John Chambers, a makeup artist and innovator who garnered an Oscar for the pioneering prosthetics he used in the 1968 feature film “Planet of the Apes,” died Aug. 25 of diabetes complications at the Motion Picture and Television Fund’s retirement home in Woodland Hills, Calif. He was 78.
Chambers was instrumental in the development of special paints, rubber appliances and pre-makeup procedures used for “Planet” helping reduce the time and money needed to produce the 20th Century Fox film. In 1969, Chambers was the second makeup artist in Academy Awards history to receive an honorary Oscar. A permanent category for makeup was not added until 1981.
Among his other film credits are all four of the “Apes” sequels, 1963’s “The List of Adrian Messenger,” for which he helped create as many as 10 disguises for Kirk Douglas, 1977’s “The Island of Dr. Moreau” and “Halloween II” (1981).
His makeup career began on TV, though, where his credits include episodes of “Mission: Impossible,” “Wild Wild West,” “I Spy” and “Lost in Space.” Perhaps his most well-known small-screen contribution is his creation of the pointy prosthetic ears for the character of Mr. Spock (played by Leonard Nimoy) in the “Star Trek” series.
Before he designed prosthetics for film and TV, Chambers — an artist and sculptor — worked during and after World War II at several veterans hospitals throughout the country, creating everything from artificial ears and noses to glass eyes and shoulder replacements, all of which were used to aid wounded soldiers. In the mid 1950s he decided that his talents could be utilized on television and made the move to Hollywood, where he was hired by NBC.
Chambers is survived by his wife, Joan.