Hollywood's 'Godfather of Makeup'

Posted: August 1, 2014 at 2:04 a.m.

NEW YORK -- Dick Smith, the Oscar-winning "Godfather of Makeup" 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 makeup artist to win an Academy Award for lifetime achievement, died Wednesday night in California of natural causes. His death was confirmed by the president of the Make-up Artists and Hairstylists Guild, Sue Cabral-Ebert, who declined to give further details.

Widely regarded as the master in his field, Smith helped pioneer such now-standard materials as liquid foam latex and make special effects more realistic and spectacular.

With Smith on hand, the middle-aged Brando was transformed into the jowly patriarch Vito Corleone, Blair into a scarred and wild-eyed demon, and William Hurt into a mass of protoplasm for Altered States.

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

A native of Larchmont, N.Y., Smith described himself as an introvert with little interest in special effects until spotting an instructional manual while attending Yale University. He became so obsessed that he made himself up as the Hunchback of Notre Dame, scaring his classmates. He later turned up at a screening of Frankenstein as the title character.

Metro on 08/01/2014