Max Factor was the daddy of modern makeup artists

October 31, 1990|By Robin Givhan | Robin Givhan,Knight-Ridder Newspapers

Although we're not experts on the best sights in Los Angeles, we'd like to give our votes to the Max Factor Museum. During our recent trip to California, we had a personal (la-di-da) tour and came away with all sorts of interesting tidbits.

First of all, the whole museum was built by old Max himself, who was the makeup artist and hairdresser to the czar's court in Russia before making his way to the United States. The museum originally was done in art deco style and was in pretty shabby shape until Jack Nicholson revamped a large portion of it as a setting in "The Two Jakes." Let's just say that the redecorating was a lot more successful than the film.

Max was responsible for all sorts of cosmetics innovations, including pancake makeup, lip gloss, the word "makeup" itself and the first hair mousse, brillox. Obviously, Max wasn't perfect, and we hold him personally responsible for the influx of big hair into the Midwest.

For a while, Max and his cosmetic company were so influential that celebs would appear in Max Factor ads for free, just to get their photos issued all over the world and, of course, to be connected to the makeup giant. Elizabeth Taylor and Angela Lansbury both turned up in Max Factor ads looking young, nubile and glamorous.

We also discovered that Max was a big wigmaker. What shocked us was that just about everybody was outfitted with one of Max's lace front wigs. The lace made it almost impossible to see that the hair was fake. Rosalind Russell was the queen of wigs in the film "Auntie Mame." Fred Astaire wore one and so did John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart. We were crushed.

The lesson in all this was that with a good makeup artist, a good wig and proper lighting, anyone could be a glamour puss. We suggest Taylor, Lansbury and Stewart contact the current experts at Max Factor for a glamour check.

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