Get Jennifer Aniston’s Hot Body In Just 5 Minutes A Day

For the past two springs, I’ve visited Antigua and am well aware of the mosquitoes that inhabit the Caribbean and the near impossibility of leaving without sunburn.

Tabloid in long-form, Anger details the scan­dals of Tinseltown’s very first stars (includ­ing Rudolph Valenti­no, Roscoe Arbuck­le, and Clara Bow) against the back­drop of a city charged by ram­pant debauch­ery and high glamour.

Where­as Hol­ly­wood Baby­lon deals most­ly with the era’s nightlife, the work­day habits of ear­ly film stars were pret­ty wild too. For our pur­pos­es, it’s all about the prep. Hence a lit­tle his­to­ry les­son today, par­tic­u­lar­ly about how one might get ready for a peri­od mov­ing picture.

The stylist and curator’s handy checklist for next time you’re ready to make a Goodwill run.
The styl­ist and curator’s handy check­list for next time you’re ready to make a Good­will run.

Ear­ly movies were shot on orthochro­mat­ic film, which was not sen­si­tive to yel­low-red wave­lengths (so col­ors on that end of the spec­trum became almost black). Blue and pur­ple tones, in turn, showed up pale and whitish. The unfor­tu­nate on-screen effects of this were myriad—actors with rud­dy skin looked dirty, and blue eyes would turn blank and spooky. The lat­ter pit­fall almost foiled the ambi­tions of even­tu­al Acad­e­my Award win­ner Nor­ma Shear­er when she was told by D.W. Grif­fith, The Birth of a Nation direc­tor, that her eyes were “far too blue” to have any suc­cess in cinema.

In order to cre­ate an impact­ful (and hope­ful­ly, nat­ur­al) look under such con­di­tions in the 1910s and ’20s, most actors were tasked with apply­ing their own make­up (A com­mon press pho­to set-up was very Top Shelf-like and fea­tured the star­let at her van­i­ty.), and stu­dios would dis­trib­ute guides for prop­er use of col­or. Blue-toned grease­paint was applied as a foun­da­tion and con­tour­ing shade, while lips were paint­ed yel­low. In real life, actors must have looked tru­ly bizarre when they arrived at the stu­dio. Ear­ly grease­paint was tex­tu­ral­ly prob­lem­at­ic. Since it was applied with a heavy hand, the sur­face lay­er would often crack when the actor’s expres­sion changed (not great for a medi­um that relied so heav­i­ly on over­ly dra­mat­ic, silent expres­sion). It could also be hazardous—as was in the case of Dolores Costel­lo (Drew Barrymore’s pater­nal grand­moth­er), whose com­plex­ion and career were both dam­aged beyond repair by ear­ly film make­up. In 1914, Max Fac­tor, a wig and cos­met­ic shop own­er in Los Ange­les, devel­oped a solu­tion in the form of Flex­i­ble Grease­paint. After its inven­tion, he became the most sought-after make­up artist in Hol­ly­wood and the lead­ing fig­ure in cos­met­ic devel­op­ment for the industry.

Factor’s per­son­al­ized approach to make­up artistry cement­ed a few spe­cif­ic, stu­dio-endorsed “looks.” For Clara Bow, he drew her sharply peaked cupid’s bow; Joan Crawford’s sig­na­ture “smeared” lip (extend­ing far beyond her nat­ur­al line) assuaged the actress’ thin-lipped inse­cu­ri­ties and was all thanks to Fac­tor. Indus­try stan­dards also required actors’ eyes to look deep-set and moody by shad­ow­ing them from lash line to sock­et, and eye­brows were drawn straight, bold, and very, very long (think Louise Brooks).


When orthochro­mat­ic film gave way to panchro­mat­ic in the 1920s, shiny hair and eye­lids cap­tured the glow of incan­des­cent bulbs used on-set to great effect. Fac­tor kept pace, devel­op­ing spe­cif­ic light-refract­ing hair dyes to suit this tech­ni­cal shift—even sprin­kling gold dust on to Mar­lene Dietrich’s wigs when asked. He couldn’t rest on his lau­rels for long though—Technicolor was on the hori­zon, and with it came a new set of cos­met­ic challenges.

A final note: In the ear­ly ‘30s, still rid­ing the panchro­mat­ic “high shine” wave, Fac­tor cre­at­ed a slick lip coat for his famous clients. The for­mu­la would go on to become com­mer­cial­ly sold as “X‑Rated,” the world’s very first lip gloss. Some­thing I think we’re all still kind of into.

—Lau­ren Maas

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