Modern prosthetics really started with the innovation of foam latex. A landmark film in the history of prosthetics is The Wizard of Oz, Jack Dawn was responsible for the design of make up for three characters – the cowardly lion, the tin man and the scarecrow, and with the advent of foam latex there were few limits to his designs.
Charles Schram is believed to have been the artist that applied the cowardly lion prosthetics and make up to Bert Lahr for The Wizard of Oz and he later gave the cowardly lion wig to the Motion Picture Academy. He also worked alongside William J Tuttle on the 7 Faces of Dr Lao, he had the responsibility of making the initial sculpts and building the appliances.
William J Tuttle was apprenticed to Jack Dawn and assisted with make up on The Wizard of Oz. He won an Academy Award for make up for the film 7 Faces of Dr Lao, this was in 1964 and 17 years before make up had a category in the Oscars.
John Chambers was a medical technician after World War II, and crafted prosthetic limbs and repaired the faces of injured veterans. He went on to work for NBC working on live TV and after six years moved on to Universal Pictures and worked on TV show The Munsters and The Outer Limits. He won an Academy Award for his work on Planet of the Apes (TV) and created probably the most famous ears in TV history – Spock (Leonard Nimoy) for the original Star Trek television show.
Maurice Seiderman was another artist with the major studios in the 40’s and 50s and he was responsible for the transformation of Orson Welles from young entrepreneur to aging tycoon in Citizen Kane (1940). Welles was so impressed with the transformation that he requested RKO to include his name in the credit listing for the film.
Seiderman is also credited with the invention of the modern soft contact lens, some of which were also used on Welles to age his eyes in Citizen Kane, this is often disputed with people naming Da Vinci and Descartes with the original idea of lenses and Thomas Young and Sir John Herschel with the design of lenses, and Adolf Fick as being the first wearer of a contact lens in 1887/8.
Another innovation for aging performers was the invention of Old Age Stipple (OAS) and there is some debate on the true originator of the recipe that includes latex, talc, gelatin and water. Some people believe that George Bau was the inventor at some time in the 1950’s whilst working for Warner Brothers and other references cite Dick Smith as inventing it in 1970.
George and Gordon Bau were brothers and make up artists and along with Gustav Norin are credited as being the first to use full pull on overhead masks in the film The Mad Magician.
I hope this instalment was interesting and educational and if you have questions or comments then I would love to hear them.
Coming soon Modern prosthetics 70s onwards