The legendary Hollywood makeup artist Dick Smith died recently. His groundbreaking work changed the face of modern cinema.


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  • Comment number 11. Posted by Steve

    on 16 Aug 2014 23:50

    We need these sort of professionals in the film industry more than ever.

    I'm 24 soon to be 25. I saw the Godfather when I was in my early teens and not for one moment did I think that Marlon Brando had any sort of work done to his face. I thought that's just what Marlon Brando looked like. Call me an idiot but I was young.

    CGI is wonderful and it is taking film where it has never been before. But I'm not sure it needs to replace the processes that work even better and were in place before it.

  • Comment number 10. Posted by Danny Dyers Oscar Speech

    on 16 Aug 2014 19:33

    Dick Smith was indeed a genius. Never mind his jaw-dropping work in The Exorcist, The Godfather, Taxi Driver, Altered States, Starman, and Amadeus - to me his crowning glory will always be what he did with Dustin Hoffman in Little Big Man.

    As a kid and an adult, I've cringed at some of the make-up applied to significantly age younger actors in movies. Often laughable, often realism-destroying, always infuriating, old-age make-up may not be an easy art form, but if Dick Smith was perfecting it in 1970, by transforming a 33-yr-old man into a genuinely believable 120-yr-old survivor of the Old West, why couldn't that become industry standard in future years? Because maybe I've answered my own question: he was a genius.

    Even as recently as 2011, Leonardo DiCaprio's old-age make-up in J Edgar was appalling, a full 41yrs after Little Big Man, and I think there can be no greater compliment now than to say only CGI will be able to equal or better the amazing work achieved down the years by Dick Smith - artist, perfectionist, genuine Hollywood great.

  • Comment number 9. Posted by Arch Stanton

    on 16 Aug 2014 09:58

    A great artist. I wonder if we will ever get to see the, apparently tremendous, work that he designed and created for the film Ghost Story (1981), as most of it was cut from the final version of the film. Perhaps if it ever makes it to blu ray it might be a nice little extra. Good to see Altered States mentioned, that particular film is so underrated. I remember going to see it at Odeon Marble Arch, in the early 90's, as part of a season of 70mm prints being screened there. At that time, I'm pretty sure it still had the largest projection screen in the UK, I could be wrong? I certainly recall the impact of seeing Smith's startling make-up effects work, combined with Ken Russell's spectacular, mind-scrambling imagery, it certainly left my then girlfriend and I suitably altered, but in a good way.

  • Comment number 8. Posted by WSV

    on 15 Aug 2014 22:31

    It's easy to forget just how much of a collaborative effort filmmaking is; which recent blogs concerning fields as diverse as scriptwriting, projectionists and soundtrack production have helped to highlight. Thank you Mark. It also highlights what a difficult job a director has pulling all of those threads together to make a cohesive whole. Little wonder that it seems easier to agree on what constitutes a bad film than a good one.

    The point, made above, about the way the filmmaking process is changing in the digital world is also an interesting one, especially considering the release of 'The Congress' today in UK cinemas. I can't say that I enjoyed that film (incoherent, weird - weakly Gilliamesque, some clumsy scenes, very slow moving, depressing and ultimately boring IMHO), but it's themes and sentiment about actors being replaced with digital replicas is already happening (Planet of the Apes for instance). Whether this is a bad thing (as 'The Congress' suggests) or not, I'm not sure. It'll be interesting to see if motion capture spreads out from the kids blockbuster films it seems to be dominating at the moment and into other more adult genres.

  • Comment number 7. Posted by Dan

    on 15 Aug 2014 21:02

    Robin Williams RIP

  • Comment number 6. Posted by azjackson

    on 15 Aug 2014 16:06

    A secret legend of Hollywood - you may be interested in this?

  • Comment number 5. Posted by edward

    on 15 Aug 2014 15:36

    The great Dick Smith. Thanks Mark, for releasing a blog around this great man's genius. The days of practical effects are becoming a distant memory - unfortunately. His work speaks for itself, along with those he inspired. I find CGI effects quite tiresome, and presents a lack of imagination. We need more like Mr. Smith. Oh, how I pine for the days of practical effects.

  • Comment number 4. Posted by spaceodds

    on 15 Aug 2014 13:43

    A brilliant artist of an art that is, tragically, steadily in decline due to the dawn of CGI and mo-cap. The work he did on The Godfather and Taxi Driver is superb, and it just goes to show how challenging make-up artistry can be, on one hand the artist has to be creative and fantastical, and on the other hand, the artist has to create a portrayal of a certain realism and logic. That clip that was included is one such example; Smith had to be shocking, but also the idea that Friendkin instilled in him about gangrenous sores is a masterstroke.

    I find it heartbreaking how mo-cap and CGI is replacing practical make up effects. Not only because yet another cinematic field is slowly dying out, but because CGI still looks fake. I agree that mo-cap has come a long long way, and I for one am happy to see it succeed. But having said that, I still find practical hand made make up effects appreciative. Just look at the transformation scene in An American Werewolf in London, and then compare it to the transformation scene at the end of Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire. Both were hilarious (the latter was hilarious for the wrong reason) But only one was truly jaw dropping (the former obviously)

    Smith was a sensational artist, who not only gave Rick Baker a chance, but also introduced Stan Winston to James Cameron. There is a story that I've read that when Cameron was prepping The Terminator, he desperately wanted Dick Smith to do the cyborg creation and make up. Smith immediately refused by stating that he hates doing robots and that Cameron should ask for Stan Winston, and what a collaboration that turned out to be.

  • Comment number 3. Posted by Brian - New Forest

    on 15 Aug 2014 12:26

    "work changed the face of modern cinema." yep, we see what you've done there. But perfectly apt, and putting that aside, a very good tribute to a great artist.

    Tangible effects where practical still beat most CGI mo-cap hands down (barring Apes, obviously).

    Thanks for this tribute. Could you get someone to program a terrestrial showing of your documentary, if only off the back of its sad relevancy?

  • Comment number 2. Posted by markofcain

    on 15 Aug 2014 11:49

    What a genius of his profession Dick Smith is and what an amazing variety of mammoth films to have been associated with.
    True passion and creativity bringing us faces that evoke all modes of expression.Just hearing the man relay his thoughts surrounding his time on the set with Friedkind,tells us he can go blow for blow with anyone.
    Thank you for creating the imagery taking place in Georgetown,that still to this day sends shivers down my creaking spine.
    Self effacing,yet the architect of hundreds of them..Thank you Sir.

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