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Making Up Hollywood
January 6, 2014 1:38 PM   Subscribe

Cinema tends to make beautiful people look more beautiful, but it wasn’t always so.
posted by the man of twists and turns (47 comments total) 41 users marked this as a favorite

 
Most stunning part of this article for me: Max Factor is a guy's actual name? I always thought it was just a phrase, and the brand name could just as easily have been like Ultra Element or... Apex Facet or something.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:45 PM on January 6 [10 favorites]


The title of the article doesn't do it justice.

One of many fascinating bits about Max Faktorowicz:
He devised the first made-for-film sweat, tears, and blood, and invented a pie topping that was cheaper than dairy cream and stuck to the face longer.
posted by RobotHero at 1:50 PM on January 6 [15 favorites]


Thank you Max Factor for inventing lip gloss!!!!
posted by sio42 at 1:51 PM on January 6


Oh sweet Jesus the Beauty Calibrator looks like some sort of medieval torture device and I kind of want one
posted by louche mustachio at 1:53 PM on January 6 [4 favorites]


Warning: "Beauty Calibrator" may provoke nightmares.
posted by Songdog at 1:54 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


Jinx, lm.
posted by Songdog at 1:55 PM on January 6


PLEASE STEP INTO THE NIGHTMARE MACHINE TO DETERMINE FACIAL BEAUTY INDEX

FACIAL BEAUTY INDEX ABOVE-AVERAGE

ARCHIVING FACE


DO NOT SCREAM
posted by griphus at 1:56 PM on January 6 [35 favorites]


It looks like it was popular on the set of Hellraiser.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 1:56 PM on January 6 [2 favorites]


Most stunning part of this article for me: Max Factor is a guy's actual name? I always thought it was just a phrase, and the brand name could just as easily have been like Ultra Element or... Apex Facet or something.

He's the man with name you want to touch, but you mustn't touch!
posted by ricochet biscuit at 1:57 PM on January 6 [11 favorites]


I found this bit of early viral media related to Max Factor while trolling through the Museum of Hoaxes.
posted by muddgirl at 1:57 PM on January 6


The shop owner was Max Factor, a Jewish Polish immigrant whose surname—Faktorowicz—had been truncated and misspelled at Ellis Island.

Ha, yet another instance of this myth of the Ellis Island name change.
posted by limeonaire at 1:58 PM on January 6 [6 favorites]


On a related note, I used to work at a newspaper where two of the photographers had names straight off the air conditioner: Norm and Max.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 1:58 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


Surely Clive Barker knows of the Beauty Calibrator.
posted by wensink at 1:59 PM on January 6


Holy smokes, Superman! Max Factor broke out of the Metropolis prison and trapped Lois in his Beauty Calibrator! You gotta do something!
posted by griphus at 2:01 PM on January 6 [5 favorites]


Thank you Max Factor for inventing lip gloss!!!!

Yo yo, Max, I'm really happy for you and Imma let you finish, but Preston Sturges invented the world's first kissproof lipstick.
posted by The Bellman at 2:05 PM on January 6


Oh sweet Jesus the Beauty Calibrator looks like some sort of medieval torture device and I kind of want one

The Procrustean Beauty Calibrator is even better....
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:12 PM on January 6


Hooray for Hollywood!
You may be homely in your neighborhood
But if you think that you can be an actor
See Mister Factor
He'd make a monkey look good
Within half an hour
You'll look like Tyrone Power
Hooray for Hollywood!

posted by darksasami at 2:13 PM on January 6 [3 favorites]


Hey! I am bookmarking this link as I really enjoy the tidy, fast MS Word-style layout. Because I'm worth it.
posted by turbid dahlia at 2:15 PM on January 6


Max Factor? Pfft, that name sounds almost as phoney as Vidal Sassoon.
posted by ckape at 2:17 PM on January 6


Factor’s studio also designed and fitted underwear for chimpanzee actors in the popular Tarzan films—the Production Code demanded that the apes’ genitalia be camouflaged

O.o
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 2:19 PM on January 6


Interesting fact about makeup for film and TV:

So, on a crew, everything is broken out into departments. I started my career in the art department. I'm currently in the locations department. The accounting department is across the hall. Camera, props, scenic construction, etc. are each separate departments.

