Movie News

Oscar winning Makeup Artist John Chambers dies, & wonderful Spanish Actor Francisco Rabal joins him in the Great Beyond

Published at: Aug. 30, 2001, 5:06 p.m. CST

Father Geek here with a couple of sad notes for film lovers everywhere... Classic, award winning Makeup Artist John Chambers and the great Spanish thesbian Paco Rabal have both just died. For a near complete list of John's work in film Just Click Here, and to see Paco's extensive filmography simply Click Right Here. Both of these giants of their chosen fields will be missed here at Geek Headquarters in Austin, as I'm sure they will be around the world of cinema.

Here are the thoughts of some of our readers who sent them in to ol Father Geek...

I'm sure the news has already filtered in to AICN HQ, but veteran makeup artist John Chambers, who won an Oscar for his work on the original Planet of the Apes, died this past Saturday. I'm sure the irony of his passing, just weeks after the release of Tim Burton's big-budget remake, won't go unnoticed.

Chambers actually got his start during the depression when he cut hair for the neighborhood kids, using a large pair of scissors used for cutting rubber patches to mend tires. During World War II, he trained as a dental technician, and after leaving the army, went to work at the Hines Veterans Hospital in Illinois. It was there that Chambers began fashioning prosthetic limbs and body parts for injured veterans, a practice that he continued for virtually all of his professional life.

In 1953 Chambers got a job at NBC in Los Angeles, where he got his baptism of fire doing live television, where a makeup artist had to think fast and improvise faster. At one point, he asked Pinky Lee for some of his old toupees, which he then used to cut out mustaches that could be applied at a moment's notice. After a six-year stint at NBC, Chambers moved on to Universal Studios where he worked in the makeup lab under department head Bud Westmore. The two didn't always see eye to eye- at one point, knowing that Chambers cut hair, Westmore asked for a free haircut, but a few badly placed snips put an end to the requests once and for all. In 1963, he tackled his biggest challenge to date: creating a series of prosthetic makeups for The List of Adrian Messenger. Although a bit primitive by today's standards, the makeup became one of the film's biggest selling points. During that period, Chambers also helped to create some of the main characters in The Munsters.

In the mid-60s, Chambers left Universal to open his own shop, which he ran from a converted garage at his home in Burbank, and it wasn't long before film and TV producers came calling. The new shop supplied prosthetics for I Spy, Mission Impossible, Night Gallery, Lost in Space and The Outer Limits for which his makeup on 'The Sixth Finger' remains a TV classic. Chambers also created Leonard Nimoy's pointed ears for Star Trek, for which he charged just $25 a pair.

Not all of Chambers's work was in film and television. He used to disguise professional gamblers so they could enter casinos in Vegas without being identified by security cameras. He made a seven-foot Bigfoot figure for a Carnival Exhibition that toured the US and Canada for years. Chambers is also reputed to have made the Bigfoot seen in the now-famous home movie footage, but that's never been proven.

Chambers was actually working on I Spy when he was contacted by Ben Nye, head of makeup for 20th Century Fox to talk about a project called Planet of the Apes. With little more than three months, Chambers and his makeup team had to design, sculpt, test and manufacture the prosthetics for more than 200 apes, with a budget reportedly less than a million dollars. The film was a massive success for Fox, prompting several sequels and earning Chambers an honorary Oscar, only the second time one had been awarded.

During the '70s and early '80s, Chambers continued to work in film and TV. In addition to the inevitable Apes sequels, other credits included Slaughterhouse Five, SSSSSSS, Phantom of the Paradise, The Island of Dr. Moreau and National Lampoon's Class Reunion. He also appeared as a National Guard Captain in Schlock at the request of director John Landis, a long-time fan of the artist.

Chambers didn't suffer fools gladly. More than once, his fiery Irish temper brought him into conflict with some of Hollywood's greatest actors, and more often than not, he won many of those battles. He recognized the value of his work, and wasn't afraid to walk away if he felt a producer was trying to short-change him.

Ironically, the fanfare given to Burton's new Planet of the Apes (which will doubtless earn Rick Baker yet another Oscar) has also helped focus a bit of attention on the original film and the people who made it. John Chambers was a real talent, and a larger than life personality. His like will probably never be seen again. Just a Guy Named Joe

Father Geek back with this additional sad note I received today...

I've posted some news for you before, but never as sad as this one.

Francisco Rabal, a master, one of the best actors ever, has died at the age of 75.

