Saturday September 1 3:25 AM ET
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Oscar-Winning Makeup Artist Dies at 78
LOS ANGELES (AP) - Oscar-winning makeup pioneer John Chambers, who
did everything from put the pointy ears on ``Star Trek's'' Mr. Spock to turn
actors into simians for the original ``Planet of the Apes,'' has died of
diabetes complications. He was 78.
Chambers died Aug. 25 at the Motion Picture and Television Fund retirement
home in Woodland Hills.
During his 30-year career, Chambers worked on numerous movies and television
shows, including TV's ``The Outer Limits,'' ``The Munsters'' ``Lost in Space''
and ``Mission Impossible.'' His film credits included ``The List of Adrian
Messenger'' and ``The Island of Dr. Moreau.''
Most of the time he worked out of a lab in his Burbank garage, and it wasn't
unusual for his neighbors to see stars like Leonard Nimoy, Lana Turner, Marlon
Brando and Mickey Rooney drop in for special makeup sessions.
When he worked on ``Planet of the Apes'' in the 1960s, Chambers recalled in a
recent interview how he spent hours at the Los Angeles Zoo doing research.
``It was the best way I could think of for capturing the elastic facial
expressions of the apes,'' he said.
His preparation led him to develop a new type of foam rubber that was easier
to work with than the material commonly used at the time. He also created facial
appliances that could be attached to actors' faces to form primate features.
For his efforts he became only the second makeup artist to receive an
honorary Academy Award. A competitive category for makeup was established in the
Chambers also developed a new technique for making ``bald caps'' for actors.
His invention, made from liquid plastic sprayed onto a metal form of an actor's
head, remains the industry standard.
He is survived by his wife, Joan.
And here is a better tribute courtesy of
Ain't It Cool News
Oscar winning Makeup Artist John Chambers dies...
Father Geek here with [a sad note] for film lovers everywhere... Classic,
award winning Makeup Artist John Chambers has died... For a near complete list
of John's work in film Just Click Here. [He] will be missed here at Geek
Headquarters in Austin, as I'm sure [he] will be around the world of cinema.
Here are the thoughts of some of our readers who sent them in to ol Father
I'm sure the news has already filtered in to AICN HQ, but veteran makeup
artist John Chambers, who won an Oscar for his work on the original Planet of
the Apes, died this past Saturday. I'm sure the irony of his passing, just
weeks after the release of Tim Burton's big-budget remake, won't go unnoticed.
Chambers actually got his start during the depression when he cut hair for
the neighborhood kids, using a large pair of scissors used for cutting rubber
patches to mend tires. During World War II, he trained as a dental technician,
and after leaving the army, went to work at the Hines Veterans Hospital in
Illinois. It was there that Chambers began fashioning prosthetic limbs and body
parts for injured veterans, a practice that he continued for virtually all of
his professional life.
In 1953 Chambers got a job at NBC in Los Angeles, where he got his baptism of
fire doing live television, where a makeup artist had to think fast and
improvise faster. At one point, he asked Pinky Lee for some of his old toupees,
which he then used to cut out mustaches that could be applied at a moment's
notice. After a six-year stint at NBC, Chambers moved on to Universal Studios
where he worked in the makeup lab under department head Bud Westmore. The two
didn't always see eye to eye- at one point, knowing that Chambers cut hair,
Westmore asked for a free haircut, but a few badly placed snips put an end to
the requests once and for all. In 1963, he tackled his biggest challenge to
date: creating a series of prosthetic makeups for The List of Adrian
Messenger. Although a bit primitive by today's standards, the makeup became
one of the film's biggest selling points. During that period, Chambers also
helped to create some of the main characters in The Munsters.
In the mid-60s, Chambers left Universal to open his own shop, which he ran
from a converted garage at his home in Burbank, and it wasn't long before film
and TV producers came calling. The new shop supplied prosthetics for I Spy,
Mission: Impossible, Night Gallery, Lost in Space and
The Outer Limits for which his makeup on 'The Sixth Finger' remains a TV
classic. Chambers also created Leonard Nimoy's pointed ears for Star Trek,
for which he charged just $25 a pair.
Not all of Chambers's work was in film and television. He used to disguise
professional gamblers so they could enter casinos in Vegas without being
identified by security cameras. He made a seven-foot Bigfoot figure for a
Carnival Exhibition that toured the US and Canada for years. Chambers is also
reputed to have made the Bigfoot seen in the now-famous home movie footage, but
that's never been proven.
Chambers was actually working on I Spy when he was contacted by Ben
Nye, head of makeup for 20th Century Fox to talk about a project called
Planet of the Apes. With little more than three months, Chambers and his
makeup team had to design, sculpt, test and manufacture the prosthetics for more
than 200 apes, with a budget reportedly less than a million dollars. The film
was a massive success for Fox, prompting several sequels and earning Chambers an
honorary Oscar, only the second time one had been awarded.
During the '70s and early '80s, Chambers continued to work in film and TV. In
addition to the inevitable Apes sequels, other credits included
Slaughterhouse Five, SSSSSSS, Phantom of the Paradise, The
Island of Dr. Moreau and National Lampoon's Class Reunion. He also
appeared as a National Guard Captain in Schlock at the request of
director John Landis, a long-time fan of the artist.
Chambers didn't suffer fools gladly. More than once, his fiery Irish temper
brought him into conflict with some of Hollywood's greatest actors, and more
often than not, he won many of those battles. He recognized the value of his
work, and wasn't afraid to walk away if he felt a producer was trying to
Ironically, the fanfare given to Burton's new Planet of the Apes
(which will doubtless earn Rick Baker yet another Oscar) has also helped focus a
bit of attention on the original film and the people who made it. John Chambers
was a real talent, and a larger than life personality. His like will probably
never be seen again.
Just a Guy Named Joe
And finally, from
Dateline: Friday, August 31, 2001
In Memory of John Chambers
Legendary make-up man dies.
By: FRANK KURTZ
Word has come that the great make-up artist/technician John Chambers passed
away last weekend of natural causes.
Chambers started his career creating prosthetic limbs. Eventually, he jumped
into the world of television, requiring him to quickly create make-up effects.
Some of Chambers most prominent genre creations were for original THE OUTER
LIMITS TV series, where he created David McCallum's "Sixth Finger" make-up,
and Irwin Allen shows, including LOST IN SPACE.
Chambers soon moved up to film work, the most prominent being his
groundbreaking ape appliances for the PLANET OF THE APES film series.
Other feature films Chambers worked on include SSSSSSS (1973), PHANTOM
OF THE PARADISE (1974), and THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU (1977).
In addition, though he repeatedly denied involvement, the scuttlebutt among
Hollywood make-up types for years suggested that Chambers also created the
bigfoot suit that is seen walking through the woods in the film footage shot in
1967 by Roger Patterson and Robert Gimlin of an alleged real-life sasquatch.
Our condolences go out to Chambers family and friends.