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.