If you're a fan of the Golden Age of Television, then you know how difficult it is to find copies, prints and streams of those fabulous shows. Save for a trip to the amazing Paley Center, you're only hope sometimes is YouTube. I have seen it over there through the years, but never for very long. It's a wonderful adaptation starring Richard Burton, Roddy McDowall, Lee Remick and Tom Poston. Dad did the intricate makeup design for Caliban (Burton) and Ariel (McDowall). First broadcast on February 3, 1960, it's a lavish production for a made for TV special.
There are pictures going around of Bryan Cranston made up as LBJ for the upcoming HBO biopic "All the Way." The makeup transformation by Bill Corso is pretty uncanny, but it got me to thinking about an equally uncanny transformation done by Dad sometime in the late 60s. Details are sketchy, but he once told me that he did LBJ's makeup for some appearances and LBJ lived up to his "I don't give a damn what people think" attitude with spectacular results, including peeing right in front of my Dad. But aside from that, he used to create makeup transformations all the time using his face as his canvas. Below is a shot of Dad as LBJ and Bryan Cranston as LBJ. I'd say both are equally amazing, but I may be biased..
In 1976, CBS aired a critically praised Walt Whitman biography named after one of Whitman's best-known poems. "Song of Myself" was a short film presented under the auspices of "The American Parade," which presented a series of programs about prominent American figures around the Bicentennial celebration. Rip Torn played Whitman, and Dad was hired to do the complicated aging makeup, always an O'Bradovich specialty. Torn was impressive and the program was well received. It was one among many pleasurable small projects that gave Dad his professional fulfillment. Torn and he became friends after the production ended. And, on a side note: a friend recently told me that he attended a Rip Torn retrospective in which the actor presented his favorite TV and movie performances. Among them? "Song of Myself."
Here is a clip from the special and from the O'Bradovich archives: a letter of effusive thanks from director Robert Markowitz.
All month long, TCM is spotlighting the films of Robert Redford, and tonight's movie "Three Days of the Condor" is one of his best. Released in 1975, it centers on New York CIA agent Joseph Turner who returns from a lunch break to find every single one of his co-workers dead. Barely escaping with his life, Turner goes on a quest to find the truth, but discovers he's the next target. Taut and tension-filled, "Three Days" luxuriates in paranoid conspiracy and gritty New York City realism. While America was still recovering from Watergate and trust in the government was at an all time low, NYC was facing a financial crisis that threatened its very solvency. Fans of 1970s New York City will lap up the location scenes, shot all around the city. As key makeup artist, my father was responsible for the special effects makeup, including the memorable shootout in the alley of the Ansonia hotel (now a residential building) on 74th street and Broadway. A longtime resident of the Upper West Side of Manhattan himself, my father often remarked that traveling to the set was a breeze. Unfortunately, I have no pictures of him working on the gunshot, but I have a few photos of him on the set and with Cliff Robertson (courtesy of Ira Gallen, who worked on the crew and graciously shared these rare gems with me) along with some of my own screen caps. Be sure to watch tonight!
One of the joys of growing up with a makeup artist for a father is that I sometimes got myself involved in the mix. Here is a scene from the living room where Dad was busy mixing his potions and I was being a curious five year old.
It seems that this blog has quickly morphed into a memorial shrine. Today marks the first anniversary of Julie Harris' death, and I wanted to mark the sad occasion with a happy memory. In 1962, she won a Best Actress Emmy for her superb performance in the Hallmark Hall of Fame production of "Victoria Regina." Previously, Claire Bloom had played the role in a similar production, but this was the year the Emmy rewarded Hallmark with its FIRST Emmy for outstanding makeup, given to Bob O'Bradovich. It came in the form of a plaque and it was a "special" citation, but Dad had remarkably broken the mold. Never before had the Emmy been given to TV makeup, despite the outstanding productions NBC's makeup department had enhanced. As usual, I remember Dad being way too modest (he probably should have hired an agent and capitalized on his fame) and I remember Mom saying that his simple and short speech on national TV--"thank you"--had been appreciated by all. Someday, I'd love to find the speech online somewhere because that would be amazing to witness. NBC knew they had a star on their hand (see photo below) and Dad was on his way to becoming the most important man in the NBC makeup artist. RIP Julie and Dad.
