A few days ago news broke that Dick Smith, 'the Godfather of make-up', has passed away at the age of 92. Numerous tributes have already been paid from friends and colleagues from within the industry, including fellow make-up artist and Oscar-winner Rick Baker, who described Smith as his "mentor" and "the master".
There are a handful of make-up artists who have become legendary in the film industry, with most of them focussed around the horror and fantasy genres. Baker won an Oscar for his groundbreaking transformations in An American Werewolf in London; Rob Bottin worked so hard on the effects for John Carpenter's The Thing that he ended up in hospital; and Phil Tippett carried on the work of the late great Ray Harryhausen, bringing stop-motion back to the mainstream through his work on the original Star Wars trilogy.
Smith contributed a fair amount to horror cinema through his make-up, with his three-piece prosthetics becoming industry standard by the 1980s. He designed the practical on-set effects for The Exorcist, such as the revolving head and projectile vomiting, as well as creating the body for Katherine Ross' busty robot double in The Stepford Wives. But he was also an accomplished dramatic make-up artist, winning an Oscar for his work on Amadeus and drawing praise for his contributions to The Godfather, creating the gunshot effects during Sonny's death and using dental 'plumpers' to make Marlon Brando's jaw droop. He worked with directors as varied as Mike Nichols (on Carnal Knowledge), Martin Scorsese (Taxi Driver) and Robert Zemeckis (Death Becomes Her).
Smith was one of the great pioneers of cinematic make-up to which all the great artists from the 1970s onwards owe a massive debt. Perhaps there is no higher praise for his work than the words of Laurence Olivier, whom Smith made up as a leper for a TV production of The Moon and Sixpence back in 1959. After the finished make-up was applied, Larry looked into the mirror and remarked "Dick, it does the acting for me." RIP.