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How Max Factor Transformed the Looks of Hollywood’s Most Iconic Leading Ladies

Actors stood tall during the Golden Age of movies, but it’s the actresses who supplied all the sparkle. “There were the glamour girls. They always had the makeup and hair people with them,” remembered Lauren Bacall. These larger-than-life beauties — from haughty grand dames like Joan Crawford and Bette Davis to sex kittens like Marilyn Monroe and Rita Hayworth — owned a debt of gratitude to a man named Max Factor.

An immigrant from Poland who claimed he had made wigs for Czar Nicholas II of Russia, Max used a combination of visual tricks and science to enhance women’s natural beauty. “He invented contouring in 1920,” says Clara Kuperberg, who cowrote and directed The Max Factor, a documentary. “Back then, there was no plastic surgery, no Botox or anything. But he [used makeup] to make a face thinner or to change it.”

Max also invented modern cosmetic staples such as breathable foundation, lip gloss and wand-applicator mascara. “Everything we do today started with Max,” says Clara. “He was a genius.”

Scroll through our gallery below to see how Max transformed some of your favorite Hollywood icons.

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