Bob Schiffer, 88; Makeup Artist to a Galaxy of Stars

Times Staff Writer

Bob Schiffer, a veteran Hollywood makeup artist who helped glamorize a galaxy of stars, including Joan Crawford, Paulette Goddard, Errol Flynn and Cary Grant, has died. He was 88.

Schiffer died Tuesday at UCLA Medical Center of complications from a stroke.

Beginning with his first makeup job as a teenager working on the 1932 Marx Brothers comedy "Horse Feathers," the Seattle-born Schiffer spent the next seven decades working on movies, including such classics as "Captains Courageous," "Only Angels Have Wings," "From Here to Eternity," "Marty," "Camelot" and "My Fair Lady."

At RKO, he worked on "Becky Sharp" -- the first feature-length three-color film -- as well as "Annie Oakley," starring Barbara Stanwyck. He also worked on most of the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers musicals. At MGM, his credits included "A Night at the Opera," "Mutiny on the Bounty," "The Good Earth" and "The Wizard of Oz."

Earning a reputation as an expert in women's makeup, Schiffer created stylish looks for Crawford, Myrna Loy, Ingrid Bergman and other actresses. After moving to Columbia Pictures in 1938, he became Rita Hayworth's exclusive makeup artist, working with the actress on films such as "The Lady from Shanghai," "Gilda" and "Cover Girl."

Schiffer also had a long association with Burt Lancaster. Among his films with Lancaster: "Elmer Gantry," "The Leopard," "The Young Savages," "Judgment at Nuremberg" and, most notably, "The Birdman of Alcatraz," for which Schiffer aged Lancaster's character from 18 to 80 -- a process that took 2 1/2 hours a day.

"Normally, you would put a mustache on a man to make him look old, or something simple like that," Schiffer recalled in an interview. "But I aged Burt without any obvious changes; you weren't conscious of them. And it wasn't easy with this strong jaw line. I used a lot of rubber appliances for the various changes."

When they started the film, he said, "I put a skullcap on Burt to give him a bald head. This meant another hour in makeup each morning, so I finally persuaded him to shave his head and let me duplicate his hair with a toupee. I made rubber bags for his eyes, and a rubber chin. I also stretched his face with tape, and then released it to add wrinkles."

Schiffer spent the last 33 years of his career at the Walt Disney Studios, where he headed the makeup department and worked on films such as "The Shaggy D.A.," "Something Wicked This Way Comes" and "Splash." He retired from Disney in 2001 but continued as a consultant.

He is survived by his wife of 53 years, Florence; son, Douglas; and two grandchildren.

Funeral services will be private.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that donations be made to the American Cancer Society or the Motion Picture and Television Fund Foundation, 22212 Ventura Blvd., Suite 300, Woodland Hills, CA 91364.

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