Dick Smith, 'Exorcist' and 'Godfather' Makeup Artist, Dead at 92 - Rolling Stone
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Dick Smith, ‘Exorcist’ and ‘Godfather’ Makeup Artist, Dead at 92

The artist won an Oscar for his work on the 1984 film ‘Amadeus’

Dick Smith The Exorcist the godfatherDick Smith The Exorcist the godfather

Dick Smith

Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images

Dick Smith, the Oscar-winning makeup artist who turned teenaged Linda Blair into a possessed demon  in The Exorcist and made special dentures to give Marlon Brando jowls in The Godfather, has died following a long illness. He was 92, USA Today reports.

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Makeup artist Rick Baker announced Smith’s death via Twitter. “The master is gone,” he wrote. “My friend and mentor Dick Smith is no longer with us. The world will not be the same.”

Smith grew up in Larchmont, New York, and attended Yale as a pre-med student, majoring in zoology. In his sophomore year, he dedicated his interests to theatrical makeup, according to Oscars.org, and began working with a Yale theater group.

From 1945 to 1959, Smith served as the head of makeup at NBC, where he introduced latex and plastic into makeup artists’ bags of tricks. Upon breaking into film, he achieved many notable feats that earned him the nickname the “Godfather of Makeup.” In 1965, he wrote Do-It-Yourself Monster Make-up Handbook, which Baker has cited as an inspiration.

For the 1969 film Midnight Cowboy, he helped create a formula for fake blood using corn syrup and Kodak Photo-Flo, with variants of the recipe still used today, according to Slate. Smith pulled off a number of feats in aging actors for the screen. In 1970, he added nearly 100 years to Dustin Hoffman for scenes in Little Big Man. In the 1984 film Amadeus, Smith and fellow makeup artist Paul LeBlanc turned F. Murray Abraham, who was in his mid-40s, into the elderly, jealous composer Antonio Salieri, earning earn the film one of eight Oscars. (He was also nominated for putting 20 years on the pre–Grumpy Old Men Jack Lemmon in the 1989 movie Dad.)

Other notable films Smith worked on include 1962’s Requiem for a Heavyweight, 1963’s It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad World, 1976’s Taxi Driver, 1980’s Altered States, 1981’s Scanners and 1984’s Starman. He also worked on the late Sixties and early Seventies TV series Dark Shadows, turning actor Jonathan Frid into vampire Barnabas Collins. His last credit was for the 1999 movie House on Haunted Hill.

In 2012, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Board of Governors presented Smith with a Governor’s Honorary Award “for his unparalleled mastery of texture, shade, form and illusion.” He also won the Makeup Artists Lifetime Achievement Award at the Makeup Artists and Hair Stylist Guild Awards, according to Variety, as well as a Primetime Emmy for the 1967 production Mark Twain Tonight!

“Dick Smith is the greatest living makeup artist on the planet,” Tom Savini once said, according to David Konow’s book Reel Terror. “He’s invented all the techniques that every makeup artist uses today. They might improve on it, they might make it better, but it all begins with his techniques.”

In This Article: Obituary, The Godfather


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