'Godfather of Make-up' Dick Smith dies aged 92

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 August, 2014, 11:44pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 August, 2014, 1:52am


Dick Smith, the Oscar-winning "Godfather of Make-up" who amused, fascinated and terrified moviegoers by devising unforgettable transformations for Marlon Brando in The Godfather and Linda Blair in The Exorcist among many others, has died. He was 92.

Smith, the first make-up artist to win an Academy Award for lifetime achievement, died on Wednesday in California of natural causes. His death was confirmed by the president of the Make-up Artists and Hairstylists Guild, Sue Cabral-Ebert.

His sons, David and Douglas, said: "Our lives have been blessed by our father's steadfast love and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your kind words in remembrance of him."

Widely regarded as the master in his field, Smith pioneered such materials as liquid foam latex and made special effects more realistic and spectacular.

Smith transformed the middle-aged Brando into jowly patriarch Vito Corleone and the teenage Blair into a wild-eyed demon.

Smith and Paul LeBlanc shared an Oscar in 1985 for their work on Amadeus, for which Smith turned 44-year-old F. Murray Abraham into an elderly man as Mozart's rival Antonio Salieri.

Smith fashioned a mohawk out of a plastic cap and chopped up hair for Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver and created breasts out of foam rubber for Katharine Ross in The Stepford Wives.

Smith showed little interest in special effects until spotting an instructional manual while attending Yale University. He became so obsessed he made himself up as the Hunchback of Notre Dame to scare his classmates.

Out of all the praise he received, Smith liked to cite a compliment paid by Laurence Olivier, whom Smith worked for on a 1959 TV production of The Moon and Sixpence. "Dick, it [the make-up] does the acting for me," Olivier told him.

Associated Press