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Obituaries

Monty Westmore, 84; member of legendary family of makeup artists

November 15, 2007|Dennis McLellan | Times Staff Writer

Monty Westmore, a third-generation member of the legendary family of Hollywood makeup artists whose long career included "The Towering Inferno," "Jurassic Park" and "Hook," has died. He was 84.

Westmore died Tuesday of prostate cancer at the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills, said Christiana Benson, Westmore's cousin.

In a nearly six-decade career that began at Warner Bros. in the 1940s, Westmore amassed more than 100 film credits, including "3 Women," "Stand By Me," "The Shawshank Redemption," "Se7en," "Star Trek: Insurrection" and "Chaplin" -- as well as doing uncredited work on films such as "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" and "Touch of Evil."

Westmore was Joan Crawford's personal makeup artist during the later part of her career, which included the 1962 film "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?," which also starred Bette Davis.

He also was Paul Newman's favored makeup artist and worked on more than a dozen of the actor's films over three decades, including "The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean," "The Verdict," "Fort Apache, the Bronx," "The Color of Money" and "Message in a Bottle."

"I think once it was announced I was doing a film, it was just automatic that Monty would be doing the makeup," Newman told The Times on Wednesday.

"When working on a film, there is a lot of pressure, and he was so low-key and kind of slipped underneath all that aggravation and everything," Newman said. "It was very comforting to have him around. He will be sorely missed."

Westmore's long career also included serving as the makeup artist for the last seven years of "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet," the classic TV sitcom that ran from 1952 to 1966.

In 1992, Westmore shared an Academy Award nomination for best makeup for his work on the Steven Spielberg-directed film "Hook."

He also shared Emmy Award nominations for outstanding achievement in makeup for the 1983 TV movie "Who Will Love My Children?" and for the 1996 TV movie "The Late Shift."

His last screen credit was as one of the makeup artists on the 2000 film "How the Grinch Stole Christmas."

The same year, a teary Westmore received a standing ovation when he accepted the George Westmore Lifetime Achievement Award at the inaugural Hollywood Makeup Artist and Hair Stylist Guild Awards.

The award is named after Westmore's grandfather, who opened the first small makeup department at a motion picture studio -- Selig Studios in Los Angeles -- in 1917. He later became head of the makeup department at MGM.

In an interview with Daily Variety a week before receiving the award, Monty Westmore shared a few memories of his nearly 10 years working with Crawford.

Because the legendary actress preferred to do her own makeup, it was Westmore's job to lay out her makeup supplies and curl six pairs of her false eyelashes each morning before filming began.

"She was wonderful at gluing them on herself, and when you watch her pictures, you see how expressive her eyes looked," he said.

In addition to carrying Crawford's makeup to the set, Westmore also carried another of her essentials: a cooler containing vodka and ice.

"She would always ask for a 'drink of water,' but I never once saw her out of control," he recalled. In fact, "she always tried to get a director tipsy when she wanted the script changed."

She tried doing that with a young Spielberg, but Westmore said he made sure the glass contained more water than vodka.

"If she'd have smelled his glass she would have chopped my head off," he said.

It was only natural that Westmore would get into the family business. All six of George Westmore's sons became acclaimed makeup artists. Monte -- Monty Westmore's father -- was Rudolph Valentino's makeup artist and later worked on "Gone with the Wind."

Perc and Ern Westmore jointly opened the first makeup department at First National Pictures, which was later bought by Warner Bros. Perc Westmore remained as head of the makeup department at Warner's and Ern Westmore opened his own makeup department at RKO and later became head of the makeup department at 20th Century Fox.

Wally Westmore became the longtime head of the makeup department at Paramount. Bud Westmore became the longtime makeup department head at Universal. And Frank, the youngest Westmore brother, worked on Cecil B. DeMille's 1956 version of "The Ten Commandments" and later won an Emmy for his work on the 1972 TV-movie "Kung Fu."

The brothers also teamed up in the mid-'30s to open the House of Westmore, a prestigious salon on Sunset Boulevard.

In June, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce announced that the Westmore family would receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame next year.

"The legacy is they are the ones that modernized and professionalized makeup departments at the movie studios," said film historian Marc Wanamaker.

There are now fourth- and fifth-generation Westmores working in makeup and production in Hollywood.

Born Montague George Westmore on June 12, 1923, in Los Angeles, the makeup artist launched his career in 1943 as an apprentice to his uncle, Perc Westmore, at Warner Bros. He then spent seven years at Universal.

Westmore is survived by his wife, June; his children from a previous marriage, Wendy, Missy, Terri-Anne and Monty; his brothers, Marvin and Michael; and five grandchildren.

A celebration of his life is pending. Instead of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in Westmore's memory to the George Westmore Research Library & Museum, 916 W. Burbank Blvd., Suite R, Burbank, CA, 91506.

dennis.mclellan@latimes.com

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