From The Desk ofJohn Caglione, Jr.: "Dick Tracy" 30 Year Anniversary: An Overview.
Wow, it seems 30 years went by as they say in the blink of an eye ! Well maybe not so fast when you’re actually moving through it with all of life’s ups and downs . The release date of Warren Beatty’s film "Dick Tracy" was June 15th 1990 and man oh Manischewitz this job sure was a game changer in this Makeup guys life! Looking back getting the opportunity of a lifetime to work on this high profile StarStudded Hollywood film was without a doubt my “ Rocky “ moment. I say this because I was young and a kind of up and coming underdog from NY. Not to mention Hollywood had all the big name FX makeup artists out there . A very long shot to say the least. But some really wonderful people helped me out big time in getting a chance at this Heavyweight Championship film of Character makeups!
For this Diary I’d like to acknowledge some key players because I believe, without the existence of other people, you wouldn’t survive very long by yourself. For starters on the short list is my mentor the great Dick Smith who recommended me for the Prosthetic Dept. Head position on "The Cotton Club". It was on "Cotton Club" where I met Production Designer Richard Sylbert and Executive Producer Barrie Osborne. Both men would work on "Dick Tracy" and as I learned years later were strong allies, with Richard telling Warren Beatty about this guy from NY. Back on "Cotton Club" during the shoot I called Dick Smith asking for good shop help on some additional FX stuff. This was where I first met Doug Drexler, whom I brought on board. Doug is a really talented artist, illustrator and cool- we just clicked. When I needed key help on other shows like "Manhunter", "Amityville 3D", "C.H.U.D.", Doug got the call and was right there with me. It was on Micheal Mann’s film "Manhunter" where we met the great Producer Jon Landau. A side note ... I would later repeat with Michael Mann on "Heat" and “The Insider” as his Dept. Head. This may be topic for a future Diary. Jon Landau was the UPM / Producer on the films "F/X" and "Making Mr. Right" where I and Doug were working with Makeup Maestro Carl Fullerton. So Jon was also in there backing us up from his UPM / Producer’s perch on Dick Tracy. It was Jon who called my hotel room in Canada in the wee hours of the morning giving me the miraculous news, “You’ve been Awarded the Character Makeups on Dick Tracy, now you can go back to sleep”. I’ll always remember thanking Jon for all he did for us on Dick Tracy he humbly replied , yes I may have given you the opportunity Johnny but it’s what you guys did with that opportunity. During this time or slightly before Doug and I were working really well together so I invited Doug to partner up. He agreed and this was the birth of Caglione & Drexler Inc. I can now say that in the 10 years or so that I and Doug teamed up, I’ve never had a better guy and collaborator by my side. His total commitment, talent, friendship and support is an experience I’ll always be grateful for. Heck we occasionally joked and still do that we were the Martin & Lewis of Makeup. So with our new company we opened up the Brooklyn shop. This was due to the generosity of the great wig maker Bob Kelly. Bob was the man who through Dick Smith gave me my first paying gig hiring me to sculpt noses, chins and face parts for his FUNKY FACES rubber pieces makeup line when I was 15. Our shop was in the back of Bob’s Brooklyn cosmetic factory and built by John Mazur Bob’s main chemist and head of his cosmetics. When we were awarded "Dick Tracy" the Brooklyn shop was temporarily closed as we traveled to Los Angeles where "Dick Tracy" was to be filmed.
Our first meeting with Warren Beatty at his home was arranged through "Dick Tracy"’s Costume Designer Milena Canonero with whom I had worked with on Cotton Club. I called Milena to let her know we’d be in L.A. for a few days on a job. She was very gracious in setting up the meeting. Thank God the timing was right for this meeting to work out. Well, that drive to Warrens house on Mullholland Drive Doug and I were just really jazzed mixed with a little confidence that maybe just maybe the stars were aligning. We had a really good meeting with Warren who was as I imagined just larger than life, cool and very kind. I went into it thinking we can do this but that no matter how the meeting shakes out I’m just going to really try and enjoy this moment. I guess maybe this showed a little because after the meeting as Warren was showing us out he stopped at the front door and said, you guys don’t think you're getting this job do you ? Then he said, wait a minute then came back handing us the script saying, I want you to read it and come back tomorrow with a proposal and budget! We stayed up all night on natural nerve juice working on the character’s Design Ethic sketches based on the classic Chester Gould comic strip villains and the budget numbers. Next day we head up to Warren’s armed with makeup sketches of a more fleshed out character design of villains who could stand next to Warren and not be abstract looking with a loose budget. I guess Warren felt good about us and our take on the makeups because a few weeks later I got that mind blowing green light call from Jon Landau!
