Screen Star Makeup

Screen Star Makeup:
beauty, stardom, masquerade

Queen Mary University of London

Saturday 14 March 2020 – 9am-7pm  

Keynote: Deborah Jermyn
Reader in Film & TV at the University of Roehampton

A Star is Born (George Cukor, 1954)

Makeup is a vital technical material in the construction of the on-screen image. In both film and photography makeup is used to correct skin-tones for different film stocks and make features visible under bright lights. Beyond this, makeup is also a medium of transformation and beautification and because of this it can be regarded with suspicion. Makeup’s connections with masquerade and theatricality evoke frivolity, artifice and deception; leading to the implication that makeup is worn to conceal inadequacies. James Naremore notes that although film studios have ‘always maintained huge makeup departments’ many actors disingenuously express a preference for appearing ‘natural’ on screen. This embarrassment about the wearing of makeup means that other than in the form of special effects, makeup has ‘become the most truly invisible of movie crafts’ (1988: 95-6). 

This repudiation of makeup by actors belies the fact that makeup is often a visible and important component of the star image. In the early 20th century moral consternation about the provocative implications of wearing makeup was overridden by the mass popularity of screen stars and their strikingly made-up faces. These star makeup looks created a demand for products that led to the creation of still-familiar brands such as Max Factor. Stars were then recruited to endorse makeup lines and appear in advertisements, a convention that continues in the 21st century. 

The Love Witch (Anna Biller, 2016)

This symposium at QMUL will bring together academics and practitioners from a range of fields. Papers, video essays and displays, will examine the role and effects of makeup in the creation, maintenance and dissemination of the star image .

Island in the Sun (Robert Rossen, 1957) – Dorothy Dandridge

Screen Star Makeup is free to attend but registration via Eventbrite is essential