Theoretically, the makeup people who make you pretty and the makeup people who make you a monster/alien/ER patient/heroin addict are in the same department. But the jobs are really nothing alike, and typically there's not a lot of crossover. Some people specialize in the pretty part, and other people specialize in the effects stuff. Depending on your specific crew, the different makeup factions can even get turfy and conflict-ridden.

When I worked on a show that had a lot of effects makeup, there was HIGH DRAMA when the effects makeup guy asked for his own storage cupboard to store fake blood, liquid latex, and the like. Like, we're talking that level of territorialism.

The unfortunate thing is that I'm pretty sure a lot of the tendency for conflict has to do with the fact that the two factions often break down along gender and sexual-orientation lines.
posted by Sara C. at 2:23 PM on January 6 [2 favorites]


Wow that just blew my mind
posted by Flashman at 2:28 PM on January 6


This article sheds some light on just how heartbreakingly racist the Hollywood beauty standards are...

When Rudolph Valentino complained that he was always cast as a gangster or a villain, Factor developed a special shade of greasepaint that lightened his skin and launched his career as a heartthrob.

Despite the recognition from the Academy, Factor’s pastel palette did not suit all skin tones. The failure of Lena Horne’s screen test, for instance, was later attributed to unflattering makeup.

Many African-American women were victims of toxic skin lighteners, including St. Louis housewife Mary C., first admitted to a hospital in 1877 when both of her arms were paralyzed. Only shortly before her death did she confess to religiously using Laird’s Bloom of Youth, a lead-based lotion that promised to make her black skin white.
posted by Juliet Banana at 2:34 PM on January 6 [4 favorites]


Television cameras weren't any better.
posted by benito.strauss at 2:41 PM on January 6



Factor’s studio also designed and fitted underwear for chimpanzee actors in the popular Tarzan films—the Production Code demanded that the apes’ genitalia be camouflaged

O.o


http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/AnimalsLackAttributes
posted by topynate at 2:41 PM on January 6


See Mister Factor
He'd make a monkey look good


Ha, first thing I thought of too. As a kid those lyrics must've really stuck in my mind when my ma played this Doris Day record.
posted by NorthernLite at 2:43 PM on January 6


I think I remember Max Factor, or perhaps a character based on him, playing a key role in Roald Dahl's The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar .
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:56 PM on January 6


My Grandmother's family live down the street from the Factors. Mr. Factor bestowed upon her the nickname we still use for her today. Also, the family still has a pretty yummy deli/restaurant on Pico.
posted by atomicstone at 2:59 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


Whatever the explanation of that crazy zombie makeup is, I don't see how it can be a result of early TV "transmitt[ing] images in negative". If you invert that image, you get something that looks even less human (black teeth with light lips, black eyes with light pupils, etc).
posted by The Tensor at 3:08 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


You owe us a nickname, atomicstone, and also the name of a pretty yummy deli.
posted by notyou at 3:09 PM on January 6 [2 favorites]


Factor's. Duh. :) and the nickname ain't super creative but the initials of both her first and middle name are B. So she's been Bebe to everyone since he named her. Although, I call her Nana. Because...she's my nana
posted by atomicstone at 3:12 PM on January 6 [3 favorites]


I'm starting to worry that Cabinet magazine is very subtly trolling me. It seems so serious and erudite, but in every issue there's about half a dozen factoids that are totally surprising, but not quite totally unbelievable. And they're hard or impossible to validate with online sources.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 3:37 PM on January 6 [2 favorites]


What were those facts in this article? It seemed pretty uncontroversial to me except for two things:

- the weird zombie/skeleton looking makeup photo, which has to be miscaptioned somehow

and

- the end of the article, which quickly glosses over the circumstances surrounding Factor's death, sounds totally bizarre. But maybe it's just a bad editing job?
posted by Sara C. at 3:40 PM on January 6


I don't think it's the "negative" transmission either. The appearance is probably due to a difference in colour sensitivity between the TV sensor and the photographic B&W film. (link). The lack of subtlety is likely due to the low definition of the cameras of the time; in effect, you end up with actors looking like they're playing for the Comedia dell'Arte.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 3:41 PM on January 6


Yeah, the TV thing would be helped by knowing more about that photo. What year was it taken? What production was it for? What roles are the two actresses playing? I would be more inclined to believe the caption's account if it were a picture of Audrey Meadows and Joyce Randolph. As it stands, that's just a photo of two women wearing weird makeup.
posted by Sara C. at 3:46 PM on January 6


With a little googling, I found the same image captioned on Pinterest as follows:
TV makeup in the 1930-40s Green Replaces Red in Make-up for Television Green lipstick and rouge replace the customary red in make-up designed for actresses appearing in television broadcasts. The television camera, it is explained, does not record the red coloring in the human complexion, leaving the transmitted image flat and unnatural. When green is substituted, however, the lips and cheeks of a performer appear in accurate relation of tones with other facial features as the image is projected
That sounds a little more plausible, in technical terms, but Pinterest is a notoriously unreliable source and what is described in the caption still doesn't really match what the image looks like.

