Monday, May 06, 2013

Mae West: Jack Pierce

When MAE WEST met Mister Ed [aired on 22 March 1964], her makeup artist was Jack Pierce. Let's go behind the scenes, shall we?
• • Jack P. Pierce [5 May 1889 — 19 July 1968] • •
• • Born in Greece on Sunday, 5 May 1889 was a little charmer named Janus Piccoulas. Intrigued by natural materials he picked up on the road, as he accompanied his father (a goatherd) on his rounds, the little boy fashioned masks, horns, and other disguises that astonished and delighted his family and neighbors.
• • Hoping for a better life, the Piccoulas clan emigrated to America, living in NYC, then The Windy City, and finding a climate more to their liking in California.
• • Attempting to pass himself off as a native, Janus Piccoulas simplified his name to Jack Pierce, despite his father's disapproval. Off to Los Angeles he went, to try his luck within the busy film industry.  He took any job available, working as a projectionist, stunt double, and an actor. He usually played a villain. But Jack Pierce was short, only 5' 5"; to compensate, he devised elaborate make-up and outstanding disguises for his nefarious characters. 
• • During a glorious decade during the silent era, 1915 — 1925, he found employment as an actor, a director, and a make-up artist for Vitagraph, Lasky's Famous Players, and Universal.  Thanks to the popularity of sci-fi monster scripts, Pierce was able to channel his formidable talents into fashioning the look for the silver screen's epic unworldly protagonists: Dracula, Dr. Frankenstein's creature, the Wolf Man, and the Mummy.     
• • In the IMDb, his Make-Up Department credits list 155 titles, projects for the movies as well as TV.
• • From 1961 — 1964, he held his last position as make-up department head for the popular TV show "Mister Ed" where he applied his skill for 104 episodes. He was delighted to be Mae's make-up artist on the episode "Mae West Meets Mister Ed," which aired on 22 March 1964. When he met Mae, he was 74 years old; shortly after his 75th birthday, he retired.
• • As unseemly and unfair as this sounds for a man who had such a vibrant and visible career in the movie business, Jack Pierce died in virtual obscurity in Hollywood, California on Friday, 19 July 1968. He was 79.
• • On Monday, 6 May 1935 in Time Magazine • •
• • Milwaukee clerk Myrtle Lorraine Sands, while helping to re-index official records in Wisconsin, chanced upon a marriage certificate showing that Mae West had married a fellow on 11 April 1911. The groom was Frank Wallace. Was that 1911 bride the Paramount Pictures movie star herself?
• • Already famous for her wiggling and shimmying, Mae tried every move to wriggle out of this tight spot by emphatically denying it all. However, "the great fact-finding machinery of the U.S. Press began to hum," according to the May 6th, 1935 issue of Time Magazine.
• • When New York reporters located the scrawny, unprepossessing vaudevillian, who was staying "in a theatrical hotel with his dancing partner, Trixie LeMae," Frank Wallace was quite happy to talk.  He affirmed the marriage was real. "The nerve of a brass monkey," was Mae West's response.
• • On Saturday, 6 May 1944 • •
• • Syndicated columnist Earl Wilson reviewed "Catherine Was Great" and his comments were printed in the Los Angeles Daily News on Saturday, 6 May 1944.
• • On Thursday, 6 May 1976 • •
• • In conjunction with the news that "Sextette" starring Mae West was going into production, a light went on in City Hall.  Tom Bradley, mayor of Los Angeles, announced that he was creating a special Mae Day and issuing a proclamation in the movie queen's honor. Bradley presented West with a scroll validating her "valuable and important role" in the movie industry on Thursday, 6 May 1976.
• • In Her Own Words • •
• • Mae West said: "People with careers are too busy to spend enough time on their marriage. I have seen several marriages which should have been happy fail — chiefly because of that lack of time."
• • Quote, Unquote • •
• • The foreign fashion press mentioned Mae West on May 6th.
• • "London Says Mae West Curves Are Fashion's Whims" • •
• • Writing from London, Nell Murray wrote:  Just to demonstrate that there must be some truth in the announcement from America that the female form divine for 1934 would weigh at least 12 pounds heavier than it did last year (in order to accommodate the threatened Mae West curves), a London dress designer ... 
• • Source: Sunday Mail (Brisbane, Queensland); published on Sunday, 6 May 1934
• • By the Numbers • • 
• • The Mae West Blog was started eight years ago in July 2004. You are reading the 2642nd blog post. Unlike many blogs, which draw upon reprinted content from a newspaper or a magazine and/ or summaries, links, or photos, the mainstay of this blog is its fresh material focused on the life and career of Mae West, herself an American original.

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