Wednesday, December 17, 2014


Selling for about $1200 at auction on 15 May 2011 was a page of original art that appeared in James Warren's Creepy #27. The image is 14.5" x 20.5" and is rendered with pen and ink on illustration board.

Following is the description of the lot: 

(Warren Publishing, 1969) 14 ½ in. x 20 ½ in. Pen and ink on board. Original comic artwork by Tom Sutton for “Creepy’s Loathsome Lore” which appeared in Creepy #27, and depicting Boris Karloff in his signature roles in Frankenstein, The Mummy and The Raven. It features Karloff seated with Jack Pierce applying the Monster makeup and being swathed in gauze as the Mummy. Text by Forrest J Ackerman and inscribed by him along the upper margin, “KARLOFF! Man of a thousand faces – from Mummy – slow to swift death from invisible ray’s flow! Ackolyte Forrest J – 1993.” Tom Sutton’s career is synonymous with his work for the horror comic, Creepy. Slight glue residue at the top edge and upper center, light smudging at the margins. A wonderful association between these two icons of horror.

As described, the artwork is attributed to the late Tom Sutton. Unfortunately for the buyer, this is incorrect. The art is by Tony Williamsune (a.k.a. Tony Williamson, Tony Tallarico) and his penciller Bill Fraccio. There are feature stories by both Williamsune and Tom Sutton in this issue, and one only has to compare the two for a definitive answer. Not to fret, however. This nicely rendered artwork has the added bonus of an inscription by Forrest J Ackerman, the person who scripted this particular installment of Creepy's recurring one-page feature, "Loathsome Lore", making it a treasured addition to any monster fan's collection.

Below is the page as it was printed in Creepy's June 1969 issue. While the likeness of Pierce is well done, artistic license was taken with the rest of the scenario; it is unlikely that either one of them spent much time -- if any -- in folding chairs, and Pierce is always pictured wearing a barber's smock when applying makeup, not the safari shirt and cravat seen here. Also noteworthy is the addition of the photo of Karloff's face as the Frankenstein monster to the, ahem, heading.


Sunday, December 7, 2014


The photo shown above appeared in the September 1937 issue of SILVER SCREEN. The caption reads, "John King being made up by Jack Pierce, expert." Anyone familiar with the singular visage of Jack Pierce will know at once that it is certainly not him in the picture. It is instead, most likely an assistant, or even someone merely posing for the publicity shot.

Considering the date of the magazine, the photo is probably from the Universal Picture, THE ROAD BACK, released on 1 June 1937. Scripted by Charles Kenyon and Erich Maria Remarque, it was the sequel to the Academy Award-winning ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT. James Whale was the director, and this was the next film he made after his personal favorite, the musical SHOWBOAT. Other familiar Universal production personnel were involved with the making of THE ROAD BACK, such as Charles D. Hall as Art Director, John P. Fulton creating the special effects, Charles Previn as Music Director, and of course, Jack Pierce heading up the makeup department. For Universal's horror fans, familiar faces seen acting in the film were: Frank Reicher, Lionel Atwill, E.E. Clive, Dwight Frye and Edward Van Sloan.

Another note for fans of Universal's history: soon after the release of Whales' SHOWBOAT, Carl Laemmle was forced out of his company for financial reasons. His son, Junior Laemmle, followed suit. The Laemmles exited the studio that their name created in the early days in Hollywood. It also heralded the end of the classic horror era that Universal created a little over a half-dozen years before. Pierce had about another decade to go until he too was shown the door.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


Coming up for bid at auction is an article of Jack Pierce-related memorabilia. The 8" x 10" still depicts Jack applying the finishing touches to Lon Chaney, Jr. as the title character in Universal's 1941 production of THE WOLF MAN.

In typical publicity department parlance, the pasted snipe on the back of the photo announces: "'Frankenstein' Creator Originates Werewolf Guise For Film", and states that it took five months of research, five months of preparation, and five hours every day to apply the makeup.

The Wolf Man makeup was to be Jack Pierce's last great monster creation. While he would make the Wolf Man, Frankenstein's Monster, and Dracula in future films for Universal, never again would he have quite the same luxury of spending months of prep time and multiple hours with a new monster creation sitting in his makeup chair, "waiting for a new life to be born."

Thursday, September 18, 2014


Details of Jack Pierce's career of his transition from silent films to his notoriety as head of makeup for Universal Studios in the early 1930's is murky. There are a few examples,however, of the evolution of his skill as a creative artist. One indication was his masterful work that turned actor Jacques Lerner from human to simian in Raoul Walsh's 1927 Fox production, The Monkey Talks.

