Jack Pierce (born Janus Piccoula; May 5, 1889 – July 19, 1968) was a Hollywood make-up artist most famous for creating the iconic make-up worn by Boris Karloff in Universal Studios’ 1931 adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, along with various other classic monster make-ups for Universal Studios.
After immigrating to the United States from his native Greece as a teenager, Pierce tried his hand at several careers, including a stint as an amateur baseball player. In the opportunist twenties, Pierce embarked on a series of jobs in cinema—cinema manager, stuntman, actor, even assistant director—which would eventually lead to his mastery of in the field of makeup. In 1915 he was hired to work on crews for the studio’s productions. On the 1926 set of The Monkey Talks, Jack Pierce created the make-up for actor Jacques Lernier who was playing a simian with the ability to communicate. The head of Universal, Carl Laemmle, was won over with the creative outcome. Next came Conrad Veidt in The Man Who Laughs, also a silent Universal picture. Pierce was then immediately hired full-time by the newly established Universal Pictures motion picture studio. The 1930 death of Lon Chaney, who throughout the 1920s had made a name for himself by creating grotesque and often painful horror makeups, opened a niche for Pierce and Universal, Chaney’s films provided audiences with the deformed, monstrous faces that Pierce and moviegoers so clearly enjoyed.
Universal’s first talkie horror film, Dracula, eschewed elaborate horror make-up. Pierce designed a special color greasepaint for Bela Lugosi for his vampire character, but apparently the actor insisted on applying his own makeup. For all film appearances of the character thereafter, Pierce instituted a different look entirely, recasting Dracula as a man with greying hair and a moustache. The most significant creation during Pierce’s time at the studio was clearly Frankenstein, originally begun with Lugosi in the role of the Monster. The preliminary design was apparently similar to the Paul Wegener 1920 German film of The Golem. When James Whale replaced Florey as director, the concept was radically changed. Pierce came up with a design which was horrific as well as logical in the context of the story. So, where Henry Frankenstein has accessed the brain cavity, there is a scar and a seal, and the now famous “bolts” on the neck are actually electrodes; carriers for the electricity used to revive the stitched-up corpse. How much input director James Whale had into the initial concept remains controversial. Universal loaned out Pierce for the Lugosi film White Zombie. They also loaned out some of the Dracula sets for the troublesome filming. Lugosi had collaborated with Pierce on the look of his devilish character in the film.
Pierce’s make-up can be seen in Bride of Frankenstein (1935) and Son of Frankenstein (1939), The Mummy (1932), Lon Chaney Jr. as The Wolf Man (1941), and their various sequels associated with the characters. He also helped comedian Bud Abbott augment his thinning hairline with a widow’s peak toupee in his early films with Lou Costello. Pierce’s final credit is as makeup artist for the TV show Mister Ed from 1961 to 1964. He died in 1968 from uremia.
Jack Pierce’s enduring work at Universal has become a huge influence to many in the entertainment field, including make-up artists Rick Baker and Tom Savini. Jack Pierce was an innovator in the world of screen entertainment and material design. Pierce understandably felt he never got the recognition he deserved and died a bitter man. Finally, in 2003, Pierce was recognized with a lifetime achievement award from the Hollywood Make-up Artist and Hair Stylist Guild.
In recent years, there is a strong desire to give Pierce a Hollywood Boulevard star for his popular lasting triumphs that have been preserved for decades on the movies he worked on. Pierce undeniably created screen icons to last beyond his lifetime. His contributions still continue to attract droves of attention to his astonishingly memorable, entirely original designs.