This link seems pretty legit and explains more about the challenges of developing makeup for television. I think the Pinterest caption above is a direct copy-and-paste from the article, which includes both the image used in the FPP as well as other images of early makeup for television.

The caption used in that link for the "zombie makeup" photo just says "Makeup for early black-and-white television."

No idea where Cabinet got the idea that photo negative images were transmitted directly to viewers' television sets. I'd buy that the camera recorded footage that way, but there are several steps between "camera records" and "person looks at TV screen".
posted by Sara C. at 3:56 PM on January 6 [3 favorites]


My parents used to have an ancient set of Encyclopedia Brittanica that had an article on make-up that featured a photo set illustrating the different types of make-up: street, stage, ektachrome, technicolor, and tv. Same actress, different cosmetics.

I remember staring at the tv make-up example because it was just so bizarre looking.

Sadly, those books are probably in a landfill. I wish I could find the images online. It was a famous actress, too.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 4:00 PM on January 6 [2 favorites]


Back on the tangent I started, the internet makes me think that Factor's MAY have been owned by a Factor, but has not in a long long time. I may be confusing it with the fact that we do [also?] know the people who own it now. Anyway-it's a nice old-timey, but for real Jewish style deli. I always feel more like I'm on the east coast in there. So, related or not, go to Factor's. It's old-timey yum. And has valet parking. Because LA. [Well, there really isn't any good place to park over there].
posted by atomicstone at 4:36 PM on January 6


Also, there used to be a cool Max Factor Museum in the old Max Factor Building at Hollywood and Highland. The internet also tells me it was sold. Now there's a museum called "The Hollywood Museum", whatever that means, but it claims to have a lot of the exhibits from the old Max Factor museum. But if you're already at Hollywood and Highland, I guess you can go pay $ to take pictures with those creeptastic sidewalk character dudes.
posted by atomicstone at 4:40 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


I looked up some images for television makeup and yes they're strange.
posted by louche mustachio at 5:39 PM on January 6


(and all covered in Sara C's link above, whoopsie)
posted by louche mustachio at 5:40 PM on January 6


Ohhhh, it's a black-and-white photograph of green highlight make-up (and maybe some blue). That makes a lot more sense than what I was picturing. It would be interesting to try and set up a comparison between the B&W photograph and what it looks like over the television broadcast.
posted by muddgirl at 5:53 PM on January 6


There are some more subtle pictures in my above link that make it a little easier to visualize how it worked.
posted by Sara C. at 6:04 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


I found this bit of early viral media related to Max Factor while trolling through the Museum of Hoaxes.

muddgirl: I clicked on your link, and one of the contestants is my great aunt. She just gave us some of her dishes as she is in an assisted living facility now. I may have to print that out and mail it to her. What a surprise! Thank you!

She didn't win. Obviously vote rigging was involved.
posted by agentofselection at 8:16 PM on January 6 [3 favorites]


Now there's a museum called "The Hollywood Museum", whatever that means, but it claims to have a lot of the exhibits from the old Max Factor museum.

There's a lot of Max Factor stuff in there still. In fact, that's probably the most impressive part of the collection at The Hollywood Museum. A lot of the Hollywood stuff in there is replica stuff, or of dubious origin - but there's obviously stuff that has been collected by fans and dedicated collectors over the year.

Pretty cheap to get in, from memory. And knowing a little bit more of the connection between Max Factor and the industry makes the museum mashup make much more sense.
posted by crossoverman at 8:40 PM on January 6


Weirdness in trying to get the "color" right in B&W also applies to the background as well, leading to oddities like the Addams Family house actually being decked out in pink and pastels.
posted by Panjandrum at 8:35 AM on January 7 [2 favorites]


EDIT: I am almost positive it was Alexis Smith. I cannot find the images, sadly.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 12:32 AM on January 9


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