John Chambers (make-up artist)
|Born||September 12, 1922
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
|Died||August 25, 2001
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Occupation||Make-up artist, prosthetic makeup expert|
John Chambers (September 12, 1922 – August 25, 2001) was an award-winning American make-up artist and prosthetic makeup expert who became a veteran in both television and film. He was also a recipient of an Academy Honorary Award by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1968. He is most known for pointy ears of character Spock in TV series Star Trek (1966) played by Leonard Nimoy and make up in Planet of the Apes film series, made 1968 to 1973.
He was awarded CIA's Intelligence Medal of Merit for his involvement in the Canadian Caper, in which six American hostages escaped, during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis, which later became the basis of Academy Award for Best Picture-winning film Argo.
Life and career
Born in Chicago, Illinois in an Irish-American family, Chambers trained as a commercial artist and started his career designing jewelry and carpets. Following service as a medical technician during World War II, Chambers found employment repairing faces and making prosthetic limbs for wounded veterans at the United States Department of Veterans Affairs hospital at Hines, Illinois.
In 1953 he joined the NBC American television network working for many live shows for a six-year period. He worked on his first movie, Around the World in Eighty Days (1956), then joined Universal Pictures. He attracted attention for his work in The List of Adrian Messenger, which featured the gimmick of having the audience guess which famous stars were under Chambers' makeup. Chambers also worked on The Munsters and The Outer Limits TV series. Early in his career, he trained under Ben Nye, then head of Make-up at 20th-century Fox.
His work became known worldwide in the Planet of the Apes series of movies, which began in 1968 with the eponymous film. During it making, he held training sessions at 20th-century Fox studios, where he mentored other make-up artists of the film, and as many as 78 artists worked under him. Later, at the 41st Academy Awards, he won a special Academy Award for his work in film, long before Academy Award for Best Makeup was established in 1981.
Chambers worked on the pilot of Mission Impossible and created the pointed ears worn by Leonard Nimoy as Spock in the original Star Trek television series. Meanwhile, he also made the prosthetic nose of Lee Marvin for his Academy Award-winning role in Cat Ballou (1965); later he created a prosthetic chest for actor Richard Harris in film A Man Called Horse (1970), where in the actor is hung on pins in a native American initiation ceremony. Chambers was originally chosen to make Jaws' Teeth for The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) however his design failed to meet producer, Albert R. Broccoli's standards.
Work with CIA
John Chambers was also given the highest civilian award from the CIA for his help with numerous transformations and creating “disguise kits” for CIA personnel in other countries.  Some of his work can be seen at the International Spy Museum in Washington D.C..
He also set up a fake movie and production company as a cover story of a film crew planning to shoot a science fiction film, titled Argo in Iran for CIA officer Tony Mendez as part of what became known as the Canadian Caper, the rescue of some American embassy personnel who escaped capture by Iranian revolutionaries and were given sanctuary by Canadian diplomats in November 1979 during the Iran hostage crisis. To make the cover up believable, they established an office at actor Michael Douglas's former office during the film The China Syndrome (1979) at Sunset Gower Studios on Sunset Boulevard, they even printed fake business cards, held a film party at a nightclub in Los Angeles and also took out advertisements in Variety and The Hollywood Reporter magazines. Chambers was later awarded CIA's Intelligence Medal of Merit, however he and his friend Robert Sidell also a makeup artist, most known for E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), who posed as a film producer, kept their involvement a secret for the rest of his years, even though the story was declassified in 1997. Sidell's wife Andi posed as the receptionist of their fake production company. In the 2012 Academy Award for Best Picture-winning film Argo, inspired by this episode, Chambers was portrayed by John Goodman.
He retired from the industry in 1982, however by then he had created enough of a body of work to have a lasting impact on future make-up artists. Later in life, he lived at a retirement community, Motion Picture Country Home in Woodland Hills, California, where most of the documentary, A Tribute to John Chambers (1998) directed by Scott Essman, was shot. In 1998, he was named 94th in the list of "100 most influential people in the history of the movies". For his work in movies, Chambers has a "star" on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7006 Hollywood Boulevard, one of few make-up artists to have one.
He died on August 25, 2001 in a California hospital, at age 78; and was survived by his wife Joan.
- Around the World in Eighty Days (1956)
- The List of Adrian Messenger (1963)
- The Human Duplicators (1965)
- Planet of the Apes (1968)
- A Man Called Horse (1970)
- SSSSSSS (1973)
- Shirley Temple Theatre (1960–61)
- The Outer Limits (1963)
- The Munsters (1964)
- Star Trek (1966)
- Mission Impossible (1966)
- Lost in Space (1967-1968)
- Beauty and the Beast (1976 TV film)
- Patrick Hruby (October 10, 2012). "Tony Mendez, clandestine CIA hero of Ben Affleck’s ‘Argo,’ reveals the real story behind film smash". The Washington Times. Retrieved March 6, 2013.
- Brian Pendreigh (7 September 2001). "Obituary:John Chambers: Make-up master responsible for Hollywood's finest space-age creatures". The Guardian. Retrieved Feb 27, 2013.
- Would You Believe Maurice Evans?. LIFE. August 18, 1967. Retrieved 2012-01-03.
- "Oscar-Winning Makeup Artist Dies at 78". Theforbidden-zone.com. Retrieved January 3, 2012.
- John Johnson (1996). Cheap Tricks and Class Acts: Special Effects, Makeup and Stunts from the Fantastic Fifties. McFarland. p. 389. ISBN 0786400935.
- Tom Weaver (2010). Sci-Fi Swarm and Horror Horde: Interviews with 62 Filmmakers. McFarland. p. 314. ISBN 0786458313.
- Million dollars worth of make-up obliterates some famous faces. LIFE. 18 Aug 1967. p. 82. Retrieved Feb 27, 2013.
- Greater New Orleans. "'Argo' review: Ben Affleck brilliantly balances history and humor in geopolitical thriller". NOLA.com. Retrieved 2012-11-05.
- Macnab, Geoffrey (8 May 2009). "The ultimate scenery-chewer". The Guardian.
- Laurier, Joanne (December 12, 2001). "US cable channel whitewashes the CIA". International Committee of the Fourth International. Retrieved January 3, 2012.
- [dead link]
- Bearman, Joshuah (April 24, 2007). "How the CIA Used a Fake Sci-Fi Flick to Rescue Americans from Tehran". Wired. Retrieved January 3, 2012.
- Susan King (October 23, 2012). "'Argo': John Chambers' friends recall the renowned makeup man". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 6, 2013. ""Sidell said he and his wife, Andi, who was the fake production company's receptionist, and Chambers never really talked about those events.." (page 1)"
- John Chambers at the Internet Movie Database
- Roger Ebert (September 10, 2012). "Toronto #4: And the winner is...". Roger Ebert's Journal. Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved September 14, 2012.
- p. 169, Thomas, Kenn Popular Paranoia: A Steamshovel Press Anthology 2002 Adventures Unlimited Press
- "A Tribute to John Chambers". The Make-up Artist magazine. Issue No. 5, February / March, 1997. Retrieved Feb 27, 2013.
- A Tribute to John Chambers at the Internet Movie Database
- Scott Smith (1998). The film 100: a ranking of the most influential people in the history of the movies. Carol Pub. p. 285. ISBN 0806519401.