"Most women use too much make-up," says Guy Pearce, ex-Mountie, whose art has won him top rank as a Hollywood make-up expert
GUY PEARCE, Hollywood make-up magician, is a study in contrasts. His job today is to perpetrate disguises. His job used to be to penetrate them. He was once a sergeant in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Tall, sandy-haired and poised, he is handsome enough to be a distinguished character actor. But he is interested only in helping others to be actors.
When the young Canadian actor, Alexander Knox, was first considered for the title role of “Wilson,” Producer Darryl F. Zanuck asked Guy Pearce: “Can you make him resemble Wilson?” If Pearce had not been able to answer “Yes,” Knox never would have played the role. When auburn-haired Geraldine Fitzgerald declined to wear a wig or to dye her hair, Guy Pearce still contrived to make her look blackhaired for the same picture, which is in Technicolor.
Just before Betty Grable stepped in front of the camera, looked back over her shoulder, and smiled for the most famous pin-up photo of World War II, she was reasonably sure that she looked her best. Guy Pearce had applied her make-up.
Offhand it might be a trifle difficult to imagine an ex-Mountie wielding a powder puff, a lipstick, or an eyebrow pencil. And it may be even more difficult to imagine a stalwart ex-Mountie as one of the world’s foremost authorities on what a pretty woman can do to look prettier. But the fact remains that Guy Pearce, ex-Mountie, is indubitably one of the world’s top beauty experts.
It’s quite a story.
The story began “about 50 years ago” in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England. That was when and where he was born, shortly before his family moved to Regina, Sask., where his father entered government service.
Guy decided, very young, that he Wanted to be a soldier. His father wanted him to have a law career. His mother had a medical career in mind for him. So he ended up by embarking on an art career.
When he finished school in Regina he persuaded his family to send him back to England to study portrait painting at the Bath School of Art; he had visions of eventually studying in Paris. But he had been at Bath about 18 months when his father decided it was time to call a halt to “that artist nonsense.” He insisted on Guy’s coming home, settling down, studying law.
Dutifully, Guy came home. Dutifully, he studied law for a few months. But that old urge for an Army career was still strong. One day he slammed his law books shut, squared his jaw, and joined the nearest thing to the Army: what was then the Royal Northwest Mounted Police. After he was sworn in and it was too late for anything to be done about it he told his father.
His enlistment was for three years; and it was impossible during those three years to resign, even though in the interim war broke out and soldiers were in demand. As soon as his enlistment was up, however, he joined the Royal Flying Corps, saw service in F rance as a fighter pilot to the end of the war, then was with the Army of Occupation until the late summer of 1919.
When he was mustered out of the RFC, he had the rank of captain. He returned to Canada and rejoined the force, now known as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, hoping to make police work his lifework. On the basis of his military experience, he also hoped for a commission. Instead, he was given the rank of sergeant.
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He was the youngest sergeant in the force at the time, but in 1924 he decided that life was getting on, he was “rapidly becoming an old man and must do something about the future.”
The likeliest possibility at that late date seemed to be his father’s original suggestion, a law career. To become a lawyer in Canada, however, he would have to go to law school, and he felt “much too old to be a schoolboy again.” He discovered that in California a man could try bar examinations after studying in a law office. He headed for Southern California in search of a law office where he could study.
He had hardly arrived and had not yet had time to become acclimated when at the home of some friends he met an assistant director from M-G-M. When the latter learned that Guy had just left the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, he invited him to the studio to have lunch with the producer and director who were working in a Mountie picture.
Over lunch, the movie people plied Guy with questions about the RCMP’s. They found him so helpful that they suggested his going along “on location” to Mammoth Lakes in the High Sierras—at a modest salary. He could regard it as “a vacation with pay.” The idea appealed to him; he accepted.
Along with him to the beautiful mountain setting he took his sketching board and crayons. One day he was on the shore of a lake sketching Renee Adoree and Antonio Moreno, the stars of the picture, when makeup man Harold Holland walked past. “If you know something about drawing,” said Holland, “you can be a make-up man. How about helping me, the rest of the picture?”
Thus, accidentally, the ex-Mountie was introduced to the art of make-up.
He helped Holland, and Holland interested him in the work. When the 1 company returned to the studio, the
make-up man introduced Pearce to his brother, Cecil Holland, then head of the M-G-M make-up department, who promptly hired him.
“That was years ago,” comments Pearce, “and I have been in the business ever since and have enjoyed every moment of it.”
He even enjoyed life during the run of his first film contract, a copy of which he recently came across in a batch of old papers. It specified that he was engaged as a make-up man (the job didn’t have the title of “make-up artist” in those days), and to play bits, and to perform “general utility duties.” That last clause covered a large amount of territory. He frequently worked from four a.m. to midnight, sometimes played as many as three different roles in one day, and did company bookkeeping after the day’s filming. Nowadays a make-up artist does only make-ups, and his working hours are limited by his union. Maximum working hours for men are 10; for women, nine.
