Thursday, June 25, 2009

Spirit gum, latex and a bit of Magic

There is a fantastic article at Aint It Cool News about the recent Academy tribute to the legendary special make up effects artist Dick Smith.

Smith has worked in television and movies since the late 1940s (he is retired but was coaxed back to act as a "special consultant" by former student Guillermo del Toro on the soon-to-shoot features of The Hobbit).

Everyone knows Smith's work from The Exorcist and The Godfather, but he also worked on films such as Scanners, Altered States, Taxi Driver, Little Big Man and the original Dark Shadows TV show.

Smith's speciality, if you can single out one thing by a man who did everything exceptionally with regard to his craft, was old age make up. (NO ONE did or does old age make up as convincingly as Smith. No one.) Everyone knows he aged 40-something Marlon Brando into his 60s and 70s for The Godfather, but not a lot of people recall that a 44 year old Max von Sydow was similarly aged to play 70-something Father Merrin in The Exorcist - Linda Blair's fantastic "possessed" make up took the spotlight away from Smith's more subtle work on von Sydow. Then there was turning 33 year old Dustin Hoffman into a 121 year old Native American in Little Big Man. Smith finally won an Oscar in 1985 for his work on Amadeus and aging F. Murray Abraham's character of Salieri.

Smith also did something that is not often done in Hollywood: he openly shared all his trade secrets and innovations. And he mentored people such as Rick Baker, himself also an Oscar winner for special make up.

If you love movies and TV, chances are you've seen some of Dick Smith's amazing work and didn't realize it.

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