Exactly where Elizabeth Arden’s decision to get involved with Hollywood came from is anyone’s guess. Jock Whitney, Hedda Hopper and Robert Rubin have all been suggested as guiding hands (Woodhead, 2004, p. 211). My money would be on John ‘Jock’ Whitney whom Arden knew from the racetrack. He was amiable, handsome and the sort of East Coast person with social connections that Arden admired. Whitney also had a large financial interest in the film industry and in Technicolor in particular.
Technicolor had been in existence since 1916 but its high cost and technical limitations had made it a difficult sell to the studios. However, by the 1930s, the Technicolor Corporation had developed a new three-strip process; it used a special camera to record red, green and blue light on three separate negatives. In 1932, Whitney invested in the Technicolor Corporation and then co-founded Pioneer Pictures in 1933 to produce Technicolor pictures using this new process. Pioneer Pictures produced the first three-strip Technicolor short film ‘La Cucaracha’ in 1934 and the first three-strip Technicolor feature film ‘Becky Sharp’ in 1935.
Technicolor had a number of technical issues which included problems with make-up. It required brighter lights than black and white film but the make-up used at the time had a slight sheen, so the extra light reflected colours from scenery and costumes onto the actor’s faces, creating undesirable effects – faces could look flushed, sallow or ill depending on the surroundings. Whitney would have been well aware of the issue and it is possible that he consulted Elizabeth Arden about it one day while chatting at the racetrack.
Whatever the cause, once Arden became interested in film make-up she invested heavily in the project. In 1935, she bought DeLong Laboratories Ltd. – based at 5533 Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood – and folded it into the Elizabeth Arden empire as a separate division. Duke Cross (an ex-musical comedy actor) was placed at the helm. The DeLong Laboratories and Make-up Studio had been experimenting for many years with film make-up and had developed Nuchromatic, which according to their advertising was suitable for Panchromatic Film.
Due to the high red sensitiveness of Panchromatic film any make-up containing too much red must be used in relatively dark shades to obtain a satisfactory photographic result. With De Long Nuchromatic Make-up comparatively little red coloring is used and the result is a more neutral blend enabling a lighter more natural-looking make-up to be used.
The purchase of DeLong Laboratories enabled Arden to launch her ‘new’ line in the same year. Many of the items retained the badge of Nuchromatic Screen and Stage Make-up but others were simply labelled Screen & Stage Make-up by Elizabeth Arden. As with the packaging, Arden also reworked some of the DeLong advertising copy.
This enchanting Screen and Stage Make-up, acclaimed by the greatest artists of stage and screen—is a complete departure from ordinary heavy greasepaint. It is perspiration proof, light-and-heat proof, and clings for hours without renewal! It will not clog the pores or harm the skin … it is made of the purest ingredients obtainable. It completely conceals freckles! It feels extremely cool, comfortable and satin smooth on the skin.
The line met with little success on Hollywood lots or elsewhere. The only films I know that used it were ‘A Star is Born’ (1937) and ‘Nothing Sacred’ (1937), both films Jock Whitney had a financial stake in. Selznick International made both pictures. Whitney had been made chairman of the board of Selznick and had invested heavily in the company when it was formed in 1935 following David O. Selznick’s departure from MGM.
Most of the materials required blending after being applied. At least two shades of foundation were to be used when making-up and the same was expected when using the liners (eyeshadow).
The foundation, which is sold in jars as well as in tubes … is the base for the new make-up procedure which is used. This foundation is furnished in a variety of shades and at least two shades are used in making up—blended and modelled together.
The eye make-up involves two shades of eye-shadow which Arden calls “liners” in this Nuchromatic system, for example, a brown underneath, accented with blue. The lashes are outlined with a black make-up pencil, then a dot of red rouge is placed in the inner corner of each eye and mascara is used on the lashes.
Paste rouge is applied high on the cheek-bones, but the whole tendency is to play down the use of rouge and secure a warm, ivory tone. Powder goes on with cotton and is carefully blended with a specially prepared camel’s hair brush. A special brush is also used for filling in the paste rouge on the lips after they have been outlined with an indelible red make-up pencil.
It is clear that Arden intended to extend the use of ‘Screen and Stage’ make-up into general consumption and not keep it just for use in theatres and films. As well as being used for amateur or private theatricals, Arden recommended it for “that extra-special party, masquerade, or gala evening occasion, for professional or amateur photography”. As the make-up was waterproof (requiring its own special remover) she also suggested it for swimming, the beach and active sports (Drug and Cosmetic Industry, 1935a).
The drama of Screen and Stage Make-up is not limited to the theatre; it has an important place in the chic woman’s private life. There is nothing more glamorous for gala evening occasions than Screen and Stage Make-up. No matter how dazzling the lights, it is always flattering. No matter how long the party, your make-up remains flawless and flower-fresh.
Unfortunately, make-up designed for theatrical work did not necessarily work more generally, as Arden herself noted.
The $1 lipliner should have a good market … it’s absolutely perfect! The Foundations, Eye Shad-O and Mascara should also sell well. I don’t think the stores should have very much powder, it’s better to use our own as the “Screen” one is too heavy for ordinary use.
As well as the products themselves, the requirements and conventions established in stage make-up could also have been an issue. ‘Screen and Stage’ had 10 foundations for screen, 20 foundations for stage, 15 liners, 10 powders for screen and 16 powders for stage, all numbered rather than named. The numbering system has a long tradition in the theatre going back to greasepaint but would seem strange for those not use to it. There seems to have been some attempt to address the identification problems at a later date when descriptive names also appeared on the containers.
The large number of variants and possible combinations would have added to the problems Arden representatives had in persuading retailers to stock the new product line.
The little interest shown by the movie industry in Arden’s ‘Screen and Stage Make-up’ quickly evaporated with the development of ‘Pan-Cake Make-up’ by the Max Factor Company. As a flat, matte make-up it solved most of the the reflected colour problems. First used in the 1937 film ‘Vogues of 1938’, it quickly became the standard make-up used in Technicolor films for some time thereafter.
Max Factor’s son Frank was charged with the development of ‘Pan-Cake’, and after his father’s death in 1938 he released it as a general make-up for woman. It was a huge success and cosmetic companies, including Elizabeth Arden, scrambled to produce imitations. Arden’s product was initially called Pat-A-Kake but the name was changed to Pat-A-Crème after legal action by the Max Factor Company.
See also: Cake Make-up
By the end of the decade the whole Screen and Stage project was quietly shelved having been a costly failure. To make matters worse, Frank Factor, who had changed his name to Max Factor Jr. after his father’s death, seemed to be a lot more interested in the commercial possibilities of make-up than his father. The Factors were probably added to the list Arden started with Helena Rubinstein and Dorothy Gray. That list was soon to be extended with the arrival of Charles Revson.
Updated: 19th April 2013
Arden’s new Nuchromatic make-up. (1935). The Drug and Cosmetic Industry. 37(1). 57.
Lewis, A. A. & Woodworth, C. (1973). Miss Elizabeth Arden. London: W. H. Allen.
Stage and screen make-up by Elizabeth Arden. (1935). The Drug and Cosmetic Industry. 37(3). 329, 361.
Woodhead, L. (2003). War paint: Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubinstein their lives, their times, their rivalry. London: Virago.