In 1926, Pearce transferred to Fox Films as assistant head of the make-up department, remained eight years, then went with Twentieth Century as head of make-up. A year later, in 1935, when Twentieth Century and Fox merged, Pearce signed a contract with Alexander Korda and went to London for five years. In 1940, Darryl F. Zanuck brought him back to Hollywood as head of the make-up department of Twentieth Century-Fox, a position he .still occupias, with some 60 assistants under his supervision.
For this he receives a handsome salary, a salary which in the long run will outdistance that of most stars. Few stars can look back on’ a 19-year career. Still fewer can look ahead to being at the top of their profession for years to come.
Pictures can be, and have been, made with unknowns. But very few pictures can be made without a
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make-up wizard somewhere behind the
A four-mil lion-dollar case in point is Darryl F. Zanuck’s “Wilson,” already mentioned. This cavalcade of the American scene contains no less than 96 historical characters. Resemblances to all 96 were not to be found; most of them had to be created—by Guy Pearce.
Artistry, literally, goes into such creation. Pearce obtains a still photo of the actor who is being considered for a certain role. From the photo he, or a talented assistant, sketches a likeness. Then, on the sketch, he experiments with character lines, character shadings, subtle colorings. The sketch then becomes a guide for the actor’s make-up.
“If you can paint a portrait on paper,” says Pearce, “you can paint the same portrait on a face. Portrait painting is simply putting make-up on canvas. To turn a young woman into an old woman for picture purposes, all you need is color, high lights and shadow—and a sense of art.”
That “sense of art” is an important angle, so important that Pearce never hires an apprentice who has not studied at least the rudiments of art. The most talented apprentice he ever had was a former honor student at an art academy who had specialized in portrait painting. “In six months he was a qualified make-up artist, although the term of apprenticeship is four years.”
When Pearce first entered the business, make-up was not only grim but obvious. Off-screen, an actor or actress in make-up could be detected at least half a mile away, by the strange ochre tint of his or her grease paint. Now, thanks to Pearce and fellow artists, an actress can walk along Beverly Drive in screen make-up and no one will be able to tell from the color of her complexion that she works in the movies.
“We used to want make-ups to look dramatic,” comments Pearce with a smile. “Now we want nothing so much as to have them look natural. I know I’m never satisfied with skin tones until they look like skin.”
The harsh lights necessary for film work demand make-up on most film players, whether male or female. “Those lights are brutal and unflattering,” points out-Pearce. “The players have to wear make-up to compensate for what the lights take away from them. The only time we leave make-up off men is when we want them to look rugged and masculine, which is how we never want women to look. The only girl I have ever known to be photographed without make-up was June Clyde, in a Janet Gaynor picture a few years ago. June had a perfect complexion. However, I think Gene Tierney could work without make-up. She also has a wonderful complexion. But there is a subtle psychology about make-up on any actress, even though she needs very little. It lends her confidence, helps her to ‘feel a role.’
Men, unless they have been connected with the theatre, are more difficult to make up than women. “Women appreciate what you are trying to do for them,” Pearce says. “Men may be as appreciative, but they are less conditioned to paint and powder. As one young actor expressed it once, ‘I like everything about this business except being hit in the face by a powder puff.’ ”
Pearce, himself, seldom applies powder to a subject with a powder puff, however. He prefers long brushes,
which look like oversized artists’ brushes.
Some players, of course, attempt to tell the make-up artist his business, which, understandably, the make-up artist resents. There was the famous case of the actor—Pearce declined to mention the name—who came in and said, “The director wants you to make me look much younger.” Pearce knew that the director wanted no such thing and that only the actor’s vanity was at stake. “So I obliged,” relates Guy with a smile. “I blotted out his double chin, erased character lines, and last but not least gave him a beautiful waved toupee. Shortly afterward he went to lunch. The director walked into the café, took one look at him, and did a double-take. A startled reaction. ‘But you said I could be a little younger,’ protested the actor. ‘Yes, but not so blasted young,” said the director. ‘Go and get aged up.’ ”
Usually in “ageing” a player, either masculine or feminine, no appliances are used, that is up to the 50-year point. “The whole thing is done with shadows and high lights, as in the case of Claudette Colbert in ‘Remember the Day’ and Gene Tierney in ‘Heaven Can Wait.’ Beyond 50, we have to add assorted wrinkles. Which, incidentally, are made of plastic materials nowadays and are practically painless. The
old stories about ‘martyrs to make-up’ are obsolete. In the old days, for example, we used to make false noses of putty, cotton and collodion, doing the modelling anew each morning. Now we simply make a mold of the required nose and have it manufactured in quantity, of plastic.”
Speaking of noses reminds him of the long, thin model that Canadianborn Raymond Massey wore a few years ago in the role of “Cardinal Richelieu.” One afternoon Pearce walked on the set and Massey said, “You’ve got to help me get off work by three o’clock today. I made an appointment for 3.30, and the director says now I’ll be working until six. Can’t something happen to my nose that you can’t fix up before tomorrow morning?”
Pearce agreed to walk over and talk with the director;, then call Massey, who would turn his head quickly and “accidentally” strike his nose against a standard right beside his head, whereupon his nose would land on the soundstage floor. “But when I called and he turned his head and hit the standard, nothing happened to his nose. It was glued to stay on all day.”