Pierce had an affinity for hair appliances. While his work using Yak hair on Lon Chaney Jr. in The Wolf Man immediately comes to mind, his creation of Jocko is, by comparison, startlingly realistic. So much so, in fact, that it got the attention of Carl Laemmle at Universal, and it didn't take long before Jack was under contract with them as the head of their makeup department.

Seen here is a one-page spread from the April 1928 issue of Picture Play magazine. Titled "The Simian Invasion", it depicts five different ape makeups that were currently used in various films. Jack's Jocko is shown, as well as a photo of Charles Gemora wearing his own makeup in The Leopard Lady.

Most notably, though, is a close up of Greek actor George Kotsonaros as the "Gorilla Man" from the still-lost silent, The Wizard. Like the actor "Bull" Montana, Kotsonaros (1892-1933) was a big man. He became a professional wrestler after his short, five-year film career. He died tragically, in a car accident in Alabama.

No makeup credits have been given to the Gorilla Man. The Wizard was released on 11 December 1927 and The Monkey Talks had been released earlier in the year on 20 February. Both were produced by Fox Film Corporation (later to merge with 20th Century to become 20th Century Fox). Kotsonaros was Greek and so was Pierce. Would it be too much of a stretch to consider Jack Pierce as the make up artist for this character, as well?

Thursday, July 31, 2014


Basketball was conceived in America in late 1891 and the first official game was played in January, 1892.  At the time, Janus Piccoulas was a two-year old toddler in Greece.  No one could have foreseen that four decades later, the grown-up Janus would play a major role in the history of the game invented in his adopted country.

Basketball's popularity spread quickly, and by the 1920s colleges and athletic clubs from coast to coast were playing the game.  One of the people captured in basketball's spell was Jack Pierce, a part-time stunt man, actor, and makeup artist--the adult Janus Picoulas--struggling to succeed in Hollywood's growing movie business.  As early as 1926, Pierce was arranging basketball tournaments for the A.A.U.'s Southern Pacific Association in Los Angeles.  The athletic clubs from the communities of Los Angeles, Van Nuys, Pasadena, Owensmouth, and Hollywood competed against teams from St. Mark's Methodist Episcopal Church, the L.A. YMCA, and others.

A rival league, the six-team Recreation and Athletic Association of Southern California, was also vying for basketball fans.  One of the teams hailed from Universal Pictures, and it was a consistent winner.  In 1927, the Universal team showcased one Carl Laemmle Jr., "...reputed one of the fastest forwards for his size in the league." [L.A. Times 2/9/27]

Fast forward to 1934:  Jack Pierce and Junior Laemmle had both achieved notable success in show business.  Pierce had found his niche and cemented his reputation with makeup triumphs like THE MONKEY TALKS, THE MAN WHO LAUGHS, and of course, FRANKENSTEIN.  Carl Laemmle Jr. had astonished Hollywood with the Academy Award-winning ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT.  But neither man had lost interest in the sport of basketball.  On January 12, 1934, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER trumpeted, "Junior Laemmle Goes for Sport on Big Scale."  He gave orders to his makeup department head to "organize a Universal Pictures basketball team that will meet all comers on the Pacific Coast and throughout the nation if necessary."  The team would be separate from the already existing team and Jack pierce was to have he team ready to play by February 1.

It should be remembered that this era pre-dated the National Basketball Association.  The NCAA was a relatively new and fairly weak organization, just beginning to try and govern collegiate hoops.  the power running most amateur sports at the time was the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU).  There were many teams and leagues comprised fo adult amateur players across the United States, usually sponsored by local athletic clubs or companies.  In Los Angeles, several studios sponsored teams in the thirties and forties.

His years in semi-pro baseball and AAU basketball had taught Pierce how to assess talent and run a team.  He recruited former UCLA players and a couple of stars from other companies' teams.  With no money to pay for a coach, Pierce played a dual role of manager and coach.  Fortunately, his players were good enough that once Jack set up the team, the philosophy, and the rotation, the players could coach themselves.  This was sometimes necessary, as Pierce still had a studio makeup department to run.  He did travel with the team when he could, but eventually hired Jimmy Needles as coach.

As proof that Pierce knew his stuff, 2 1/2 years after Junior Laemmle charged Jack with orgaizing the team, Universal Pictures won the first Olympic basketball trials at Madison Square Garden, earning the right to represent the United States in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.  Seven of the team's players formed the nuceus of the 14-man squad, with Needles as the head coach.

The L.A. Times reported on April 7, 1936, that the most excited man in Los Angeles was "a stubby little make-up artist with a Charley Chaplin mustache."  It called pierce "the daddy" of the Universal Pictures team.  He greeted the team as it returned to Los Angeles, on top of the world.  Presumably, it was one of the biggest thrills of Jack Pierce's life. 

