Remember Regan, the head-spinning monster girl from The Exorcist? Or Marlon Brando, unrecognisable as the jowly Don Corleone, in The Godfather? You might not know Dick Smith's name, but you'll know his work. Today, his protégé and close friend Rick Baker revealed that the legendary Hollywood makeup artist has passed away at the age of 92.
Smith was widely regarded as having revolutionised the art of special makeup effects, thanks to his work on these now-iconic films. He fitted the vomit device for Regan in the Exorcist and transformed her into the demonic creature of Hollywood legend. In Amadeus (1984), his skilful use of latex transformed F Murray Abraham from his 40s to his 80s. Smith was also the man behind Travis Bickle's mohican in Taxi Driver (1976) and was responsible for turning David Bowie into a vampire for The Hunger (1983).
The master is gone. My friend and mentor Dick Smith is no longer with us. The world will not be the same.— Rick Baker (@TheRickBaker) July 31, 2014
In 2012, Smith was awarded a Governors Award – the most prestigious form of Oscar – in recognition of his incredible career behind the scenes in Hollywood. Upon receiving the award Smith said: "I have loved being a makeup artist so much, but this kind of puts a crown on all of that. This is one of the greatest nights of my whole life."
Smith was a pioneer who changed the landscape of cinema's makeup methods forever. The grand master of Hollywood makeup was entirely self-taught and began his career in television, holding a position as head of the New York NBC-TV Makeup Department from 1945 to 1959. Then, he made the leap into film, where his techniques of applying prosthetics remain industry practice on movie sets today.
Watch Smith and Rick Baker talking way back in 1981 about their work on American Werewolf and Altered States:
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