Hollywood makeup artist can often fly underneath the radar. Their work is highly visible, often key to the visual aesthetics of film, yet the person behind these effects can get lost in the shuffle alongside the more prominent actors and directors. However, the personality of a makeup artist can shine through, growing so large that they almost become a brand name. Such is the case with William Tuttle, a makeup artist so well regarded that he won an Academy Award for his work a while seventeen years before an official category for makeup effects existed.
Born in Jacksonville, Florida, Tuttle lived a hard scrabble existence for most of his early life. At one point, he had to drop out of school to help support his family. Nevertheless, this hardworking young man was finally able to piece together enough money to make his way to Hollywood. Although it isn’t clear if a personal affinity for makeup effects or economic self-interest brought Tuttle under the tutelage of Jack Dawn at Twentieth Century Pictures, the fact remains that Tuttle was exposed to a huge number of opportunities at this post.
Working during a hotbed of creativity in Hollywood, Tuttle cut his teeth on “The Wizard of Oz” and “The Father of the Bride”. Eventually, Tuttle became so accomplished, working with stars such as Judy Garland, Esther Williams, Gene Kelly, and Katharine Hepburn, that he surpassed his old teacher.
The highlight of Tuttle’s career came in the 50s, when he provided makeup services for such classics as “Singin’ in the Rain”, “North by Northwest”, “The Time Machine”, and “Forbidden Planet”. These roles cemented his stature as one of Hollywood’s premier makeup artists, culminating in the 1964 granted of a special Academy Award for his work on “7 Faces of Dr. Lao”.
Tuttle also provide makeup effect for episodes of “The Twilight Zone” and the films “Logan’s Run” and “Young Frankenstein”.
He passed away at the ripe age of 95 in 2007.