I'm a few days late, but I must mention that August 12 marked the 40th anniversary of the release of "Harry and Tonto," which won Art Carney his one and only Best Actor Oscar. Though he was the sentimental favorite to win, it was still remarkable that he beat out both Al Pacino and Jack Nicholson in a very competitive year. I'd like to think that Dad's remarkable aging makeup--it was his particular expertise--helped give Carney that extra edge. On a more personal note, the two men became friends long
Yesterday, the world of cinema lost one of the great actresses from classic Hollywood, Lauren Bacall. I'm sure my father worked with her at one time or another, although I don't know in what capacity. I DO recall a wonderful anecdote that he related to me many years ago. Secretly, I never believed it because I never believed that someone from Hollywood royalty could be so vulnerable, but he swore to me it was true. It seems that he was friends with her then husband Jason Robards, and asked him over for drinks on New Years Eve.sometime in the '60s.. A few minutes later the phone rings and it is a very angry, very hurt Lauren Bacall, wondering why the hell she hadn't been invited too! Astonished and stammering, my father kept saying, "but Betty! But Betty!" and finally invited her over. In the end, neither of them ended up coming over, but man, what a phone call that must have been. Years later, I found a piece of paper with her phone number on it and suddenly realized that the whole story was probably true. Of course, I ended up losing that piece of paper, but I have a wonderful Lauren Bacall story. RIP, Betty...
On July 30, 2014, the cinema world lost one of its giants, Award winning makeup artist Dick Smith. For many fans and fellow makeup artists, Smith was known as "The Godfather of Makeup," an ode to his work on "The Godfather" and on his incredible influence in the movie industry. He began his career at NBC in 1945, where he literally created one of the most well-respected makeup departments in the world. Both ABC and CBS had their own departments, but NBC's team was the one getting all the attention. NBC didn't shy away from lavish productions and, as Smith notes in an interview, he hired many people who had come from a wide variety disciplines. Together, they pretty much learned it all on the job during the Golden Age of Television. How amazing and unimaginably stressful world that must have been.
Smith's death hits home for me personally because he was my father's first employer. Hired by Smith in 1950, my father, a struggling actor who often made himself up, became a member of Dick's elite team. and eventually took over as head of the department from 1959 to 1966. During his tenure, Dad thrived and eventually, the industry took notice. He won THE first ever Emmy award for his stunning work on Hallmark Hall of Fame's "Victoria Regina" and a second one in 1965 for "The Magnificent Yankee." Though he and my father rarely kept in touch, Smith's name often came up in our house as I was growing up. I knew a few stories about him, including how he injured and ultimately lost his left ring finger. I knew that there was a respect and even a bond between them, but I don't know any real specifics about their work together. In my own archives, I have no photos of them together. I also have no specific anecdotes about their work life. As word spread about Dick's death, I DID manage to find a few gems on the internet. Thanks to a video posted on www.makeupartistmag, I found two amazing photos of Dick and my father applying makeup to an actress. I THINK it may be Claire Bloom in an earlier production of "Victoria Regina," but I cannot be sure(see above). I'm also posting only part of a lengthy interview Smith had done years ago about his illustrious career. In it, he discusses the difficulties and challenges of working at NBC back then and, incredibly, mentions my father. Unfortunately, it's not the most complimentary remembrance, but it provides some invaluable information as to how my father was hired at NBC. He begins discussing my dad at around 3:30.
On June 30, director Paul Mazursky died at the age of 84. Having started out as an actor in the 50s and 60s, Mazusky soon turned to directing, helming such classics as "Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice," "Alex in Wonderland," "An Unmarried Woman" and, of course, "Harry and Tonto." My father was the chief makeup artist on the film and helped create Art Carney's old age makeup. But more than that, my father became Carney's friend. Carney was having a difficult time with the shoot and my father provided both spirit gum, false hair and a strong shoulder to lean on. After the long shoot, Carney sent a picture of the two of them with a lovely inscription "I couldn't have made it without you." Carney went on to win the Best Actor Oscar for this touching movie and the two went on their separate ways. They kept in touch for some time off and on, and my father said this was one of his more enjoyable and memorable experiences. Rest in peace, Paul...