Jack Pierce

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Frankenstein, Edited by Stuart Curran
STUDY AIDS : IN POPULAR CULTURE

Jack Pierce

 

Jack Pierce, 1889-1968, chief makeup artist for Universal Studios from 1926 to 1947.

Pierce and Karloff worked together three hours a day for three weeks to create a prototype of the Monster's appearance. Although his creation, with its green skin, flat head, and electrodes in the neck, has entered popular consciousness as the definitive Creature, the image remains the property of Universal.

Here Pierce explains his choice of the most visually distinctive feature of his Monster's appearance, the flattened head:

I did three months of research in anatomy, surgery, criminology, ancient and modern burial customs, and electrodynamics. My anatomical studies taught me that there are six ways a surgeon can cut the skull in order to take out or put in a brain. I figured that Frankenstein, who was a scientist but no practising surgeon, would take the simplest surgical way. He would cut the top of the skull off straight across like a pot lid, hinge it, pop the brain in, and then clamp it on tight. That's the reason I decided to make the Monster's head square and flat like a shoe box and dig that big scar across his forehead with the metal clamps holding it together.
Together with the boots, which weighed thirteen pounds each, Karloff's costume totaled forty-eight pounds; it took three and a half hours to apply, and two hours to remove at the end of a day's shooting.

The familiar green skin of the Creature in the Universal films (in the novel, the Creature's skin is yellow [1818:I:4:2]) was chosen because it suggested pallor when filmed in black and white.

Pierce created all the classic horror makeup jobs for Universal for two decades, but he was finally dropped for being too old-fashioned for the studio in 1947. Thereafter he found piecework, including the makeup for the television series Mr. Ed (1960-66). Pierce's films include:

  • Masquerade (1929)
  • Waterloo Bridge (1931)
  • Frankenstein (1931)
  • Dracula (1931)
  • White Zombie (1932)
  • The Old Dark House (1932)
  • The Mummy (1932)
  • They Just Had to Get Married (1933)
  • The Invisible Man (1933)
  • The Black Cat (1934)
  • Werewolf of London (1935)
  • The Raven (1935)
  • Diamond Jim (1935)
  • The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
  • Next Time We Love (1936)
  • The Invisible Ray (1936)
  • The Road Back (1937)
  • Night Key (1937)
  • Tower of London (1939)
  • Son of Frankenstein (1939)
  • The Wolf Man (1941)
  • Night Monster (1942)
  • Phantom of the Opera (1943)
  • Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943)
  • House of Frankenstein (1944)
  • Magnificent Doll (1946)
  • The Killers (1946)
  • Dressed to Kill (1946)
  • I'll Be Yours (1947)
  • Joan of Arc (1948)
  • Master Minds (1949)
  • The Black Book (1949)
  • The Big Cat (1949)
  • The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)
  • The Devil's Hand (1961)
  • Beauty and the Beast (1963)

Original publication date

1818
1831

Published @ RC

May 2009