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Making up is hard to do

A rare pamphlet (there is only one for sale on Abebooks), The Secrets of Making-Up, co-edited  by two old stagers, J. Ainsley Brough and George M Slater, is 70 pages of very useful advice on how to transform yourself into anything from a man of ninety to an octoroon. It seems to date from around 1922, but for some reason a typeface is adopted that was current c 1903. There are some wonderful photos of actors from the Music Hall and Revue, all demonstrating the transformative powers of grease paint and powder.

Although politically very much of its time (the N word is one of a number of dubious references), essentially this is a practical and modern guide. The humour—especially in a lively article on Revue and Vaudeville by Slater ( 1870 – 1949), a theatre manager and prolific writer of pantomimes, whose archive is now at the V & A—is genuinely funny, even slightly ribald. The ads at the back also contribute much to modern theatrical history.

Some tips:
1) An actor should ideally shave off his moustache, not cover it with 'goldbeater’s skin' , whatever that is,  if portraying a clean shaven person.
2) Stage Character make-up is useless for film work, and when wigs are used they must on no account have a ‘scalp join’ . No explanation is offered.
3) When portraying a Chinese or Japanese person, 'do not line under the eyes, as Chinese and Japanese have small eyes’. [RR]

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One thought on “Making up is hard to do

  1. mecki

    Goldbeater's skin is a thin membrane from a cow's gut (some sources say appendix) It is known for being very thin, very flexible, and airtight. It's used to make very thin gold film (hence its name) and to make gasbags for Zeppelins.

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