It was Lana Turner’s rookie year, and Rita Hayworth’s busiest. That same year — 1937 — the craftspeople that hemmed the gowns and applied the lipstick founded Hollywood Locals 705 and 706.
This fall, the two venerable unions celebrated their 60th anniversaries with elegant parties befitting their specialties. Some 300 well-dressed members and friends of the Hollywood costumers Local 705 danced to the Mills Brothers at a benefit gala at the Biltmore. On Nov. 2, nearly 800 guests gathered at the Beverly Hilton to honor Local 706, the makeup artists union.
Motion Picture Costumers 705 serves the 1,500 professionals who build and fit costumes and shop and tend finished wardrobes. In 1937, this meant maintaining Fred Astaire’s tux and roller skates in “Shall We Dance,” and transforming Paul Muni into French novelist Emile Zola and a Chinese peasant patriarch. Since then, the members of 705 have supervised, selected, made, and maintained wardrobes for features from “Gone With the Wind” to “Boogie Nights,” as well as television soap operas, game shows, sitcoms, and dramas. They have glued sequins, slashed and bloodied shirts, combed the thrift stores for retro accessories, and dashed off to Woolworth’s for an emergency girdle.
“It’s an incredibly diverse group,” says union business manager Sandy Jordan, “including people with college degrees in fine arts and recent immigrants from all over the world. Their jobs include everything you can think of except actually taking pencil to paper and designing something from scratch.”
On the occasion of their 60th, makeup designers often find themselves both collaborators and competitors with digital effects artists, a partnership that Academy Award-winning makeup artist Rick Baker says can be frustrating and thrilling. Baker’s widely admired work for “American Werewolf in London” was all pre-digital, while his Oscar-winning makeup and prosthetics for “The Nutty Professor” were digitally integrated to create the final effects. “The computer is now my favorite design tool,” Baker says and adds that his other key tool — foam latex — remains essentially unchanged since “The Wizard of Oz.”
Makeup Local 706 also includes artists who never touch foam latex, but instead create glamour, enhance character, and recapture youth through the sometimes heroic application of their trade. Union business manager Al Fama says the 60th anniversary Diamond Awards were intended to honor the wide range of makeup and hair styling artistry.