‘Exorcist,’ ‘Godfather,’ ‘Amadeus’ makeup artist Dick Smith dies at 92

07.31.14 3 years ago

AP Photo

Just yesterday I wrote about, and talked to a handful of, the many craftspeople who quite simply make the movies tick. Well, today we have lost a legend in that fray: makeup artist Dick Smith has left us.

I sometimes wish I had grown up like some of my older colleagues, reading magazines like Monster Movie Handbook and Famous Monsters of Filmland. But they had pretty much run their course by the time I ended up in the picture. Smith's contributions to those volumes opened the eyes of countless movie fans, and one of them even went on to be a legend in the field in his own right: 7-time Oscar winner Rick Baker.

“I could tell it wasn”t just a job with him, it was passion,” Baker said of Smith's articles in those magazines at San Diego Comic-Con in 2011. “I wrote him a letter at 18 and enclosed photos of makeups I”d done. I got an instant reply. I can”t believe I got it so fast. He could not wait to meet me. He said he”d never seen work like this from anyone, let alone an 18-year-old who was self-taught. I”ll never forget that day.”

Indeed, Baker and Smith went on to be close friends, and it was Baker himself who broke the news of Smith's passing on Twitter.


Smith's work won him an Oscar for “Amadeus,” and he was nominated for 1989's “Dad” besides. But his time in the trenches covered a wide range of experience, from the monstrosities of TV's “Dark Shadows,” William Friedkin's “The Exorcist” and “Death Becomes Her” to staggering transformations of Dustin Hoffman (“Little Big Man”) and Marlon Brando (“The Godfather”).

In 2011, the Academy saw fit to hand Smith a much-deserved Honorary Oscar at the annual Governors Awards ceremony. He was a perfect choice to represent the below-the-line artists who have thankfully been a consistent part of that gala the last five years. At the time Smith said the achievement put a “crown” on his career, but he was already the king before he took that stage.

This one hurts. This one, truly, will be missed. Thanks for everything you gave us, sir.

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