We set up our 1500 sq ft L.A. Dick Tracy makeup shop in the back of the late great Sandy Burman's Burman Industries building. In this raw space we built in all the sinks, work benches, lights & power with the help of our 1st wave core crew. This crew was our Shop Mgr. from the Brooklyn shop Anthony Fredrickson, Greg Smith a great guy and sculptor, Dawn Severdia Shop Coordinator and a guy I discovered and brought out to L.A. Bruce Spaulding Fuller. I found Bruce by chance when my brother was video taping various vendors at a Horror Convention in Albany NY. Bruce who lived in upstate NY had a table at this Convention with some of his masks, which caught my eye. Our lead Foam Latex Tech was Dougs ex wife Donna and her assistant Melanie. To round out the rest of our Core Lab Crew we brought out from NY Kevin Haney one of the best Prosthetic sculptors and makeup artists in the biz. As mentioned earlier, Doug and I had our overall Character Makeup design sketches approved by Warren Beatty and Production well before hiring our crew so having said this .... Upon hiring Kevin and discussing with him our approach to the makeup designs he asked if he could sculpt Flattop. I and Doug agreed which worked out good. To round out the shop we brought out from NY George Engel as our chief Mold Maker, Mark Shostrom who we enjoyed working with and Linda Frobos a really excellent sculptor as well. Jill Rockow was highly recommended to me by Dick Smith. Jill was an asset to us being well versed in prosthetics builds and on set applications. Jill was a major player in both arenas, we were lucky to have her in our corner. I’m happy to say that Jill and I are still good friends to this day.
Our On-Set crew was equally as amazing. The first person Doug and I were really excited to work with on set and lucky to have on board was our makeup hero Craig Reardon. Craig is a legend in his own right and worked often with Rick Baker in the early years. Craig did all the FX Makeups for Steven Spielberg’s film Poltergeist and created the cool creature on the wing of the plane in "The Twilight Zone Movie". We really loved the work of the talented Ve Neill who’s on set prosthetic makeup applications are legendary. So with Craig and Ve as our on set key artists we were off and running having these two with us on set. Janna Phillips a fantastic makeup artist daughter of Star Trek’s Fred B Phillips was a key player for the run. Also another fine prosthetic artist Rolf Keppler the son of the legendary makeup artist Werner Keppler! We also had a solid clean up crew to carefully remove the prosthetics. This allowed the key makeup artists a good turnaround to be rested for the next days applications. Doug and all of these talented artists were some of the most kind and generous people I’ve ever been blessed to work with.
And without a doubt none of this would not have been possible without Dick, Warren, Barrie, Jon, Richard, Milena, Sandy and some divine intervention. So in closing, It does me good to know that this job helped myself and others in positive ways. One example was that during prosthetic prep of Dick Tracy the production and Hollywood Union had made an incredible agreement. This unique Union deal was that Doug, I and Kevin’s prep days counted as Union work days . This special arrangement meant we were allowed the opportunity to take the Union Test. We passed the test and were now then eligible to apply the Character makeups On Set !I I’m pleased to report that Kevin is still in the Hollywood union doing very well working in L.A. Bruce Spaulding Fuller has gone on to working with giants like the Stan Winston Studio and others doing prosthetic makeups in L.A. Doug for many years now has gone on to become a successful Digital FX supervisor. I’m still in the game here in NY as living in L.A wasn’t my cup of tea. I’m extremely grateful to all of the people mentioned here and others I may have missed, my family and so many others.
So to what I said earlier...
Without the existence of other people you wouldn’t survive very long by yourself!