Smith, Dick

Tagged: Film | People

(1922-2014) US visual effects expert active from the 1950s through the 1990s in both films and Television in various genres; he is of particular importance for Horror and sf projects. Pursuing a career in make-up after US Army service during World War Two, Smith spent several years trying to break into Cinema before beginning work in the late 1950s for the newer medium of Television. He worked on many television programmes and some low-budget films; among the latter are The Flame Barrier (1958) and The Alligator People (1959). He also created effects for the short-lived television programme 'Way Out (1961) hosted by Roald Dahl, who adapted episodes from his own stories. Around this time Smith developed the three-piece prosthetic facial masks which allowed a far greater range of expression by performers than previous one-piece versions. Later he won acclaim for making up Dustin Hoffman as a 121-year old man in the film Little Big Man (1971). After work on The Godfather (1972), he had perhaps his greatest success with effects for Linda Blair in the then controversial horror film The Exorcist (1973), including the infamous "head-spinning" sequence using a mechanical double of Blair. Smith shared an Academy Award with Paul LeBlanc for Amadeus (1984), and continued working until the end of the 1990s. He spent much of the remainder of his life teaching his craft; visual artist Rick Baker (1950-    ) is perhaps his best known student. His special one-issue magazine Famous Monsters Do-It-Yourself Make-Up Handbook (1965) – a spinoff from Famous Monsters of Filmland – was eventually published in paperback as Dick Smith's Do-It-Yourself Monster Make-Up Handbook (1985; rev 1990). In 2011, Smith was awarded an Honorary Academy Award for career achievements, the only visual effects artist to be so honoured to date. [GSt/DRL]

Richard Emerson Smith

born Larchmont, New York: 26 June 1922

died Los Angles, California: 30 July 2014

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