|Born||Charles Haskell Revson
October 11, 1906
|Died||August 24, 1975
New Rochelle, New York
Charles Haskell Revson (October 11, 1906 – August 24, 1975) was an American businessman and philanthropist. He was best known as a pioneering cosmetics industry executive who created and managed Revlon through five decades.
Revson was born in Somerville, Massachusetts, near Boston, Massachusetts. He was raised in Manchester, New Hampshire, after his family immigrated from Canada to the United States. His father, Samuel Revson, was born in Lithuania and of Russian Jewish heritage. His mother, Jeanette Weiss Revson, was born in Austro-Hungary of German Jewish ancestry. His parents emigrated to Boston in the late 19th century, where they had eight other children. Jeanette died young of pneumonia in the 1920s. Jeanette Weiss Revson's parents, Saul J. and Mary Ella Greenberg Weiss, influenced many of their offspring to become (or marry) visionary, ambitious, and glamorous icons in fashion, film, real estate, banking, cosmetics and industry. Many of the Weiss family descendants exhibited creativity that was tenaciously promoted, as shown in the perfectionism and aestheticism that was evident in Charles Revson's career. Revson, like many other Weiss family descendants, disassociated from most of the family of origin to fiercely create an autonomous identity. Yet, there were his maternal uncles and aunts, who impacted the lives of so many less fortunate family members to polish their images and achieve unparalleled standards of excellence that influenced him at a young age.
Revson's father worked as a cigar roller in Manchester, not far from where the Revsons lived in the Squog Area, a French-Canadian neighborhood that was part of Manchester's "Little Canada". Charles Revson's parents, Samuel and Jeanette Weiss Revson, were struggling factory workers with their family of three sons. Revson moved to Boston to live with Weiss family members after graduating from Manchester High School West.
Founding of Revlon
When Elka, the cosmetics company he worked for, did not promote him to the position of national distributor, Revson decided to go into business for himself. Beginning in 1932, the company specialized in nail polish, offering a wider variety of colors than had been currently available. It was marketed through beauty salons and, later, department stores. Revlon Cosmetics then introduced matching lipsticks and entered the perfume and fragrance market with great success. Revson served as president of the firm from 1932 to 1962, and then as chairman until his death in 1975.
Quiz show scandals
In the mid-1950s the company sponsored the quiz show The $64,000 Question, which became a television phenomenon and boosted sales considerably. Revson and his brother Martin, second in charge at the company, allegedly demanded that the producers control the questions in order to keep them winning and maintain the program's high ratings. This sparked what later became known as the quiz show scandal, as The $64,000 Question, The Challenge and Twenty One led to the duplication of the producers' and sponsors' dubious methods to ensure a large viewership.
Steve Carlin, executive producer of Entertainment Productions, Inc., which produced The $64,000 Question and The $64,000 Challenge, was called to testify before Congress about the rigging of the TV quiz shows. He said that Revlon demanded the shows be rigged to ensure high ratings. "There is a tradition in television...of trying to please the client," Carlin testified. "We were willing to please the client." Though they testified, neither Charles nor Martin Revson ever became the subjects of an official inquiry. By the time the quiz show phenomenon was over, killed by the revelations, Revlon had vastly increased its market share and was established as an international behemoth in its niche.
Charles H. Revson was a hard-driven perfectionist whose overbearing, imperious personality led most of his business partners to sever their connections with him by 1965. Revlon Cosmetics, however, was phenomenally successful, and when Revson died, he reportedly[by whom?]was a billionaire.
Charles Revson was married three times. His first marriage was brief. His second marriage was to Ancky Revson; they had two sons, John Revson and Charles H. Revson, Jr., and also adopted a daughter, Penelope Revson. He has three grandchildren: Jill Revson, Charles H. Revson III and Alexander Revson. He married a third time to Lyn Revson. He also had an affair with actress/singer Eartha Kitt. His nephew, Peter Revson, son of Martin Revson, a Formula One racecar driver, predeceased him in 1974. Peter Revson's younger brother Doug Revson died before him in a racecar accident in Denmark in 1967. Peter was engaged to 1973 Miss World, Marjorie Wallace 14 days before his fatal accident in practice for the 1974 South African Grand Prix. Martin Revson's youngest daughter Jennifer Revson perpetuates Peter Revson's legacy today.
In 1956, Revson established the Charles H. Revson Foundation, which he funded with over $10 million during his lifetime. The foundation funded schools, hospitals, and service organizations serving the Jewish community, mostly located in New York. Upon his death, Revson endowed the foundation with $68 million from his estate and granted the board of directors the discretion to chart the foundation's future course. In 1978, the foundation began a formal grantmaking process, and since that time, it has disbursed a total of $145 million in grants and its endowment has grown from $68 million to $141 million.
The 1976 film Network used Revson's obituary in The New York Times from August 25, 1975 as the template for the fictional obituary for the character Edward Ruddy, with the title, byline (Enid Nemy being replaced by Sandra Blake), photograph and first paragraph being the only changes.
- Andrew Tobias. "Fire and Ice: The Story of Charles Revson - the Man Who Built the Revlon Empire, Chapter 2 - Separating Myth from Legend". Retrieved December 9, 2010.
- Zachary Selig (2007). "Zachary Selig Maternal Family Biography". Retrieved December 9, 2010.
- Lundy, Darryl. "Person Page - 20805". ThePeerage.com. Retrieved December 9, 2010.[unreliable source]
- Lundy, Darryl. "Person Page = 20804". ThePeerage.com. Retrieved December 9, 2010.[unreliable source]
- Tobias, Ch. 13
- "Peter Revson". F1Pulse.com. Retrieved December 9, 2010.
- Obituary - New York Times
- Revson Foundation
- New York Times, 25 August, 1975