With sadness and a sweet sense of nostalgia I note the passing of one of the great effects technicians, William Tuttle, who died July 27. (The NY Times obituary is here; you may need to register with the site to view it.) Tuttle headed the makeup department of MGM and worked on many films I remember fondly from when I was a kid: The Fury (the 1978 Brian DePalma film that ends with the explosion of John Cassavettes); Logan’s Run (1977), in which he turned Roscoe Lee Brown into a silver-faced cyborg artist nutcase named Box; Young Frankenstein (1974), where Tuttle’s makeup for Peter Boyle both satirized and honored Jack Pierce’s artistry in the 1931 Frankenstein; and “The Night Strangler” (1973), one of the pair of telefilms that launched the TV series Kolchak: The Night Stalker. Tuttle also did standout work in The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao (1964) and The Time Machine (1960), creating a morphing set of identities for Tony Randall in the former and the fearsome Morlocks in the latter.
If you recognize in this retrograde stroll through Tuttle’s filmography the archival trace of IMDb, you’re exactly right; I called up that website reflexively, using it, as I so often do, as a prosthetic augmentation of my mediagoing memories. What’s interesting in this case is how much of Tuttle’s work I was completely unaware of: all the non-monstrous, un-fantastic makeup jobs he did on Hollywood stars, making them look glamorous or rugged or merely screen-real instead of bizarre. Perhaps Tuttle’s best-known creation — in that it triggers for a much of a certain TV-watching generation an avalanche of networked associations to black-and-white anthology dramas, smart SF & fantasy, and twist endings — played on just that split between the “normal” and the “hideous,” in the episode of The Twilight Zone entitled “Eye of the Beholder” (1960). Almost as unmistakably recognizable as Rod Serling’s wry face and voice is the twisted visage of the medical staff unveiled in “Beholder”‘s wrenching final images. For all the faces that William Tuttle helped to look pretty or handsome, it’s the monsters we’ll remember him for.