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Bjo & John Trimble Remember Original Series Makeup Maestro Fred Phillips

Bjo & John Trimble Remember Original Series Makeup Maestro Fred Phillips

Fred Beauregard Phillips (1908 – 1993) was born in Raleigh, North Carolina, and grew up to become a makeup artist in Hollywood in the mid-1930s. Though credited throughout his later film and TV makeup career, when first starting out in the film industry, he was mainly uncredited, as were so many others. Uncredited work included Naughty Marietta (1935), The Wizard of Oz (1939), Talk of the Town (1942), Dallas (1950) and Around the World in Eighty Days (1956).

Then he began to get film and TV credit for his makeup talents, alternately credited as Fred B. Phillips, Fred Phillips and Fred Philipps, in such films as Love Happy (1949), House of Usher (1960), Blacula (1972) and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975).

He also did TV makeup on Bat Masterson (1961), and The Adventures of Superboy (1961). He was makeup supervisor for all 49 episodes of Outer Limits (1963 to 1965), where he created alien makeup as well as for humans. In 1966, he was hired for makeup supervision for Star Trek, where he worked for all 78 episodes. He also did the makeup for Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979).

We first met Fred Phillips on the set of TOS, on one of our early visits to Paramount. Between touching up actors and tweaking alien makeup, Fred was happy to talk to us. Bjo had done makeup and prosthetics for Flesh Gordon, so both artists had a basis for conversation. But Fred saw to it that John was not left out of the conversation, either. He was always a perfect Southern gentleman.

We talked about Spock’s ears, of course, which had to be molded daily in order to look right for the cameras. These appliances were made of an expensive form of latex and they tore easily, either when being removed at the end of the day, or sometimes during an action scene. Undaunted by a limited budget and lack of materials, he designed the original Klingons, Romulans and all the other early Star Trek aliens.

Back when we organized and ran Equicons in Los Angeles, celebrity guests were not so expensive, and they could just drive to the convention hotel from home. So we sometimes ended up with unexpected guests, who came to see their friends appear onstage. Most tried to be incognito, but fans are very observant (when they want to be) and most noted such people as Elizabeth Montgomery (Bewitched), Telly Savalas (Kojak), Jo Anne Worley (Laugh-In) and Ray Walston (My Favorite Martian). The fans just acted cool and left them alone.

Greg Jein, who was later to become a prop maker for Close Encounters of the Third Kind, 1941, Air Force One, and many others projects of note, was Equicon’s display organizer. He came up with some amazing stuff to wow convention attendees. One of our favorites was a collection of Disney sketches found in a garage. But we digress… Greg asked Fred Phillips if he would loan some of his Star Trek makeup props, so we got a nice collection of life masks, makeup sketches, wigs, Spock ears and more.

Fred came to this Equicon, and subsequently to several more, and talked about being a makeup man for many years. He told of the famous people he’d worked on, and some of the quirky things about moviemaking in general. Fred was hampered in creating the alien makeup that he wanted to do by budget and lack of proper materials. The best he could do was work with plaster instead of alginate to make life masks, plus latex to mold prosthetics, and a rubber cement to hold everything on. Very limiting considering all the wonderful materials available to makeup people and mask-makers today.

At one Equicon, we discovered that Fred’s birthday was coming up, so we arranged for a celebration party, and invited all the TOS actors and others that we could find. There was an impressive array of guests, starting with Gene Roddenberry, writers such as David Gerrold and D.C Fontana, and Fred’s makeup assistants, plus the entire TOS cast except The Big Three, who had commitments elsewhere. Persis Kambatta attended, with a full head of gorgeous hair instead of the bald Deltan head from the first Star Trek movie.

Gene brought a black and white film, “The Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture” to the party, and one scene featured Fred shaving Persis’ head. Seems that everyone thought she had come around to the idea of becoming hairless for the movie, and she thought so, too. But when Fred made that first swipe of the electric razor, Persis burst into tears. Fred handed her a tissue and continued removing all her hair. At first, she would not go outside the set without a large hat. Later, she began to walk around the studio without a hat. We all enjoyed Persis’ reaction, because she had never seen the film, and she teared again up when her hair was cut.

In 1983, Fred Phillips was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award for makeup from the Society of Operating Cameramen. Fred was very proud that his daughter, Janna Phillips, followed in his footsteps to become a makeup artist. He was delighted to share a Saturn Award nomination from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, with Janna and with makeup artist Ve Neill.

By this time, he was beginning to be affected by serious eye problems, and retired from the demands of weekly TV work. His last film was Under the Rainbow (1981) where he did the special makeup effects for the Munchkins. He was asked to create makeup for Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan in 1982, but his eyesight was too dim by that time, which was very disappointing to a wonderful man with such a very long film career.

When we got acquainted with Mike Westmore, he commented one day that he’d never really met Fred Phillips. We promptly contacted Fred’s family to arrange for a meeting in Westmore’s Paramount office. Of course we tagged along, because, well, why miss an opportunity like this? It was like seeing a couple of fans meet and greet each other: both were happy to exchange compliments about their respective works. Mike asked if Fred would like to see his “monster” shop, and of course we tagged along, too.

Fred was very impressed with the major amount of alien makeup and prosthetics being made in Westmore’s shop. Fred commented that if he’d had one-tenth of Westmore’s access to contemporary materials, he would have enjoyed creating some amazing aliens. None of us doubted this for a minute!

-- John & Bjo Trimble