The big make-up problem in wartime is hair, not to mention hair lace, which is the invisible foundation of every wig. Peasants in Central Europe used to grow hair for the American wig market, but the war has cut off such supplies, and reserves are now virtually exhausted. But the great difficulty is getting hair lace, into which hairs are set one at a time with a crochet hook. All hair lace was made in Europe by hand, and no one has yet found any way to make it by machinery. Studios have reached the point where they are ‘borrowing’ wigs from each other.
Most feminine stars, especially if they have special hair-do’s for a picture, have to report at the make-up department at 7 a.m. to be ready for the camera at 9 a.m. They usually arrive in slacks with their heads in bandanas, looking little like movie stars and more like swing-shifters. “Except,” Pearce comments, “they usually look rested. They’re very co-operative with the make-up department. They simplify make-up by getting enough sleep—which, incidentally, might be a tip to women in other walks of life. The less sleep a pretty girl has, the more make-up she needs, and vice versa.
“Some stars have strong ideas about their make-up, usually without realizing that some of their ideas are imitative,” he says. “But we do try to bring out the individuality of each person. The other day, for example, a worried starlet called me up to tell of a discovery she had just made: One eyebrow
was different from the other. ‘What should I do?’ she asked. I said, ‘Nothing. Your eyebrows are a part of you.’ ”
Too Much Make-Up
Most women have a tendency to make up too much, says Guy Pearce, whose business is make-up. “By all means, hold make-up to a minimum. Avoid great flaming dabs of rouge and avoid fantastic, unnatural colors in lipstick. Eyeshadow over the eyes may be all right at night, in soft artificial light, but not in sunshine. And every woman should be careful how she uses an eyebrow pencil—if at all.
“There’s one pretty good rule,” he says. “When make-up becomes obvious, it becomes distasteful.”
One famous Pearce development, made available to the entire motionpicture industry, is make-up that can be used for either black-and-white or
Technicolor photography. Previously, make-up that looked all right in blackand-white pictures wouldn’t do at all j for Technicolor, and vice versa.
For years, in his own mind, Pearce i argued that make-up that was \ “natural” or “realistic:,” make-up that ■ looked “right” to the naked eye, j should also look “right” to the camera, no matter what kind of film was being used. Finally, in 1910, he put his theory into effect experimentally.
He was working for Alexander Korda at the time, and Korda was about to make “The Thief of Bagdad.” ’ Costume tests were scheduled to be I made of a certain actor, in which the actor was to be photographed in turbans of various hues so that executives could determine which hue might look best in the picture. When executives saw the film of the tests, a “color expert” sat with them in the projection room. He criticized the make-ups with certain of the turbans, praised others. | Pearce then revealed that with all of the turbans, the make-up had been the same, a neutral make-up of natural skin tones. That meant that if certain j turbans looked better than others on the actor, their colors harmonized better with his eyes and hair. The difference in effect was not caused by make-up.
Then Pearce was loaned to Herbert Wilcox, who was producing “Victoria the Great,” starring Anna Neagle. Wilcox wanted to film the final sequence, showing the Queen at her Golden Jubilee, in Technicolor. The experts said, “It can’t be done. You can’t age a player in Technicolor. The camera will detect the make-up.” Pearce said, “You don’t mean ‘It can’t be done.’ You mean ‘It hasn’t been done.’ Let’s try, anyway.”
Anna Neagle has blue eyes, which immediately inspired Pearce to experiI ment. For color pictures, whenever | eyeshadow was needed, a deep brown ! had always been used, no matter what j color a player’s eyes might be. It was ; an iron-bound law that only brown | eyeshadow could be used. “I decided,” Í says Pearce simply, “that blue-grey | eyeshadow should be used to enhance i the blue of Miss Neagle’s eyes. The studio promptly toppled around me. 1 was upsetting tradition, breaking all the rules. But the little lady herself agreed with me. We made a film test of the make-up I recommended, and the result was so natural that nothing j more was ever said. Not only was that j sequence filmed in Technicolor, but also the entire sequal picture, ‘Sixty Glorious Years.’
“Now no one has any qualms about | letting an actor or actress ‘age’ in Technicolor. Last year, in Lubitseh’s ; ‘Heaven Can Wait’ we aged Don Ameche successfully from 20 to 70. He was even nominated for the Academy Award on the basis of his i performance, which could not have j been convincing if his make-up had not j been convincing.”
Hollywood had not yet seen : “Victoria the Great” when Pearce j returned to the movie capital in 1940, joined Twentieth Century-Fox, and liad to make up Alice Faye and Betty Grable for Technicolor.
Both have blue eyes, and Pearce advanced the same argument he had advanced in London and met the same objections, but again he talked the studio into at least making a test of his recommended make-up. (“Persuasive | Pearce” executives call him, unaware j that they are talking to a man who was j sidetracked only by an accident from a j career as an attorney.) Alice Faye and Betty Grable both still use blue-grey eyeshadow, if any—at their own insistence.