Century Film Project

Celebrating the movies our ancestors loved

Tag: Pierre Couderc

Best Makeup and Hairstyling 1914

Hello everyone and welcome to the Century Awards! I’ve decided that the best way I can simulate the tension and ceremony of the Oscars is to post one award per hour, building up to the Best Picture of 1914 late tonight. So, get ready, here we go!

Faces are the raw material for movies, especially when dialogue is limited to intertitles and music is not reproduced the same way in different venues, as was the case during the Nickelodeon Era. The appearance of a performer may be radically altered by makeup and hairstyling: a young person can be made old, or a healthy person appear deformed. The audience’s experience of a film is subtly influenced by the work of preparation that takes place before they enter the camera’s stage.

Each of the nominations this year honors a film that made good use of that prep time. From Mary Pickford’s elaborate locks as the fairy tale queen “Cinderella” to the makeup that turned lovely Violet MacMillan into a boy and Pierre Couderc into the “Patchwork Girl of Oz,” from Henry B. Walthall’s frightening turn as Holofernes to Sessue Hayakawa’s convincing transformation into a Native American in “Last of the Line,” each of these makeup artists has contributed outstanding work to the history of film. And, of course, we can’t forget the little mustache and curly mop of hair that defines the “Little Tramp” for us.

The nominees for best makeup and hairstyling for 1914 are:

  1. Judith of Bethulia
  2. Cinderella
  3. Patchwork Girl of Oz
  4. Kid Auto Races at Venice (Charlie Chaplin)
  5. Last of the Line

And the winner is…”Patchwork Girl of Oz!”

Patchwork Girl of Oz

This was tough, but I ultimately decided that the “Little Tramp” is more significantly defined by costume than makeup – you can pull off a Charlie Chaplin imitation without the hair, but not without the right clothes – which left me examining the others to see which really made the most impressive use of makeup and hairstyling. Pickford’s “Cinderella” was a serious contender, but apart from her and the brief visit to the witch, there wasn’t all that much going on there. “Patchwork Girl of Oz” is disappointing in terms of special effects, but quite advanced in makeup and hair. Almost every character (except those whose costumes covered their faces) has some work going on to make them seem more bizarre and fantastic.

His Majesty, the Scarecrow of Oz (1914)

Scarecrow

This third film by the Oz Film Manufacturing Company is the closest they ever came to producing a silent version of “The Wizard of Oz.” Strangely, what’s missing is a lot of the plot motivation – most of the characters lack the clear goals we are familiar with from the 1939 version, and so much of the story just involves people wandering around an enchanted wood for no apparent reason. It reminded me somewhat of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” for that reason, and also because various people fall in love with the wrong person or are turned into animals. We do get Dorothy (played by Violent MacMillan, who finally got to be a girl for once), the Tin Man (Pierre Couderc, who had been the Patchwork Girl), the Cowardly Lion (Fred Woodward, who also turns up in his familiar mule costume), the Wizard himself, a witch called Mombi, and, of course, the Scarecrow. The Lion was also odd, because he never seemed very cowardly to me charging at cavalry brigades, storming castles and so forth, although he failed to climb a ladder, so maybe he’s afraid of heights. The title is basically a spoiler for the end of the film, and again we get various creative Méliès-style effects and magical creatures dancing and pantomiming along the way.

Director: J. Farrell MacDonald

Produced and Written by L. Frank Baum

Camera: James A. Crosby

Starring: Violet MacMillan, Pierre Couderc, Fred Woodward, Mildred Harris, Vivian Reed

Run time: 58 Min

You can watch it for free: here or here.

Patchwork Girl of Oz (1914)

Patchwork Girl of Oz

Twenty five years before Judy Garland, L. Frank Baum himself was involved in the production of several “Oz” films, through a company called “The Oz Film Manufacturing Company.” Although the movies were not successful, Baum must be seen as smart to try to cash in on the new medium, at a time when producers were eagerly grabbing up (or stealing) written content to serve as storylines. This was the first of his books the company adapted, and it relies on pantomime and slapstick, and a few Méliès-style special effects, to create the atmosphere of his imaginary kingdom. There are few intertitles, but we do get camera movement and intercutting between scenes. The “girl” of the title is played by a man (French acrobat Pierre Couderc), while the main Munchkin “boy” is played by an adult woman (Violet MacMillan, who made her name as the “Cinderella Girl” for having children’s size 11 feet). There is other gender-bending in the cast as well, and all the gender-identified women fall in love with a miniature statue of one of the only males played by a man who is neither old nor deformed. Harold Lloyd and Hal Roach, who went on to make many great comedies together, met on this film, each of them in the ethnic-caricature role of a “Tottenhot.” Ozma of Oz, the Scarecrow, and the Tin Man all make appearances near the end.

Director: J. Farrell MacDonald

Writer/Producer: L. Frank Baum

Camera: James A. Crosby

Starring: Violet MacMillan, Pierre Couderc, Fred Woodward, Harold Lloyd, Hal Roach

Run Time: 48 Min

You can watch it for free: here or here.