Saturday, June 26, 2010

Happy Birthday to Dick Smith

During high school, I'd toyed with the idea of becoming a special effects make-up artist. I put a lot of time in learning as many techniques as I could, but was hindered in their practical application by things such as cost of materials and difficulty obtaining them. There was no internet then, so finding suppliers for liquid latex and comparison shopping was incredibly difficult. Nearby physical locations such as medical supply companies, and morticians were suspicious of a 14-year old kid inquiring about ordering mortician's wax and dental supplies, and not simply less than helpful, but often rude and dismissive.

One of the make-up artists that inspired me (and countless others who actually became professional make-up artists) was Dick Smith. It wasn't simply his body of work which included such movies as "The Exorcist," "Taxi Driver," "Altered States," "Scanners," "Amadeus," "Little Big Man," the first two "Godfather" movies,"Marathon Man," "Ghost Story," "The Sunshine Boys," and "The Alligator People" among many others, but it was his willingness to share the secrets of his craft, many of which he pioneered with so many others. From his book "Dick Smith's Do It Yourself Monster Make-up Handbook" which was a staple of the Captain Company ads in the back of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine, and allowed an army of monster kids to transform themselves into a variety of monsters inexpensively, to his correspondences with the next generation of make-up artists, such as Rick Baker, Dick Smith was generous with passing on the knowledge and enthusiasm which not only allowed his craft to thrive, but in the 1980s turned make-up effects technicians into superstars thanks to groundbreaking movies such as "An American Werewolf in London" and "The Thing."

Happy 88th birthday, Dick Smith! Thanks for all of the inspiration.

1 comment:

Bob "Melon" Melonosky said...

I wore out my copy of "Dick Smith's Do It Yourself Monster Make-up Handbook" that I ordered from the back of Famous Monsters.

I remember turning my brother into a pretty damn good Creature from the Black Lagoon with cornsyrup and tissues.