Unknown for most of american audiences, this man stands out on the same range as Jack Lemmon, Cary Grant and many other myths of cinema. Best known for his work with his friend Luis Buñuel at some of his masterpieces, such as "Nazarin" (1958), "Viridiana" (1961) and "Belle de Jour" (1967). He won Best Actor prize in Cannes 1984 for his role in "The Holy Inocents" ex-aequo with companion Alfredo Landa. Another important films are Almodovar's "Tie me up, tie me down" (1990) and "Goya in Bourdeaux" (2.000) which earned him a Goya (spanish Oscar) for best actor. He even made an American effort in William Friedkin's "Sorcerer" (1977).

This is just a quick compilation of films... his work is SO MUCH BIGGER that it would deserve more praise that I could give...

I know that for most people this is just another actor, but good movie- goers know how big is this loss.

R.I.P. Francisco - Paco - Rabal. (1925-2001).

And here's another note on Rabal...

Greetings for Spain, thanks a lot for your superb webpage an so on.

I´d like to give you notice of the sad loss that spanish (and latin) cinema suffered today as Paco Rabal, one of the greatest spanish actors, died this evening while travelling by airplane from Ottawa, where he has just received an award, to Spain, where he was going to receive another one in just a few days in the San Sebastian International Film Festival.

Paco Rabal, born in Aguilas (Murcia, Spain) in 1926 died today at 75 years old of enphisema. The airplane landed at Bourdeaux (France) but he was dead on arrive.

Awarded in Cannes ("Los santos inocentes") as best actor, he also owned a Goya (spanish "Oscar") and has been an inspiration for generations of filmakers, working at the very side of such directors as Rafael Gil, Gillo Pontecorvo, Michelangelo Antonioni, Luchino Visconti or Luis Buñuel ("Nazarin", "Viridiana" and "Belle de jour", with Catherine Deneuve).

I am from Murcia, a few miles from his bornplace, and must say that the whole region cries his loss and tenderly remember all the excellent moments found on the screen thanks to his magnificent talent and art.

Paco, descansa en paz... (Paco, rest in peace...).

Well, I hope you could find a small place for this news. If you do, you can call me... docemonos (spanish title for 12monkeys).

Thanks... see you in the net.

Readers Talkback

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  • Aug. 30, 2001, 5:19 p.m. CST

    First

    by dCon

    I just saw the original version of POTA the other day (before I saw the new version). That was remarkable work. May you both rest in peace.

  • Aug. 30, 2001, 5:40 p.m. CST

    Damn it! Damn it all to hell!

    by Hardyboy

    The original Planet of the Apes and its sequels were an important part of my childhood, and before Star Wars came along they were my definition of good science fiction. When I watched the remake, I had to admit that Rick Baker surpassed the late, great Mr. Chambers in terms of creating realistic ape makeup; but there was so much heart and love in the Chambers apes that Baker couldn't match them in terms of charm. Mr. Chambers, for blowing the mind of an impressionable young kid back in the early '70s, you have my eternal gratitude.

  • Aug. 30, 2001, 6:03 p.m. CST

    A salute to two great men of the cinema.

    by Uncapie

    Mr. Rabal's performance in the spanish 1940's version of "Don Quixote" was brilliant as was his "Goya" and as the anti-hero, "Nilo" in "Sorcerer". He was an incredibly talented actor who could play a wide range of chracters. Mr. Chambers was great at creating some of the best and innovative make up for the "ape's" films, let alone Dirk Benedict's make up in "Sssssssss." A pioneer in the industry that inspired many young people to follow in his footsteps.

  • Aug. 30, 2001, 6:51 p.m. CST

    A damn shame

    by Neosamurai85

    But it has to happen some day. So I say (to both of them) thanks for all that you gave us and all you have left us. You will be missed and unlike manny you will be remebered for decades to come. rest in peace. As for the living... peace.

  • Aug. 30, 2001, 6:52 p.m. CST

    Is it just me or is this year going to be mostly remebered in Ho

    by Neosamurai85

  • Aug. 31, 2001, 12:50 p.m. CST

    Chambers...gone, but not forgotten.

    by RobinP

    A groundbreaking talent, who convinced us that apes could talk. One of my favorite pictures of Chambers appears in an issue of the long gone "Movie Monsters" magazine, where he's standing behind Jonathan Harris, who is sitting, studying a Lost in Space script. Chambers has an uncannily lifelike dummy head of Harris in each hand.

  • Sept. 1, 2001, 5:40 p.m. CST

    Man.....

    by Lady_Hyde

    That's kinda cool that Chambers had accomplished that much in his life. I'm also impressed he worked on POTP.....

  • March 9, 2002, 3:32 p.m. CST

    Did I finally get banned?

    by Harrys Man Boobs