Archive for Sunday, September 2, 2001

Academy Award-winning makeup artist dies

John Chambers won honorary Oscar for his research and development in field

September 2, 2001


— Oscar-winning makeup pioneer John Chambers, who did everything from put the pointy ears on "Star Trek's" Mr. Spock to turn actors into simians for the original "Planet of the Apes," has died of diabetes complications. He was 78.

Chambers died Aug. 25 at the Motion Picture and Television Fund retirement home in Woodland Hills.

During his 30-year career, Chambers worked on numerous movies and television shows, including TV's "The Outer Limits," "The Munsters," "Lost in Space" and "Mission Impossible." His film credits included "The List of Adrian Messenger" and "The Island of Dr. Moreau."

Most of the time he worked out of a lab in his Burbank garage, and it wasn't unusual for his neighbors to see stars like Leonard Nimoy, Lana Turner, Marlon Brando and Mickey Rooney drop in for special makeup sessions.

When Chambers worked on "Planet of the Apes" in the 1960s, he recalled in a recent interview how he spent hours at the Los Angeles Zoo doing research.

"It was the best way I could think of for capturing the elastic facial expressions of the apes," he said.

His preparation led him to develop a new type of foam rubber that was easier to work with than the material commonly used at the time. He also created facial appliances that could be attached to actors' faces to form primate features.

For his efforts he became only the second makeup artist to receive an honorary Academy Award. A competitive category for makeup was established in the 1980s.

Chambers also developed a new technique for making "bald caps" for actors. His invention, made from liquid plastic sprayed onto a metal form of an actor's head, remains the industry standard.

He is survived by his wife, Joan.

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