Max Factor at work (Click photo to enlarge).
Max Factor, one of the famous names in Western cosmetics, was born in Lodz, Poland, in 1877, and began his career as an apprentice to a wig maker. By 20, he was running his own makeup shop.
As his local fame spread, actors from the emerging film industry also came to Max for make-up advice. Thus, the motion picture industry, then beginning in Hollywood, beckoned. He settled in Los Angeles with his family in 1909 and got a job with the Pantages Theatre.
By 1914, he was perfecting make up for the movies. He had improvised a new alternative to dye greasepaint, which he thought looked dreadful and ‘terrifying’ on the screen.
He formed flexible greasepaint, which was the first make up created for film. It helped make actresses look more natural in close up.
In 1918, he developed his ‘colour harmony’ face powder range, which allowed him to create make up for each individual based on their skin tones, due to the wide range of shades on offer.
Max Factor at work (Click photo to enlarge).
Creating false eyelashes, the eyebrow pencil, lip gloss, and pancake make up, Factor created a whole new language for screen cosmetics.
Inevitably, once the actresses had been made to look so stylish on screen, they wanted to maintain the same effect in everyday life, so they wore the new Max Factor ‘make up’ in personal appearances. Soon, women unconnected with the theatre or the film industry were asking for the make up, so that they too could look glamorous.
In 1934 he introduced Liquid Nail Enamel, forerunner of today’s nail enamels, here with Bette Davis for Life Magazine (Click photo to enlarge).
Max Factor ad with Hollywood Star: Ruby Keeler, 1935 (Click photo to enlarge).
In 1920 he developed the “Color Harmony” principles of makeup, which held that ‘certain combinations of a woman’s complexion, hair and eye coloring were most effectively complemented by specific makeup shades’.
By the 1920s, Max’s sons were heavily involved in the business with Davis working as general manager and Frank helping his father to develop new products. They received their biggest single make up order during this decade in 1925 when they had to provide 600 gallons of light olive make up to the film set of ‘Ben Hur’ to ensure that the extras filming in America had the same colour skin as the extras who filmed in Italy.
Max Factor Pan Cake ad with Hollywood Star Merle Oberon in the movie ‘The Love Of Madame Sand’. (Click photo to enlarge).
Max Factor Pan Cake ad with Hollywood Star Judy Garland in the movie ‘Till The Clouds Roll By’, with Lena Horn, Frank Sinatra and Robert Walker, 1946 (Click photo to enlarge).
Another key development in the make up world was the invention of waterproof mascara for the film ‘Mare Nostrum’ in 1926.
It was in 1927 that Max Factor introduced his first cosmetics to be sold to non-theatrical consumers. Before Max Factor, few women used cosmetics. Factor popularised both the word “make up” and the use (and abuse) of the cosmetic repertoire.
Credited as the father of modern make up, Max Factor is responsible for inventing many key cosmetic products (for both on screen and off) and is still the inspiration behind beauty trends and innovations today.
A portrait of American cosmetics executive Max Factor. (Photo by Hulton, ca 1960).
He died on 30 August 1938 at the age of 59. His son, Frank, who renamed himself Max Factor, Jr., popularized the term ‘make-up’, which had formerly been reserved for theater people, and took his father’s Hollywood business into the broad world, building the Max Factor Cosmetics empire, created, pancake make-up and smear-proof lipstick, built on his father’s innovations. He continued to be involved with the company until the 1970s, seeing the company create make up shades for US Marines during the second world war, offer male products such as shampoo and aftershave and launch its first female fragrance in 1955. Mac Factor jr. died at 91 in Los Angeles on this date in 1996.
Max Factor ad for new lipsticks with Hollywood Star Rita Hayworth who is starring in ‘Down To Earth’, 1947
Max Factor’s most notable clients were Mary Pickford, Claudette Colbert, Jean Harlow, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Gloria Swanson, Rita Hayworth, Judy Garland, Dinah Shore, Lena Horne, Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn and Farrah Fawcett, all of whom became regular visitors at his salons.
In the 1970s, the third generation of Factors rose to senior positions but wanted to focus on their own interests, leading the firm to first be bought by Revlon and then Proctor & Gamble in 1991
t’s been more than 50 years since Marilyn Monroe’s death, but there’s no doubt the famed actress’ signature beauty is still recognized around the globe. So much so that Max Factor has announced Monroe as the new global ambassador for its latest ads, celebrating the makeup label’s 80th anniversary.
The late starlet was a longtime client of founder Max Factor’s son Max Factor Jr. in the ’40s, when she was known as Norma Jeane Mortenson. According to the beauty brand’s post on its Facebook page, Max Factor credits its makeup with helping transform the innocent-looking young lady into the sex symbol she’s known as today (“From Norma Jeane to Marilyn Monroe, Created by Max Factor,” reads the campaign’s tagline).
“Marilyn made the sultry red lip, creamy skin and dramatically lined eyes the most famous beauty look of the Forties and it’s a look that continues to dominate the beauty and fashion industry,” said Pat McGrath, Max Factor’s global creative design director. “It is the ultimate look that defines glamour, nothing else compares.” (Click photo to enlarge).
Given that Max Factor seems to favor past beauty icons (the brand’s former face, Gwyneth Paltrow, channeled Audrey Hepburn and Farrah Fawcett for her campaign), it comes as no surprise that the company would choose the blond bombshell as its new face.
This isn’t the first time that Monroe has been associated with a beauty brand even after her death. The platinum-blonde Hollywood star had a make-up collection dedicated to her by MAC in 2012 and had been the face of Chanel No.5 campaigns in 2013
by Jean Amr