Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Most Unflattering Makeup Job?

North By Northwest is on now (I wonder if the upcoming Blu-Ray release will finally correct the mis-framing that cuts off the full name on the secret spy agency's plaque? It's been cut off in every version of the film I've seen). It reminds me that one of the Pauline Kael observations I really agreed with was her denunciation of Eva Marie Saint's makeup in this film. Kael wrote that "a perverse make-up artist has turned her into an albino African mask."

When I saw the movie for the first time, it was the second thing I'd ever seen Saint in, the first being Exodus, and I thought she didn't look as good as she had in Exodus. Then I saw her in On the Waterfront and other movies where she wasn't too ostentatiously made up, and she looked great. But in North By Northwest her face looks lumpy and artificial. There's no such thing as a truly "natural" look in movies -- everybody's changed by the camera, even if they don't wear any makeup at all -- but sometimes a person looks better when the makeup and hair people are trying to make him or her look natural, and that's definitely the case here. The more they try to make her look like a beautiful blonde, the less she looks like one, even though she actually is a beautiful blonde.

This is probably due to a combination of a) Hitchcock's desire to make her look like the generic Hitchcock Blonde and b) An unfamiliar makeup department -- this was Hitchcock's only movie at MGM, and while he took most of his Paramount crew along with him, he used MGM's hair and makeup crew.

This is always the case that comes to mind when I try to think of the most unintentionally unflattering makeup job in movies. What are some other movies where someone is intended to look good, but is given makeup that makes him or her look less good than usual?


Thad said...

The full name is cut out in EVERY version. I believe that it was intentional.

Of course Saint looks a little artificial here - this is, after all, Hitchcock's most artificial film, so it goes hand in hand. Ironically, it's arguably his greatest, and most popular, film too.

mrash said...

Wonderful to have stumbled upon your blog! Many interesting things here.
I see what you mean, but Eva looks great in both shots to me. I mean, far more natural than any "actresses" we see today.

moopot said...

This post really reminded me of Elizabeth Taylor in "Suddenly, Last Summer". In the openning scene, she is supposed to look 'natural' and 'plain', and she is stunning; then when she is getting out of the asylum and is all 'dolled up', she looks kind of bizarre.

rockfish said...

I'd be more inclined to agree with you if you had chosen to target Kim Novak's appearance in Vertigo -- in different moments she appears cyborgic and almost masculine, although admittedly the different characters she plays in the film have been carefully crafted by Hitchcock and his team for a purpose.
I agree with Thad; Saint's overall look is specific to the film and its intricate dance between thriller and candy-coated black comedy.

J Lee said...

On the TV level, I vote for Liz Montgomery and Dick York at the start of the first color season of "Bewitched", Season 3, when the makeup made both stars look like they had suffered facial radiation burns. Someone at ABC or Screen Gems really wanted that color to be saturated.