Local 706 - The Artisan

Fall 2023

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46 • THE ARTISAN FALL 2023 The motion picture has been around for 128 years, dating back to 1895 when the Lumiere brothers held their first public showing of their various films (running 50 seconds each) in Paris, while Edison's 1903 The Great Train Robbery marked the birth of the Western genre and is considered the first narrative American film. It's hard to believe that over the next 16 years, we will see many classic films celebrate their centenary birthdays, including Frankenstein, Gold Diggers of 1933, The Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind, Stagecoach and Gunga Din. This year, one of the cinema's most famous make-ups celebrates its 100th birthday. Lon Chaney's Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) is one of the earliest memorable creations in cinema make-up history. In a period when film make-up was emerging from its infancy, and make-up artists and hair stylists were slowly becoming a permanent crew position, Chaney's work is all the more impressive given the antiquated materials that were at his disposal. The foundation of motion picture make-up was firmly rooted to theatrical make-up techniques dating back to the 1880s and 1890s. By the early 1920s, cinema make-up was taking those old techniques and advancing them. B Y M I C H A E L F . B L A K E Known as Hollywood's "Man of a Thousand Faces," because of his canny ability to use make-up to portray various characters, Chaney had worked his way up the ladder, first appearing in theatrical musical comedies before entering films in 1913. Chaney had plenty of experience applying make-up from his theatrical days, and made good use of this knowledge as he established himself as a character actor in motion pictures. When it came to playing Quasimodo, Chaney not only gave a stunning performance, but created a make-up that visually stunned film audiences around the world. Chaney's make-up faithfully recreated author Victor Hugo's description of Quasimodo as having "a tetrahedron nose ... horseshoe mouth, of that little left eye stubbled up with an eyebrow of carroty bristles, while the right was completely overwhelmed and buried by an enormous wen; of those irregular teeth, jagged here and there like the battlements of a fortress; of that horny lip, over which one of those teeth protruded, like the tusk of an elephant ... his prodigious head was covered with red bristles; between his shoulders rose an enormous hump, which was counter-balanced by a protuberance in front; his thighs and legs were so strangely put together that they touched at no one point but the knees, and seen in front, resembled two sickles joined at the handles." It would take Chaney three hours to turn himself into Quasimodo, a daily routine he endured for nearly six months. To create Quasimodo's pronounced cheekbones, Chaney did not use nose putty, as the material would not hold up on such a moveable part of his face throughout daily filming. Instead, he used the old stage technique of cotton and collodion. Spirit gum would be applied to the area where the cheekbones were to appear, and before the spirit gum dried, cotton would be pressed onto the gum. A coat of flexible collodion was brushed over the cotton, followed by placing another piece of cotton before applying an additional coat of collodion. This procedure would continue until the desired look for the cheekbones had been achieved. A final coat of collodion would be applied over the entire piece which would blend the edges into the skin. (Flexible collodion shouldn't be confused with nonflexible collodion.) Greasepaint, mixed with a dash of olive oil, would then be applied over the cheekbones. (The mixing of olive oil with greasepaint was the forerunner to castor oil-based make-ups used on foam rubber appliances.) This method of cotton and collodion build-up allowed Lon to use these pieces for several days with a minimum of maintenance and repair. HOLLYWOOD'S FIRST HUNCHBACK Lon Chaney with his make-up case Lon Chaney as Quasimodo

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