Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Please help get Jack Pierce a STAR!!

Please Help Jack Pierce Get A Star.......

Jack Pierce (May 5, 1889 in Greece - July 19, 1968), born Janus Piccoulas, was a Hollywood make- up artist most famous for creating the iconic make-up worn by Boris Karloff in Universal Studios' 1931 adaptation of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

After immigrating to the United States from Greece as a teenager, Pierce tried his hand at several careers, including a stint as an amateur baseball player. In his twenties, he embarked on a series of jobs in cinema - cinema manager, stuntman, actor - which would eventually lead to his mastery of make- up. The small-statured Pierce was never a "leading man" type, and he put his performing career aside to specialize in make-ups on other performers. Early character triumphs of his art included a human ape in The Monkey Talks and the rictus-grin face of Conrad Veidt in The Man Who Laughs, two silent Universal pictures. Pierce was hired full-time by the studio. The 1930 death of Lon Chaney, who throughout the 1920s had made a name for himself by creating grotesque and often painful horror make-ups, opened a niche for Pierce and Universal, who provided audiences with the deformed gargoyles they so clearly enjoyed.

Universal's first talkie horror film, Dracula, eschewed elaborate horror make-up. Pierce designed a special color greasepaint for Lugosi's character, but apparently the actor insisted in applying his own make-up. The most significant creation during Pierce's time at the studio was clearly Frankenstein, originally begun with Lugosi in the role of the Monster. The preminiary design (from contemporary newspaper accounts and a recollection of the screen test by actor Edward Van Sloan) was similar to the Paul Wegener 1920 German film of The Golem. This is not surprising, since studio head Carl Laemmle, Jr. and director Robert Florey were both familiar with German Expressionist films. When James Whale replaced Florey as director, the concept was radically changed. Pierce came up with a design which was horrific as well as logical in the context of the story. So, where Henry Frankenstein has accessed the brain cavity, there is a scar and a seal, and the now famous "bolts" on the neck are actually electrodes; carriers for the electricity used to vivify the monster. How much input director James Whale had into the initial concept remains controversial.

Pierce went on to create make-up for several "Frankenstein" sequels (The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), Son of Frankenstein (1939), Henry Hull's subtly terrifying visage in Werewolf of London (1935), and Lon Chaney, Jr. in The Wolf Man (1941), which itself was originally designed for Hull in the 1935 film. This last make-up was extremely elaborate, and pioneered a technique whereby pieces of moulded rubber (now known as "applications") covered in yak fur were glued to the actor's face. As new methods emerged during this period, however, Pierce's slow painstaking approach drew criticism from the studio and actors. Newer techniques could create equivalent effects in less time, and without causing as much pain to actors.

So please click the blog title above (or go to to sign an online petition set up by our friend the Unimonster.

Thanks to John at for passing along the message.


Scurvy said...

I didn't realise that Jack Pierce did the grin for the brilliant "The Man Who Laughs". And that look - which in itself which was extraordinary - I believe inspired the creation of The Joker from Batman. Along with his other work, he's got a lot to answer for in terms of iconic imagery.

Dr. AC, Fool for Blood said...

Personally, I can't believe that he hasn't already gotten one. How the @$%#%^@ did that get overlooked? He only created some of the most iconic monster makeups in history, he only inspired the makeup magicians of the 70s and 80s (Dick Smith, Rob Bottin, Tom Savini, Stan Winston, etc.), he only...

Oh, for crying out loud, give the guy his moment in the sun already.

And next we'll work on getting Roger Corman his Oscar.