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In Memoriam



Obituary Profiles of Entertainment Industry Figures And The Legacies They Leave Behind


Bill Tuttle: Hollywood Makeup Pioneer


Tuesday, August 7---------William J. "Bill" Tuttle, a pioneering makeup artist who was the first in his profession to win an Academy Award, died last week at the age of 95. During his 35-year career at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Tuttle created innovative techniques in the pre-digital film era and trained generations of makeup artists, who now rule the roost in Hollywood. He won the first Oscar given for achievement in makeup, for his work in the fantasy thriller 7 FACES OF DR. LAO. That Award was strictly an honorary one, but it marked a breakthrough of recognizing the contribution of makeup artists as a key element in the creation of motion pictures, particularly science fiction, fantasy and historical films.

William Julian Tuttle was born on April 13, 1912, in Jacksonville, Florida. He dropped out of school in his teens to help support his mother and younger brother, Thomas Tuttle, who also would work as a makeup artist in the film industry. At 18, Tuttle moved to Los Angeles and was eventually apprenticed to Jack Dawn, who was then head of makeup at Twentieth Century Pictures. In 1940, Tuttle followed Dawn to MGM, where he spent the next 35 years, moving up to become the head of the makeup department for the final twenty.

While much of his makeup work at MGM, the glossiest of all the film studios, was designed to make the actors look more handsome or the women more beautiful, Tuttle is best known for his work in the fantasy genre, where his artistry and imagination was able to fully flower. In 1960, his feverish imagination created the monstrous Morlocks, the advanced civilization in the adaptation of H.G. Wells' futuristic thriller THE TIME MACHINE. In 1964, he created the makeup for the fantasy film 7 FACES OF DR. LAO. That project, produced by fantasy pioneer George Pal, is considered a landmark in make-up artistry. In the film, Tuttle transformed actor Tony Randall into the seven characters of the title, including the Asian character Dr. Lao, an aged and bearded Merlin the Magician. His work on that film not only won him the honorary Oscar, but elevated the status of the makeup artist to one of the more powerfu guilds in Hollywood. By the 1980s, the field was recognized with its own Oscar category.....a tradition that continues to this day.

During the 1960s, he also worked in television, most famously on the 1960s fantasy anthology series, THE TWILIGHT ZONE, contributing to that series' most memorable episodes. He drew raves for his work in the Mel Brooks comedy YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974), particularly for turning actor Peter Boyle into the essence of the Frankenstein monster. He won awards for his work for the fantasy/sci fi films LOGAN'S RUN (1976), THE FURY (1978) and his final film LOVE AT FIRST BITE (1979). By the 1970s, MGM was dismantling its back lot and Tuttle had to shut down the makeup department. He was left with an extensive archive of plaster masks he had made of the faces of actors. They were part of a system he developed to speed the process of applying makeup during shooting. He donated the more than 100 masks — featuring such famous faces as Paul Newman, Charlton Heston and Laurence Olivier — to the University of Southern California, where he taught from 1970 to 1995. "He influenced so many people", six-time Oscar winner Rick Baker  (AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON) was quoted as saying in the Los Angeles Times. "His work also greatly influenced me and all of my colleagues. He was a true pioneer."

Sandy Mandelberger, In Memoriam Editor

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About In Memoriam

Mandelberger Sandy
(International Media Resources)




Obituary Profiles of Entertainment Industry Figures And The Legacies They Leave Behind

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