Dan Striepeke was a highly-acclaimed (two 'Oscar' nominations) makeup artist who enjoyed a long association with the Planet of the Apes, contributing to all five of the original movies and the spin-off weekly TV show that followed. Striepeke recalled his start in the makeup business in a 1974 interview: "I was in the drama and speech department in high school and college, so I used to do all the make-up for their productions. I enjoyed it so much, I decided this is what I wanted to do. I came to Los Angeles to see if I could break in. I didn't know anyone, so I starved a lot. I finally got a job with a community theatre group. One of the directors worked at a local TV station, and hired me to work at the television studio."[1] Striepeke worked at NBC from Fall 1955 to Spring 1957, where he first worked with John Chambers. From there, he went on to run Bud Westmore's makeup lab from 1957 to 1959.[2] After some years working in live TV and on movies such as The Ten Commandments, Kismet, Giant, Around the World in 80 Days, The Magnificent Seven and The Sound of Music, and running the premier season of Mission: Impossible, Dan was chosen by the retiring Ben Nye to become his successor as head of the 20th Century Fox Makeup Department.[3] This was around 1967, and Nye had already begun the process of developing a convincing ape makeup for the planned Planet of the Apes movie, creating the makeup for a ten-minute screen-test starring Edward G. Robinson, and John Chambers had subsequently taken up the role of 'Creative Makeup Designer' on the project.

Planet of the Apes would be among Striepeke's first assignments at Fox, but he was also kept busy with their Irwin Allen-produced sci-fi TV shows. "There was 'Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea', 'The Time Tunnel' - all these were on at the same time, besides trying to work on 'Planet of the Apes'! 'Lost in Space' was constantly a make-up problem - but, such problems are fun; they make you be inventive. This profession requires you to be inventive!" "It's the Apes that I'm most proud of. Now, the make-up has been pretty much taken for granted. John Chambers and I worked together on the make-up. I can't begin to describe how enormous the problem was: we did things that had never been attempted before. In a sense, we opened the door to a whole new area of make-up. I sometimes don't know how we did it."[1] On Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972), John Chambers acted only in an advisory capacity, with Striepeke stepping up to supervise the actual make-up.[4] At the time of the fifth Apes movie in 1973, Striepeke had gone to Universal Studios where he co-wrote and produced the cult horror movie Sssssss, for which he and John Chambers devised a make-up which transformed Dirk Benedict into a reptilian creature. Richard D. Zanuck - another veteran of the Apes movies - co-produced.[2]

In 1974, Dan Striepeke was called back to recreate the apes makeup once more for a weekly TV series, with an even-more unrelenting schedule than that of the movies. "When they called me to do the series, I told Fox that the only way I'd have anything to do with it was provided they maintain the quality of the movie features, otherwise they'd have to stick masks over the actors' heads and push them in front of the cameras, which would be a farce, as far as my end of it was concerned. So far they've kept the quality; we haven't used any 'short cuts', so I've been pleased with everything. There's a lot of difference in making up actors for the TV series: casting is usually a last minute affair. You can't always make a life mask for the guest-star in time, so you have to be supplied with a wide range of facial sizes and fits for the characters. We shoot each episode in seven days, so by the sixth day you're fitting people for the next show. There's just no let up with the series. For the films you had a 40-50 day shooting schedule, now it goes on for months at a time without rest. The day before the first episode was to be shot, one of the actors - Woodrow Parfrey - got an eye infection. So there was all this running around, wondering what we were going to do about putting on the appliances. We finally solved the problem by devising an eyepatch for him to wear. It made him look like a kind of 'John Ford' Ape!! The most time-consuming and tedious of the routine is applying the hair - it not only has to be overlaid by hand, but you have to have a good eye; the shape must be matched to each day's shooting. We use Chinese hair that costs about $140.00 per pound. It has a strong shaft and can be bleached and dyed easily. We use Yak hair for the lighter-colored orangutans. The wigs cost us about $400 each, and the other hairpieces cost about $200. The make-up appliances total about $175 per treatment, and that involves using new appliances each day. So, you have quite a bit of money tied up in each principal actor." "As a whole, most of the actors like to be covered up - especially motion picture actors - it's like playing a clown. They go on all day long shooting a series of bits and pieces of film - "abortive efforts" - they never get to finish. Here they have the chance to let themselves go - by Hollywood standards. They enjoy the sense of freedom; the make-up allows them to get away with a lot of things they couldn't do otherwise." "Roddy [McDowall] is a delight. Just phenomenal. He added such dimension to his characterization. He is very honest in his portrayal. It would have been a mistake to do the series without McDowall - he’s a real pro; I just can't say enough nice things about Roddy."[1] Among Striepeke's team on the TV show was Bill Tuttle, for whom Dan had previously worked many times at MGM.[2]

"Besides the 'Apes' films, the picture I was most pleased with was 'Hello, Dolly!' I felt that I was able to achieve the look of the times - that milk-white complexion - which is harder to achieve on camera than it sounds. With the hair-styles and the costuming, I felt that it came across very beautifully on screen - though the movie was not financially successful. I take a lot of pride in the make-up I designed for 'Patton'. George C. Scott didn't look at all like the real Patton. I added false teeth, shaved his head, applied various face moulds - small things, but the total effort paid off. Also, I liked the first year of 'Mission: Impossible', with all the disguises they used."[1] Dan Striepeke continued his highly respected and successful makeup career until he retired 2006 at the age of 75. Tom Hanks, with whom Striepeke had made 17 films ending with The Da Vinci Code, wrote a lengthy personal tribute for the New York Times to mark his retirement.

External LinksEdit


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Interview with Dan Striepeke, by Samuel James Maronie - 'Planet of the Apes' UK #21 (15 March 1975)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 You need a makeup artist. I'm your man., by Dean Preston - 'Simian Scrolls' #14 (2007)
  3. Skin Deep; The Man Who Aged Me, by Tom Hanks - New York Times (April 27, 2006)
  4. Planet of the Apes, by Phil Edwards - 'Starburst' Issue #16 (1979)
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