Friday, July 4, 2014


You may have seen these images before, but not quite like this. In March, 2011 Heritage Auctions offered two photos of Karloff from the 1931 Frankenstein, The one pictured above is one of Pierce's makeups that was not used in the film and sold for over $1000. The photo below was the image used on the movie herald and sold for over $1500.

Both 8"x10" gelatin silver photographs are original "first photos" from the film. The photos were most likely taken by Universal staff photographer Jack Freulich.

Friday, June 20, 2014


While not completely absent from the press, notoriety for Jack Pierce was not as abundant when compared to influential cosmetic giant Max Factor and the sheer numbers of the Westmore clan. Reviewers were also more likely to comment on the actors, director and cinematography of a film rather than the makeup artist. The paucity of screen credits for Pierce may have contributed to this, but Hollywood was, after all, all about the players.

In these reviews from Picture Play magazine's August 1935 issue. writer Norbert Lusk mentions the camera work during Henry Hull's transformation into the Werewolf of London, but does not name the person who applied the makeup (Pierce). He comes closer, but attributes a more substantial contribution (and rightly so) from Karloff in the Bride of Frankenstein, when he writes, "Boris Karloff leaves nothing undone in making The Monster a memorable masterpiece of make-up and curiously affecting acting."

Even though he had already been head of Universal's makeup department for some years, Jack Pierce's work went uncredited in both films. One wonders what the proud artist may have thought.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Sunday, May 4, 2014


Proving that Jack Pierce's influence remains as viable as ever, this year's Rondo Awards has several ballot entries for Jack Pierce-related items:
  1. Best Article - "Credit Where Credit is Due: Jack Pierce, Frankendesigner", by Dr. Gangrene (a compelling argument that Jack Pierce was the main talent behind the design of the Frankenstein Monster instead that of director James Whale).
  2. Best Article - "Wolf Men: Jack Pierce's Incarnations of The Wolf Man", by Scott Essman.
  3. Best Fan Event - The dedication of the Jack Pierce Memorial Gallery at the Cinema Makeup School (see an upcoming post for our visit there last month).

The awards ballot for 2013 is available HERE for anyone to vote. Whether or not you are a fan of Pierce (and we presume you are since your here in the first place), Doug and I highly recommend that you participate. The deadline is coming up at midnight, May 5, 2014.

[Image credit: from the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards Blog}

Friday, April 4, 2014


This year's MONSTERPALOOZA at the the Burbank Marriott Hotel was another overwhelming show of large crowds and more monsters than you could spend a week looking at.

In the theater, Scott Essman presented a talk on Jack Pierce. Sadly, it was not listed nor advertised on the schedule of events.

Jack Pierce's influence was evident in a few displays. The artwork above and below is by Aaron Kai. The mummy sculpt was about 2 feet high, and the disturbing but life-like Frankenstein Monster was life-sized.

Friday, March 28, 2014


Among the contents found in the latest issue of the U.K.-produced magazine, WE BELONG DEAD (#12), is my article on Jack Pierce. Entitled, Jack P. Pierce: Making the World's Most Famous Monsters, I cover the life and career of Pierce and summarize his accomplishments.

Editor Eric McNaughton's magazine has been recently revived after an earlier incarnation of some years ago. It is very well done and I encourage anyone interested in all aspects of classic monster movies to give it a try. Ordering information can be found HERE.

Thursday, March 20, 2014


This site is dedicated to the life and work of Jack P. Pierce, genius of cinema character makeup. As the head of Universal Studios makeup department from 1928 to 1947, Pierce created many of the most iconic screen monsters in motion picture history. During his career, Pierce designed and “brought to life” such unforgettable characters as Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, The Mummy, The Wolf Man and a host of other monstrous screen villains. Subsequent interpretations of these movie monsters were filmed in later years by other studios, but it was the original versions by Pierce that remain most indelible in cinema history and popular culture. Not surprisingly, his creations have served as inspiration for generations of makeup artists and his influence on the industry – even today – cannot be underestimated.

Pierce was the ultimate artist and craftsman, and spent many long hours developing just the right materials and techniques that made his monsters seem real. Called “practical makeup” these days, Pierce utilized everything from cotton, to collodion, to Yak hair in order to achieve his uncannily realistic effects. While foam latex and pre-cast facial appliances began to be used more frequently to save time and money, Pierce preferred instead to make his monsters “from scratch”.

It is the purpose of this site to promote Jack Pierce’s accomplishments in the motion picture industry and to help ensure that his legacy lives on. Through study, research, and networking with fellow enthusiasts, it is intended that the information presented here serve to further Jack Pierce’s deserved and rightful standing in cinematic history.

We welcome your comments, as well as any information you would like to share about the life and work of Jack Pierce. You can comment on this post or use the "Contact Us" form on the sidebar to your left. Thanks, and we hope you enjoy our page!