, was conceived, on the director Federico Fellini's insistence, as dreamlike by the consummate costume designer, Piero Tosi (who did not create costumes for the film, only the makeup). Lois Burwell's and Peter Frampton's makeup for Braveheart (1995), set in about thirteenth-century Scotland, was accurate though it looked fantastical. Fantasy makeup, such as Benoît Lestang's for La Cité des enfants perdus (City of Lost Children, 1995) or John Caglione Jr.'s for Dick Tracy (1990), sets the mood for the film. Oppositely, Toni G's makeup for Charlize Theron as a hardened prostitute in Monster (2003) was a feat of realist metamorphosis that made her look like Aileen Wuornos, the convicted killer on whom the film was based.
Cinema makeup has been an unusual but very effective arena for issues around public prejudice, regarding women's social and sexual status. In the early twentieth century, women benefited from the new caché of stunningly made-up stars on screen. Though creams, powders, and rouges were widely used and advertised (endorsed by theatrical idols such as Gaby Deslys, Sarah Bernhardt, and Lillian Russell), overt makeup had been questioned as déclasse or degenerate by fashion mavens since the turn of the twentieth century. Film makeup revolutionized the social acceptance of cosmetics as early as 1915, making them increasingly respectable for women to wear, and in every decade since, trends in makeup have thoroughly altered society's aesthetic concept.
The makeup artist has at times launched new looks. In the late 1920s the style established by Greta Garbo's arched eyebrows, deep eyes with black-lined eyelid indents, and full mouth banished the tight, down-sloping eyebrows and bee-stung lips of Mary Pickford and the Gish sisters that had been popular in the 1910s. In 1930 Marlene Dietrich's face, already beautiful, was adapted for the top lighting favored by her frequent director, Josef von Sternberg. Paramount's Dottie Ponedel, the first woman in the Makeup Artists guild, plucked Dietrich's eyebrows into single elevated lines, which became the signature look of the 1930s. Shading under her cheekbones accented them until they were hollow enough to appear so on their own. A white stroke under her eyes made them appear bigger. A silver one down her nose diminished its curve. Dietrich passed this trick on to the Westmores, who used it frequently and, when eye shadow was still greasepaint smudges, she showed Ern Westmore how to make it from match soot and baby oil and apply it in the gradual upward motions still used today. Ponedel went to MGM in 1940 to work exclusively for Judy Garland. Ern Westmore gave Bette Davis her signature "slash" mouth (where her top lip's indent was covered by lipstick), and Perc remade her face in over sixty films. "I owe my entire career to Perc Westmore,'' Davis once stated. Perc Westmore also cut Bette Davis's and Claudette Colbert's trendsetting bangs and Colleen Moore's classic Dutch boy bob, twisted Katharine Hepburn's hair into her ubiquitous top knot, and introduced the red-haired Ann Sheridan to a perfect match of orange lipstick. Sydney Guilaroff (1907-1997), head of hairstyling at MGM from 1935, originated the signature haircuts of Louise Brooks and Marilyn Monroe. Some changes were more drastic. Helen Hunt, Columbia's key hairstylist, painfully raised Rita Hayworth's hairline by electrolysis. A scene in A Star Is Born (1954) satirizes these beautifications when Judy Garland accidentally goes through the makeup department's process to suddenly emerge with new features.
Another dimension to social change appears in the provocative use of makeup to disguise race. White men typically have pretended to be black or Asian, often as figures of fun or malice, but by the end of the twentieth century, social ambiguity or political comment underlay some of these representations. The trope of white (and even black) players "blacking up'' as racial stereotypes for nineteenth-century minstrel shows passed into vaudeville and film. Though Bert Williams, one of the few black vaudevillians, wore blackface in Darktown Jubilee in 1914 because he did so in his stage act, the common character of a white with blackface appeared in such important films as The Birth of a Nation (1915) and The Jazz Singer (1927). This image has continued through the twentieth century into the twenty-first. Caucasians masqueraded as Asian in the Charlie Chan films of the 1930s and 1940s, and Boris Karloff's (1932) and Christopher Lee's (1965) characterizations as the arch villain Fu Manchu are especially well known. African Americans at times used makeup to modify their skin tones. In the films of African American director Oscar Micheaux from 1919 to 1948, a lightskinned black actor might wear makeup to appear even lighter. In other circumstances, a light-complexioned black actress such as Fredi Washington would wear dark makeup because she photographed too white. In the 1970s, whiteface on black actors began to appear, often to raise questions about racism. In Watermelon Man (1970), Ben Lane made up African American actor Godfrey Cambridge as a white man who suddenly becomes black. In the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s, ''whiting up'' appeared in films such as Coming to America (1988), where Rick Baker transformed young African American actors Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall into old white men; The Associate (1996), where Greg Cannom turned Whoopi Goldberg into a middle-aged white man; and White Chicks (2004), where Cannom transformed Shawn and Marlon Wayans into young, white, female twins.
Transvestism in films can also have a social dimension, and since the 1990s there has been a shift in its representational meaning as seen in Linda Grimes's transformation of Wesley Snipes, Patrick Swayze, and John Leguizamo into sexy transvestites in To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar (1995) and Morag Ross's of Jaye Davidson in The Crying Game (1992). More conventional transvestitism appeared in the earlier Some Like it Hot (1959), where Emile LaVigne (19131990; makeup) and Agnes Flanagan (hair) transformed Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon into cute women and in Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), where Greg Cannom changed the slight Robin Williams into a dowdy, overweight matron. Women have played men less often, but Katharine Hepburn, made up by Mel Berns (uncredited) in Christopher Strong (1933), and Hilary Swank, made up
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