History of Special Effects Makeup

By Jeanne Baird

Because the early black and white movies didn’t show colors, special effects makeup had limitations. Actors had to find their own ways to help the makeup bring their character to life. With time and new technology, makeup special effects see no more boundaries.

Self Service

Actors, in the days before the “talkies,” often put on their own makeup.

Lon Chaney Sr.

He was a trailblazer in using simple yet innovative ideas such as wigs and fish skins to change his looks.

Max Factor

Max Factor created makeup specifically designed for film. This giant step allowed for further developments in special effects.

Frankenstein

The fictional Frankenstein monster's body was created piece by piece in a laboratory. His head was fashioned of collodion-soaked cheesecloths and greasepaint.

Prosthetics

"The Wizard of Oz" was the first big movie to make use of prosthetics. Actors had the parts glued on to them in the morning before cameras rolled.

Digital Technology

Digital technology allows makeup artists to create illusions like Lt. Dan’s missing lower half in the movie "Forrest Gump."

Last Scene

Makeup artists can use special effects to create just about any illusion, from a simple beauty mark on the face to creating the most hideous monster.

About the Author

Jeanne Baird is a freelance writer with a decade of experience as a proofreader, editor and writer. She has been the associate editor for an engineering society handbook and a project manager for an independent publishing company. Baird also has edited business and entertainment news from several international newswires.