By Michael Corvin
He was the lead make-up artist on the classic fantasy movie The Wizard
of Oz in 1939 and was given the task of creating the three main non-human
characters; The Scarecrow, The Tin Man, The Cowardly Lion plus The Wicked
Witch of the West and her flying monkeys. His designs were so ahead of their
time that to this day they still stand out as one of the greatest achievements in film
Jack Dawn was born on February 10, 1892, in Kentucky and grew up on a farm. As an adult, Jack
made his way to Hollywood where we found work as an actor and make-up artists' assistant. It was when
working as an assistant, he crafted an ape face that he wore in a film. The mask was stiff and not very
lifelike so Jack sort after a material that could be used to make masks that would look more real plus feel
much more comfortable to wear. After nine years of testing he came up with a material he called Vinylite
and it was used to make masks for a movie called The Good Earth.
After he moved to MGM in 1935 as a make-up artist and after only four years, he was the head artist of
the MGM make-up department. It was his time with MGM when he was given the amazing chance to
create all the characters that lived in Oz. He gave The Tin Man his silver skin, the face to The Scarecrow
and human/animal look to the Lion. He painted the Wicked Witch green creating an iconic look that to this
day is the standard for witches in the minds of most people. He also created the looks for both The Flying
Monkeys and The Munchkins as well.
With his gift of working with prosthetics, Jack gave his time during World War II to help with wounded
servicemen who were waiting for plastic surgery. Much in the same way that make-up artist John
Chambers, noted for Planet of the Apes, did, Jack helped soldiers by crafting prosthetic arms, legs, and
most of all faces.
Jack Dawn was never recognized for his works in films largely due to at the time the art of make-up
achievements was not truly established until many years later. Today achievements in the make-up design
are now a part of the Academy Awards, but in his time no such category existed. Still today Jack Dawn’s
work is not only remembered but his creations on The Wizard of Oz live on in our minds and when you
think of those characters it's Jack’s creations we think of.
Spotlight on Hollywood's
|BMR Magazine Cover Flashbacks