Bud Westmore – make-up artist

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Bud Westmore (13 January 1918 – 24 June 1973) was a make-up artist in Hollywood and son of George Westmore, a member of the Westmore family prominent in Hollywood make-up. He is credited on over 450 movies and television shows, including The List of Adrian Messenger, Man of a Thousand Faces, The Andromeda Strain and Creature from the Black Lagoon. For his involvement in Creature from the Black Lagoon he assisted the designer of the Gill-man, Disney animator Millicent Patrick, though her role was deliberately downplayed and for half a century, Westmore would receive sole credit for the creature’s conception – not, alas, the only time the work of others was overlooked somewhat. Westmore was also famous for the make-up for TV show The Munsters.

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The Westmore Hollywood dynasty was actually headed up by Bud’s father, George, who alongside work on many Douglas Fairbanks Snr films (1924’s The Thief of Baghdad and 1921’s The Three Musketeers, to name but two) could also claim the have been Winston Churchill’s barber. After taking his family across the Atlantic to America from England, he set up Hollywood’s first make-up department.

After George’s suicide (the appropriately theatrical swallowing of mercury), his sons carried on the dynasty; Monte was much associated with MGM until his early death of a heart attack following surgery; Perc became head of Make-up at Warner Bros; Wally himself became Make-up chief at Paramount; Ern worked at 20th Century Fox and low-budget film studio Eagle-Lion, but his career was hampered by an alcohol problem; Bud became head at Universal, and the youngest, Frank, was more freelance and later wrote a book on the family, The Westmores of Hollywood in 1976.

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Bud Westmore was born Hamilton Adolph, but changed his first names to George Hamilton both in tribute to his father and after the rise of Hitler made Adolph an unpopular name in the US. After free-lancing in the 40s (including work at “Poverty Row” studio PRC on the classic noir Detour in 1945), Westmore joined Universal, replacing the Godfather of monster make-up, Jack Pierce, as head of the make-up department. Although Bud worked on every conceivable genre of film, it was for his work creating monsters and aliens for horror, science fiction and fantasy films that he is best remembered, beginning with mega-cheapies such as Strangler of the Swamp, The Flying Serpent and Devil Bat’s Daughter (all 1946) until he finally made something of a breakthrough in 1948 in the (slighter) higher budget, Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein – later to cover the comedy duo’s meetings with The Invisible Man, The Mummy, The Killer, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and The Keystone Cops.

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Westmore worked at a furious pace and, truth be told, this can be seen in his somewhat basic style, lacking the intricate and ingenious work of the likes of Pierce and making easy to apply prosthetics and cheap and cheerful frights. Many have also questioned how much of the work Westmore is credited for can truly be attributed to him, never more so than with 1954’s Creature From the Black Lagoon. For many years, the creature’s design and creation was solely credited to Westmore, though we are now able to cite the original conceptual designs, drawings and paintings to Millicent Patrick and a good deal of the actual creation as being from the hands of Jack Kevan.

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Westmore continued to work relentlessly (or appear to at least), throughout the 50’s and 60’s, amongst the atomic age beasties were particularly notable works on James Cagney for the Lon Chaney biopic, Man of a Thousand Faces, and the creation of the make-up for the long-running television series, The Munsters. Here he was able to fully lampoon not only the work of others but also himself, at last the perfect marriage. Sadly, a combination of industry back-biting and financial belt-tightening meant that by 1970, Universal had cast Westmore adrift and the insolvent make-up artist did his final work for MGM’s Soylent Green in 1973. His legacy may be over-shadowed by doubts over his hands-on input but there can be little doubt that the giant bud-headed creatures of the 1940’s and 1950’s would be a little less memorable without him, to the extent that the largest building in Universal’s back-lot is named after him.

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Selected filmography:

The Strangler of the Swamp
The Flying Serpent
Devil Bat’s Daughter
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein
The Strange Door
The Black Castle
Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
It Came From Outer Space
Creature from the Black Lagoon
Revenge of the Creature
The Mole People
Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy
Cult of the Cobra
This Island Earth
Tarantula
The Creature Walks Among Us
The Deadly Mantis
The Monolith Monsters
The Thing That Couldn’t Die
Monster on the Campus
Curse of the Undead
The Leech Woman
The Night Walker
The Munsters
Dark Intruder
Let’s Kill Uncle
Eye of the Cat
Night Gallery
The Andromeda Strain
Soylent Green

Daz Lawrence, Horrorpedia

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