This was glamour! 

30 November 2023

A woman in very stark make-up

How could you expect a girl to play a love scene looking like a corpse? It’s what they had to do in the early days. And that’s no exaggeration — look at the picture above!


Cover of TV Mirror

From TV Mirror for week commencing 5 September 1953

THOSE who looked at TV in the early days saw plenty of pretty girls on their screens, but the glamour, strangely enough, was almost non-existent in the studio. The reason for this has been explained to me by Miss Bradnock, head of make-up at Lime Grove.

“Make-up in the early days was like a mask,” said Miss Bradnock. “It was quite different. We had to model the face with blue and white shading in order to define the features. Blue triangles beneath the cheekbones gave shape to the face. Eyes, too, were emphasised by heavy lining and shadow. We almost painted the eyes into the face.

“After the war the TV cameras had been improved, and artists who were accustomed to our Picasso-like colourings were delightfully surprised on their return to find that make-up had been modified.

“Of course, we are always experimenting. For a while we used very light make-up — then we tried a grey-toned foundation. Do you remember, Tony?” [sic – her name was Tommy – Ed]

“Oh, yes!” replied Mrs. Tony Manderson, Miss Bradnock’s right hand “man.” “That was a phase. It didn’t last. Psychologically it was bad. How could you expect a girl to play a romantic part knowing that she looked like a corpse?”

As natural as possible

I asked Miss Bradnock why her make-up department used these odd foundation shades.

“It was an attempt to help the camera and lighting, which in those days had their limits,” she explained. “But no such exaggerations are needed now.”

“I find that by experimenting and trying to get as near to a natural make-up as we can we help the artists, too,” she explained. “It makes them feel more at ease before the cameras — that in itself is quite an ordeal.”

I wanted to know if she used a cream, liquid or panchromatic foundation as a base for her television make-up.

“I prefer to work with cream,” she said, “but one must study the skin. Some of our artists are allergic to certain cosmetic ingredients and we have to think of that, too. Here we use theatrical make-up from all ranges which is made to our requirements.”

Tony passed a circular box to me, containing a complete make-up palette. The lightest of the six foundation shades was the equivalent of a suntan; the darkest, mostly used for coloured parts, was a deep brown.

“There are no fixed rules in television make-up,” continued Miss Bradnock. “Choice depends not only on the colouring of the individual, but also on the camera which is being used. One artist may have quite a light make-up one day and a dark one the next. This applies to men and women.

Thinking in black and white

“We use three lip colours — burgundy, bluish-red, and a clear red. Here again, choice depends on the camera. My department always fits in with the studio conditions. Lips are a problem in a man and sometimes they need toning down if they are very pink. Otherwise, they look as though they are heavily made up.

“Attention is also paid to a man’s chin, for even the slightest growth of beard shows on the screen as a dark shadow. Hair in general tends to look darker, and for this reason eyebrow’s are often painted out and lighter ones are drawn in their place.”

I learnt that it is still necessary to use a delicate eye make-up even though the cameras have been improved.

“TV cameras are so sensitive to any shadows,” said Miss Bradnock. “We have two tones of grey eye-shadow which are inter-mixable with the pink and white shading. If the eyes are hooded it may be necessary to lighten them. The rules used in a beauty salon apply to us, too. Remember the picture is only black and white, and we have to think of tone value all the time.”

“Do you use brown shading to alter and flatter face shapes?” I asked.

“Oh, yes!” she replied. “But unlike film studios who change their make-up from set to set, ours has to stay put no matter how often the set or the lighting change. Any shading we use, therefore, must be subtle so that it is never visible to the viewers’ eyes.”

Undoubtedly, between them, Johnny Bradnock and Tony knew all the answers, but I could not help wondering as I left the studios what will happen when the dream of colour television becomes a reality.


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Liverpool, Wednesday 10 April 2024