Movie Make-up Magic – Elvis Presley and the Westmore Family

“There isn’t a woman in the world that cannot be made to be more beautiful.” – Ern Westmore

It’s hard to imagine an even more handsome version of Elvis Presley, but the Westmore family made that happen.

For many of Elvis’ 31 films, his movie makeup was done by, or supervised by, the famous Westmore family of make-up artists. The Westmores have worked on countless classic movies and television shows and worked with legendary actors and actresses to create legendary looks. Whether making a glamorous leading lady look the part, or turning a handsome actor into a scary movie monster, the Westmores created true makeup movie magic.

Wally Westmore served as makeup supervisor on Elvis' 1960 musical "G.I. Blues."

Wally Westmore served as makeup supervisor on Elvis’ 1960 musical “G.I. Blues.”

The Westmore family’s makeup journey began with George Westmore, a British wigmaker. He moved to the United States and began working at Metro Studios in Hollywood in 1917. At the time, many actors did their own makeup, so there were no makeup departments or artists. George experimented and established guidelines and techniques that are still in place today.

George’s six sons continued in their fathers’ footsteps and broke ground along the way. Each of them went on to manage makeup departments at the major movie studios. Monte, the oldest, was Rudolph Valentino’s makeup artist. Following Valentino’s death, Monte worked for Selznick International and supervised all of the makeup work for “Gone with the Wind.” Ernest Westmore worked with Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox and legendary makeup artist Max Factor, and won the first-ever award given to a makeup artist for his work on the western “Cimarron.” Perc spent 26 years as head of the Makeup, Wig and Hairdressing Department at Warner Brothers. Perc and his twin, Ern, worked with Max Factor until they opened the House of Westmore Salon in 1934. A few of Perc’s most famous movie makeup transformations include Bette Davis’ bold, whitefaced look in “The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex” and Charles Laughton’s scary look in “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”

Out of all of the Westmore brothers, Wally Westmore worked on the most Elvis movies, including "Fun in Acapulco."

Out of all of the Westmore brothers, Wally Westmore worked on the most Elvis movies, including “Fun in Acapulco.”

The three youngest Westmore sons, Frank, Bud and Wally, worked with Elvis. Wally was over the makeup department at Paramount for 43 years and worked on films such as “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” “Sabrina” and “Rear Window.” Bud was in charge of the makeup at Universal and was especially talented at monster make-up. He also designed the makeup for the first Barbie doll in 1959. Frank, the youngest Westmore brother, freelanced and worked on films such as “The Ten Commandments.”  Frank also penned a book about his family called “The Westmores of Hollywood.”

Both Wally and Frank Westmore worked on Elvis' 1965 comedy "Tickle Me."

Both Wally and Frank Westmore worked on Elvis’ 1965 comedy “Tickle Me.”

Wally Westmore was a makeup supervisor on “King Creole,” “G.I. Blues,” “Blue Hawaii,” “Girls! Girls! Girls!” “Fun in Acapulco” and “Easy Come, Easy Go.” He served as a makeup artist on “Loving You,” “Paradise, Hawaiian Style” and “Tickle Me.”

Frank also worked on Elvis’ 1965 comedy “Tickle Me” as a makeup artist.

Bud Westmore worked as a makeup artist on Elvis’ final dramatic film, “Change of Habit.”

Bud Westmore served as a makeup artist on Elvis' final dramatic film, "Change of Habit."

Bud Westmore served as a makeup artist on Elvis’ final dramatic film, “Change of Habit.”

Monte had three sons who continued the successful Westmore story. Monty (Monte’s son) served as Paul Newman’s personal makeup artist on 17 of his films and was Joan Crawford’s personal makeup artist for the cult classic, “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” Michael won an Academy Award for his work on the 1985 film “Mask,” and he worked on movies and TV shows like “Rocky,” “Raging Bull” and “Star Trek.” Marvin worked on films like “Dr. Doolittle” and “Blade Runner.”

Want to learn more about Elvis’ movies? We have an episode of our web series, Gates of Graceland, which focuses on the king’s movies – click here to watch it. Tune in to our Elvis movie podcast, Starring Elvis Presley. You can also explore artifacts from Elvis’ film career at Elvis: The Entertainer Career Museum at Elvis Presley’s Memphis at Graceland.

What’s your favorite Elvis movie?


7 Comments

  1. My favorite movie is live a little love a little and I also like Follow that dream

  2. Very Hard ?… I really can’t say which one is the “BEST”, Elvis was the Best at everything he did!!
    TCB with TLC always.

  3. Heidi Poulsen-Lauritzen

    THE Best Movie that EAP EVER did is (by a long shot) “King Creole” and should have won him an academy award because in THIS movie ELVIS proves – without the slightest shadow of a doubt – that he is a WAY, WAY better actor than James Dean when it comes to “young actors” BUT my own personal Fave EAP Movie is “Wild In The Country”!! Happy Watching ‘Em EAP Master Pieces! – with OR without The Westmores!!….

  4. Diane Dillon

    Blue Hawaii

  5. Favorite Elvis Movie: Change of Habit

  6. Elvis was an individual of tremendous natural musical talent & physical presence who, when he walked onto the stage to perform simply became something larger than life.

    The last 30 seconds of his 2 minute live black & white TV performance on the Milton Berle show June 5, 1956 forever changed American Culture & the entire word of Popular Music.

  7. Kathryn Briggs

    I really liked all of his ‘singing’ movies but loved him in the more dramatic roles like King Creole, Change of Habit and especially Charro. He would have been great doing more dramatic roles like he wanted to do.

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