A special tribute to the make-up genius on the sixteenth anniversary of his death.
John Chambers (12th September 1922 – 25th August 2001) was an American make-up artist and prosthetic make-up expert in both television and film. He was a recipient of an Academy Honorary Award by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1968. He is best known for creating Spock's pointy ears for Star Trek (1966), and for his make-up work on the Planet of the Apes film series.
Chambers trained as a commercial artist and started his career designing jewellery and carpets. Following service as a medical technician during World War II, Chambers found employment repairing faces and making prosthetic limbs for wounded veterans at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Hines, Illinois. He also trained under Ben Nye, then head of make-up at 20th Century Fox.
In 1953, Chambers joined the NBC television network as a make-up artist for live shows. After working on his first film Around the World in Eighty Days in 1956, he then joined Universal Pictures. He attracted attention for his work on the film The List of Adrian Messenger, in which the audience had to guess which celebrities were concealed under Chambers's makeup; the actors' identities were not revealed until the end of the film. Chambers also worked on The Munsters and Lost In Space TV series.
Chambers became known worldwide for his work on the Apes movies. During the production of the 1968 original he held training sessions at the 20th Century Fox studios to mentor the other 78 artists working on the film. He won an honorary Oscar at the 41st Academy Awards in 1969 for his work on film, long before the Academy Award for Best Makeup was established in 1981. He was the first motion picture make-up artist to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Chambers worked on the pilot episode of Mission Impossible and created the pointed ears worn by Leonard Nimoy as Spock in the original Star Trek TV series.
He also created Lee Marvin's prosthetic nose for his Academy Award-winning role in Cat Ballou (1965), and a prosthetic chest for Richard Harris in A Man Called Horse (1970), where he was hung on pins for a native American initiation ceremony.
Some of his character creations, including Cornelius and Dr Zaius from the Planet of the Apes series, are on display at The Science Fiction Museum in Seattle.
Chambers served as president of the Society of Make-Up Artists as well.
He retired from the industry in 1982 and lived in a retirement community, the Motion Picture Country Home, in Woodland Hills, California. In 1998, a documentary, A Tribute to John Chambers, directed by Scott Essman, was released. That same year, he was named 94th in the list of "100 most influential people in the history of the movies". Chambers was also given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7006 Hollywood Boulevard, one of few make-up artists to have one.
John Chambers was portrayed by John Goodman in the 2012 film Argo.
John Chambers died of complications from diabetes on August 25, 2001 in Woodland Hills, California, aged 78.