Perc Westmore

Perc Westmore

Perc (top) with Bud and Wally Westmore
Born Percival Harry Westmore
(1904-10-29)October 29, 1904
Cantebury, Kent, England, United Kingdom
Died September 30, 1970(1970-09-30) (aged 65)
North Hollywood, California
Cause of death Heart attack
Resting place Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale
Nationality British
Occupation Make-up artist
Employer Warner Bros.
Parent(s) George Westmore
Ada Savage

Westmore family

Ern Westmore (twin brother)

Percival Harry Westmore (1904–1970) was a prominent member of the Westmore family of Hollywood make-up artists. He rose to the position of Head of the Warner Bros. make-up department, and with his brothers founded the studio "The House of Westmore" on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. He worked with well-known Hollywood actresses of the period, including Lauren Bacall, Bette Davis and Kay Francis. He was married on four occasions, and collected cuttings relating to the Westmore family throughout his life which were subsequently donated to Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences after his death.


The House of Westmore beauty salon was opened on April 16, 1935, on Sunset Boulevard.[1] Perc was instrumental in finishing the project, as the brothers had run out of money before finishing it. Whilst working on Stranded, he told actress Kay Francis of their plight. She responded by giving him a blank cheque to complete the project, which he cashed for $25,000. Francis, along with other stars of the day including Marlene Dietrich, Clara Bow and Carole Lombard, subsequently helped launch the studio.[2]

Whilst he was head of the Warner Brothers make-up department, he piloted several changes including introducing a description of shades of hair color in order to use different types of make-up more appropriately. Whereas prior to Perc, studios described actresses simply as blonde or brunette, Perc introduced a chart of thirty five shades of blonde alone.[3] During the production of one film, Perc created a detailed latex hand for a close-up shot. According to Perc's brother Frank, the hand was so detailed that he was visited by doctors to study it and the process was adapted for use by the medical industry.[4]

Perc was involved in the House of Westmore beauty product range, and one promotion run by the company gave away copies of "Perc Westmore's Make-up Guide".[5] One such advertisement described Perc's achievements as "responsible for the coilfure and make-up of such great stars as Bette Davis, Ann Sheridan, Merle Oberon, Olivia de Havilland, Brenda Marshall... and at one time or another has worked with practically every great star of Hollywood."[6]

He made an onscreen cameo in the 1937 film Hollywood Hotel.[7] Perc was the make-up artist for Bette Davis during the filming of The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex in 1939, where she became the first Hollywood actress to appear bald on screen (although it was actually only a couple of inches of her hairline which was shaved, to appear bald under wigs). This wasn't due to Westmore's ideas, but because Davis wanted to appear historically accurate as Queen Elizabeth.[8] He very nearly changed Lauren Bacall's styling to something similar to Marlene Dietrich when Bacall attended for her screen test prior to her first film for Warner Bros. Bacall panicked at the suggestion and called producer Howard Hawks who insisted to Perc that he should leave her the way she was.[9]

In 1951, he worked with the United States Navy to develop a hair style for female personnel which would stand up to sea breezes and prevent the hair from falling against the collar, which at the time was against regulations.[10] Perc died of a heart attack on September 30, 1970, at his home in North Hollywood.[11] He is interred at Glendale's Forest Lawn Memorial Park.[12] He was posthumously nominated for Outstanding Achievement in Make-up at the 23rd Primetime Emmy Awards in 1971 for his work on The Third Bill Cosby Special. The award went to Robert Dawn for Mission: Impossible.[13]

On October 3, 2008, the Westmore family received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for their work in the motion picture industry.[14][15]

Personal life

Perc was a member of the Westmore family, and twin brother of Ern Westmore.[16] Perc was rumoured to be involved in an affair with Kay Francis, but no reference to it was found in Francis' diaries.[2] He was married on several occasions, to Virginia Thomas, Gloria Dickson, Juliette Novis and Margaret Valetta.[17][18] He was also engaged to Betty Hutton,[19] who broke off the engagement later saying it was because he bored her.[20]

During his marriage to Dickson, she vanished for several days with the story reaching the media.[21] He adopted a daughter with Virginia Thomas, also named Virginia. When Margaret Valetta's divorce was processed in 1951 on the grounds of cruelty, she had a signed agreement with Perc that she would have custody of Virginia.[22]


Perc Westmore collected a number of clippings and recordings featuring himself and his family. The combined collection of 42 scrapbooks, plus recordings and manuscript material were donated by Ola Carroll Westmore to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1971 after his death.[23]

Partial filmography

Published works


  1. Williams, Greg (2005). The Story of Hollywood: An Illustrated History. 9780977629909: BL Press. p. 209.
  2. 1 2 Kear, Lynn; Rossman, John (2006). Kay Francis: A Passionate Life And Career. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland. p. 87. ISBN 9780786423668.
  3. "Blonde to You – Thirty-five Different Types to Westmore". Rochester Evening Journal. January 24, 1935. Retrieved November 18, 2012.
  4. Nichols, Harmon W. (March 10, 1953). "Invention of Make-up Artist Aids Handicapped". The Times-News. Retrieved November 18, 2012.
  5. "Here's Westmore's Amazing Waterproof Foundation Cream in Action!". Life. 6 (25): 77. June 19, 1939. Retrieved November 18, 2012.
  6. "You Can Have Your Hair Restyled by Perc Westmore". Life. 10 (20): 124. May 19, 1941. Retrieved November 18, 2012.
  7. Fleming, E.J. (2005). Carole Landis: A Tragic Life In Hollywood. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland. pp. 38–40. ISBN 9780786422005.
  8. Latham, Bethany (2011). Elizabeth I in Film and Television: A Study of the Major Portrayals. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland. p. 80. ISBN 9780786437184.
  9. Magee, Sean (2012). Desert Island Discs: 70 Years of Castaways. London: Bantam. p. 200. ISBN 9780593070062.
  10. "New Hairdo Designed for Wave Uniform". Reading Eagle. February 9, 1951. Retrieved November 18, 2012.
  11. "Perc Westmore". Toledo Blade. October 1, 1970. Retrieved November 18, 2012.
  12. "Perc Westmore (1904 - 1970) - Find A Grave Memorial". Retrieved 2016-07-24.
  13. "Outstanding Achievement in Make-up 1971". Retrieved November 18, 2012.
  14. "The Westmores | Hollywood Walk of Fame". Retrieved 2016-07-24.
  15. "The Westmores". Retrieved 2016-07-24.
  16. "The Mask Maker Make-up Man Creates Film Characters, Transforms Disfigured Faces". Daily News of Los Angeles. March 19, 1986. Retrieved November 18, 2012. (subscription required)
  17. "Perc Westmore to Wed Again". St. Petersburg Times. November 5, 1942. Retrieved November 18, 2012.
  18. "Perc Westmore Divorced". The Montreal Gazette. April 24, 1951. Retrieved November 18, 2012.
  19. "St. Petersburg Times - Google News Archive Search". Retrieved 2016-07-24.
  20. Graham, Sheilah (February 21, 1943). "With the Hollywood Gadabout". The Milwaukee Journal. Retrieved November 18, 2012.
  21. "Movie Actress is Reported Missing". Reading Eagle. February 28, 1940. Retrieved November 18, 2012.
  22. "Perc Westmore's Fourth Wife Sues". Lewiston Evening Journal. March 27, 1951. Retrieved November 18, 2012.
  23. "Perc Westmore Papers". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 18 November 2012.
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