'The Godfather' Makeup Artist Dick Smith Passes Away & We Remember His Greatest Work — PHOTOS
Hollywood will miss one of its greatest behind-the-scenes heroes, because Dick Smith passed away Thursday. Smith was known as the "Godfather of Makeup," both because of his work on the makeup of The Godfather and The Godfather: Part II, and because of his early prominence in the field. He died at the age of 92, after a 58-year in movie makeup and special effects. Although his list of 71 movie and TV show credits is impressive, his long list of proteges, who have dominated the "Best Makeup" Oscar category for years is equally awe-inspiring: among them are Stan Wilson of Alien and Enchanted's Rick Baker.
Smith got his start in 1941, when films were black-and-white and makeup artists were uncredited. He then went on to make a name for himself using facial prosthetics and sci-fi makeup transformations, having stars like Lawrence Olivier proclaim that his makeup "does the acting for me." He was also hired as the first full-time makeup artist at NBC, where he rose to the manager of a six-person team in three years. Although his early success was unprecedented, he also worked prolifically in the '70s and '80s, making up stars like Dustin Hoffman, Mel Brooks, and Robert De Niro. He's also responsible for some of the scariest pre-CGI looks in the business, since he transformed Linda Blair into the possessed Regan that makes The Exorcist so frightening. He also believed in makeup as an acting tool; he once said to The Washington Post, "Actors have to feel like they are the person they are portraying. I think my work has helped many to achieve that."
The Godfather & The Godfather: Part II (1974 and 1976)
The Exorcist (1973)
Linda Blair's makeup in The Exorcist was so frightening that audiences fled from the 1973 release. In a time before CGI and advanced visual effects, Smith made demons real by pushing the boundaries of terrifying makeup.
The Stepford Wives (1975)
Although this film may not have involved latex prosthetics, the makeup is key to understanding the story. The eerily synthetic faces of the wives were both a plot device, and the defining feature of this film's look.
Taxi Driver (1976)
By the mid-1970s, Smith had worked with many big names, which is probably why he landed this film with Robert De Niro. It's unfortunate that he can't take credit for De Niro's signature mohawk, but the gritty realist makeup complemented the psychological drama of the film.
Marathon Man (1976)
Smith is known for two different movies with Dustin Hoffman: 1970's Little Big Man and 1976's Marathon Man. Although his aging work in Little Big Man has been heavily praised, his ability to make Hoffan look flawless shouldn't be forgotten.
It would seem logical that a pioneer in the world of movie makeup would have the most Academy Awards in the category for "Best Makeup," but unfortunately, Smith has only one. His award for the period makeup and aging in Amadeus was hard-earned, and his multi-award-winning proteges have often condemned the award's continued snubs of his work.
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