May 6, 2014 | Categories: Biography: ART DEPARTMENT | Tags: Art, Boris Karloff, Classic, Comic Book Movies, Controversial, Cult, Disturbing, Dracula, Franchise, Frankenstein, Gore, Greece, Hollywood, Horror, Icons, Images, Independent, Jack Pierce, Legend, Mary Shelley, Sci-Fi, Scream Queens, Serial Killer, Special Make-Up Effects, Suspense, The Monster, The Wolfman, Thriller, Universal Monsters, Zombies | Leave a comment
If you have a monster fan in your life who isn’t quite as in touch with the Universal Monsters legacy as they should be, send them this handy chart, which highlights all of the major films involving these core characters from 1923-1960. Courtesy of Movie.com
April 11, 2014 | Categories: Images | Tags: Art, Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Bride of Frankenstein, Classic, Controversial, Creature from the Black lagoon, Cult, Disturbing, Dracula, Franchise, Frankenstein, Hollywood, Horror, Icons, Images, Legend, Monsters, Remakes, Scream Queens, Serial Killer, Suspense, The Invisible man, The Mummy, The Wolfman, Thriller, Universal Monsters, Vampires, Violence | Leave a comment
Macmillan Entertainment and Everest Entertainment Group are developing a feature film from The Wolfman, the 2008 novel written by Nicholas Pekearo and published by Tor Books. It’s about a lost soul who happens to be a werewolf who struggles with his affliction until he decides to focus on the bad guys who deserve it, including a serial killer preying on young girls. This development would be a dream come true by Pekearo, a crime and comic book buff who was just getting his footing as a novelist. He was also an auxiliary policeman for the NYPD who died seven years ago after being shot six times by a crazed gunman who also killed Pekearo’s partner in Greenwich Village. That partner, 19-year-old Yevgeniy Marshalik, was the star of his high school debating team and a student at NYU. The murders created controversy and pointed up the ludicrousness of sending out auxiliary cops who are not allowed to carry weapons. Despite this, and the fact that unarmed auxiliary cops weren’t supposed to engage armed suspects, the duo chased down the gunman after he had already killed a bartender and was looking for other victims. The book was published posthumously in 2009.
“I read The Wolfman shortly after its release and couldn’t get the character of Marlowe Higgins and the world Pekearo created out of my head,” Davis said. “This is not your typical werewolf piece, and I was amazed by how much new territory he uncovered in this first novel. I have high hopes for this as it seems there is now finally a market for pieces like this, seeing the success of brilliant limited series such as True Detective, and audiences now have a hunger for out-of-the-box anti-heroes. In talking with those around him while he was alive, it was Nicholas’ hope to see this turned into a series, whether it was film or television, taking a similar journey to the one Bruce Banner did in The Incredible Hulk. Having died a hero’s death trying to protect people while chasing down a madman while he was unarmed, I hope Nicholas’ voice as a writer finally gets the attention it deserves and the journey he started with Marlowe continues.” Courtesy of Deadline.
March 16, 2014 | Categories: NEWS: Horror | Tags: Auxilary Policeman, Comic Book, Controversial, Cult, Disturbing, Gore, Hollywood, Horror, Icons, Independent, Legend, Nicholas Pekearo, NYU, Possession, Serial Killer, Slasher, Suspense, The Walking Dead, The Wolfman, Thriller, Violence, Werewolf | Leave a comment
February 22, 2014 | Categories: Promotional | Tags: Art, Blockbuster, Classic, Controversial, Cult, Disturbing, Franchise, Gore, Hollywood, Horror, Icons, Images, Legend, Lon Chaney Jr., Possession, Remakes, Suspense, The Walking Dead, The Wolfman, Thriller, Universal Horror, Universal Pictures, Violence | Leave a comment
Learn how movie make-up master Rick Baker brings the Monster’s Bride to life and how he plans, paints and perfects his Zombie, a creature-creation the artist designed exclusively for M∙A∙C to inspire your Halloween look. Watch how to create the make-up magic yourself.
January 8, 2014 | Categories: Promotional | Tags: Actors, Art, Bride of Frankenstein, Controversial, Cult, Disturbing, Horror, Icons, Legend, Rick Baker, Scream Queens, Special Make-Up Effects, The Walking Dead, The Wolfman, Universal Monsters, Video Clips, Zombie | Leave a comment