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PIERCE, JACK P.
(Jack Piccolo 1889–1968). Greek makeup artist.

SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY, AND HORROR FILM CREDITS
Makeup artist for (sometimes uncredited): The Monkey Talks (silent) (Raoul Walsh 1927); Dracula (Tod Browning 1930); Frankenstein (James WHALE 1931); Murders in the Rue Morgue (Robert Florey 1932); The Old Dark House (Whale 1932); The Mummy (Karl Freund 1932); White Zombie (Victor Halperin 1932); The Invisible Man (Whale 1933); The Black Cat (Edgar G. ULMER 1934); Bride of Frankenstein (Whale 1935); The Raven (Lew LANDERS 1935); Werewolf of London (Stuart Walker 1935); The Invisible Ray (Lambert Hillyer 1936); Dracula's Daughter (Hillyer 1936); Night Key (Lloyd Corrigan 1937); Son of Frankenstein (Rowland V. LEE 1939); Tower of London (Lee 1939); Black Friday (Arthur LUBIN 1940); The Mummy's Hand (Christy Cabanne 1940); The Wolf Man (George Waggoner 1941); Man Made Monster (Waggner 1942); The Ghost of Frankenstein (Erle C. KENTON 1942); The Mummy's Tomb (Harold Young 1942); Phantom of the Opera (Lubin 1943); Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (Roy William Neill 1943); Son of Dracula (Robert Siodmak 1943); Flesh and Fantasy (Julien Duvivier 1943); The Mad Ghoul (James P. Hogan 1943); Captive Wild Woman (Edward Dmytryk 1943); Cobra Woman (Robert Siodmak 1944); House of Frankenstein (Kenton 1944); The Mummy's Ghost (Reginald LE BORG 1944); The Climax (Waggner 1944); The Mummy's Curse (Leslie Goodwins 1944); House of Dracula (Kenton 1945); The Spider Woman Strikes Back (Lubin 1946); She-Wolf of London (Jean Yarbrough 1946); House of Horrors (Yarbrough 1946); The Brute Man (Yarbrough 1946); Joan of Arc (Victor Fleming 1948); Master Minds (Yarbrough 1949); Teenage Monster (Jacques Marquette 1957); The Brain from Planet Arous (Nathan JURAN 1958); I Bury the Living (Albert Band 1958); Giant from the Unknown (Richard Cunha 1958); The Amazing Transparent Man (Ulmer 1960); Beyond the Time Barrier (Ulmer 1960); The Devil's Hand (William J. Hole, Jr. 1962); Beauty and the Beast (Edward I. CAHN 1962); Creation of the Humanoids (Wesley BARRY 1962).
 
Today, filmgoers are comfortable with the notion that skilled makeup artists can qualify as co-creators of science fiction, fantasy, and horror films: an Academy Award for Best Makeup Design was created in the 1980s; the indefatigable Rick BAKER has made himself a superstar for a vast and variegated body of work sufficient to intimidate any would-be epitomizer; and books like Mark Salisbury and Alan Hedgcock's Behind the Mask: The Secrets of Hollywood's Monster Makers (1994) lovingly celebrate Baker and other modern masters of the art. During the decades when the discipline was being developed, however, makeup artists received little attention or respect and were often left uncredited. But the accomplishments of Jack P. Pierce were simply too remarkable to go unnoticed, and the process of rediscovering and analyzing the classic horror films he worked on, carried on by Forrest J ACKERMAN and others, has belatedly made him famous.

Perhaps signalling the absence of romance in his soul which would both distinguish and hinder his work for the Universal horror movies of the 1930s and 1940s, Pierce originally moved from Greece to America in order to become a baseball star. Despite some talent for the challenging position of shortstop, however, Pierce apparently never made it to the big leagues, and in his twenties he drifted into the film business, acting and doing miscellaneous work behind the camera. By the 1920s, he was a makeup artist, although at the time the most imaginative work in the field came from an actor, Lon CHANEY, who did his own makeup. After Chaney's untimely death in 1930, offscreen specialists in horrific makeup would become more significant.

Soon, Pierce was helping to define the look and style of the Universal films that remain seminal influences to this day. His strength, I would argue, was an inclination to take a methodical, logical, and scientific approach to his work. Everyone has heard the story behind his makeup for James WHALE's Frankenstein: assigned to the project, Pierce began by ignoring the Golem-like approach to the monster's appearance employed in an earlier, abortive effort to film the story with Bela LUGOSI as the monster; instead, he researched the various ways to perform brain surgery, reasoned that the inexperienced Frankenstein would employ the simplest approach—slicing off the entire top of the skull—and designed Boris KARLOFF's makeup accordingly. In its strategic scars and bolts for the attachment of electrodes, Pierce managed to craft both an horrific monster and the perfect image of the sort of jerry-built human that an inspired nineteenth-century amateur might construct using the science of his day. None of the innumerable subsequent efforts to envision the Frankenstein monster have ever surpassed Pierce's brilliant vision, which has permanently embedded itself in popular culture and served to immortalize Mary Shelley's creation more than any other factor, even Karloff's memorable performances. Other sorts of electrified creatures also inspire Pierce, as shown by the wonderfully outré coiffure of Elsa LANCHESTER's Bride of Frankenstein and the pale, bug-eyed look that he developed for Lon CHANEY, Jr.'s Man Made Monster, both intriguing images of what electrified humans might actually look like.

Pierce's versions of a reanimated mummy—glimpsed briefly in Karloff's The Mummy and at greater length in three lesser films with the younger Chaney—also reflected a thoughtful, meticulous interest in the actual ways that such preserved humans would decay after millennia of preservation. But Pierce depended upon actors like Karloff and Chaney who would sit patiently for hours while he carried out his work, and one suspects that the decidedly inferior look Pierce provided for Tom Tyler in The Mummy's Hand was a necessary concession to a aging western star unaccustomed to the rigors of cinematic monsterdom.

Despite his triumphs, I would argue, Pierce lacked the broader affinity for the magical and marvelous in all its myriad guises that distinguishes later artists like Baker. There is nothing particularly memorable about his numerous vampires, and despite various attempts with Henry Hull, Chaney, and others, Pierce never managed to create a persuasive werewolf, his imagination limited to pasting hair and funny noses on actors' faces. In crafting these more florid, fantastic creations, Pierce was vastly outdone by his successors. Other horror movies of the period, like The Old Dark House and The Raven, simply required Pierce to make some actor look menacing or ugly, which he generally accomplished only in routine fashion.

As a signal of its resolve to abandon the fading business of horror movies, Universal fired Pierce in 1947, exiling him to work on westerns and television programs precisely at the time—the early 1950s—when a new genre of science fiction cinema was forged in a series of classic films he did not contribute to. When he belatedly returned to his old stomping grounds later in the decade, the only work available was in the inferior dreck that brought the science fiction boom to an inglorious end, and Pierce's work descended to the occasion. His renewed efforts to forge men turned into animals in Teenage Monster and Beauty and the Beast lacked even the minimal competence of the Chaney, Jr. Wolfman, and his dull, uninspired work on Creation of the Humanoids commands attention only because of the name of the artist. Fortunately for Jack Pierce, he had already earned immortality by creating another, more memorable humanoid decades ago.

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