Richard Emerson “Dick” Smith (born June 26, 1922, died July 30 2014) was an American special effects make-up artist (nicknamed “The Godfather of Make-Up”) known for his pioneering work on such films as Little Big Man, The Godfather, The Exorcist, Taxi Driver, Ghost Story (1981) and Scanners.
On July 31 2014, special effects makeup artist Rick Baker tweeted that: “The master is gone. My friend and mentor Dick Smith is no longer with us. The world will not be the same.”
Smith pioneered the method of applying prosthetics made from foam latex in small pieces as opposed to the standard of applying a latex mask as one solid piece. Smith’s technique allowed the actor to have a wide range of facial expressions, making the makeup appear more natural. Despite initial criticism from many professional makeup artists at the time, Smith’s makeup techniques proved to be superior. Today, the standard methods of applying prosthetics are those that he invented.
Early work by Smith was seen on a short-lived syndicated supernatural Twilight Zone clone TV show produced by David Susskind in 1961 called Way Out, hosted by Roald Dahl. Most memorable was a make-up of a man who had half of his face suddenly erased by a spilled vial of photo retouching fluid that affected real people when merely applied to their photos. In another Way Out episode, a Hunchback of Notre Dame make-up created by Smith becomes permanently affixed to an evil actor who then became his character and could never remove his make-up. Smith contributed to fourteen other memorable Way Out episodes, and other 60’s television shows as well, such as several episodes of Dark Shadows, when he aged actor Jonathan Frid’s character to appear over 175 years old for one storyline.
In the early-mid 60s, Smith published an instructional book, entitled Dick Smith’s Do-It-Yourself Monster Make-up Handbook, a special edition of Forrest J. Ackerman‘s Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine series.
Smith was also one of the early pioneers of combining make-up with on-set ‘practical’ special effects, starting with The Exorcist in 1973. Though many of Smith’s make-up effects were so well conceived as to go undetected, his expertise gained prominence and acclaim through the variety and ingenuity of his many effect. He created the makeup for Robert De Niro’s Travis Bickle character in Taxi Driver as well as the effects for the bloodbath at the film’s climax.
Director Mike Nichols originally hired actress Karen Black to play the role of the sexpot Bobbie in Carnal Knowledge. When Nichols decided on a nude scene, he had Smith, who had been hired to create aging effects for the male characters that were never used, to fashion artificial breasts for Black. Disappointed by the way the artificial breasts moved, Nichols replaced Black with Ann Margret, who had large, natural breasts. Smith later recycled the foam rubber breasts in The Stepford Wives for the scene in which Katharine Ross played her robotic replacement in a sheer negligée.
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