02 July 2022

Thank goodness for hardworking and successful migrants: Max Factor.

Faktorowicz in the shop door; sign saying Entrance to Barber.
Next door was the wig shop, near Moscow

If I hear one more nasty comment telling immigrants to stay in their own countries and leave us alone, I may have a hissy fit in public. 

You may have read the story of Helena Rubinstein, hard-working & successful immigrant. Now see Maksymilian Fak-torowicz (1877-1938), born in Łódź Russia-now Poland in a Jewish family. As a young adult he started working at Kor­po, Mos­cow wig maker and cos­metician to the Imperial Russian Grand Op­era. Then he set up his own shop near Moscow, selling creams, perf­um­es and wigs. He be­came famous when a travelling theatrical troupe wore his cos­met­ics to perform for Russian nobility, and became a Royal master.

Amid the growing anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe, Max and Esther Fak­torowicz and their 3 children emig­rat­ed to St Louis MO in 1904. In 1908, Factor moved his fam­ily to Los Angeles, to provide made-to-order wigs and th­eatrical make-up to the growing film industry. He became reg­ion­al dis­t­rib­utor for West Coast theat­ri­cal make-up company, Leich­ner and Minor, and he was soon working with the US’s leading filmstars.
Factor testing new rouge on French actress Renée Adorée/Jeanne de la Fontein, 1925

Jean Harlow
became a platinum blonde, starting a coiffure craze. To help solve the Colour Harmony problems created by Jean’s light hair colour, Max Factor developed several new make-up shades.
Max Factor and Jean Harlow

As his business expanded, Max moved around Los Angeles searching for a good location. He relocated to the Pantages Building in South Broadway by 1915, before settling in South Hill St in 1916.

In the theatre, powerful stage-lighting sys­tems removed all colour from actors’ comp­lexion, to eliminate shadows. Makeup res­tored the colour and defined facial features to ensure a natural appearance. Make­up also helped the actor to look and feel his character. But stage makeup was unsatisf­ac­tory for the motion-picture medium. Nec­es­s­arily heavy app­lic­ations made it imp­ossible to appear natural in close-ups, and the range of colours devel­oped for theatre failed to look good in motion-picture lighting bec­ause of constant caking.

So the first makeup designed expressly for motion pictures was created by Factor in 1910. It was a light, semi-liquid greasepaint, suit­able for the light­ing used. His solution in 1914 was to create 12 sp­ecific­ally created shades of comp­ounds in jars that could be appl­ied thinly on the skin, giving a glamorous but realistic look. This in­vention quickly became an in­stant hit among film act­ors, enab­ling Fact­or to de­vel­op­ many new pro­d­ucts for them, and stage ac­t­ors. The make-up pr­od­ucts and techniques he creat­­ed for his Holly­wood clients later earned him a special Academy Award.

It eff­ect­ively augmented act­ors’ appearances when filmmaking was domin­ated by arc lighting. And it was the first makeup packaged in tu­b­es, prop­elling Factor’s progress into commercial trade. Any woman could be glamour­ous, he said, giv­en the right tools and make-up skills. In 1916 he started sell­ing eye shadow and eyebrow pencils. Then, with mascara, foun­d­at­ion, eye shadow and lipstick, he enabled ordinary wo­m­en to create their own glamour daily. When he’d launched the full range of cosmetics, make-up, it was the first time all products were available outside the film industry.

Supreme Liquid Whitener (1917) helped actors achieve smoothness of the neck, shoulders and arms. Colour Harm­onies (1918) were powders for film actors that en­hanced their look in var­ious environments. Supreme Grease­paint was the forerunner of today’s foundation cream. In the 1920s, as women aspired to achieve the look of movie stars for themselves, Factor created Sup­reme Nail Pol­ish (1925) to give shine. Society Nail Tint (1927) gave rose colour.

Makeup was used by actors for both cor­rective art and creative art. In the first case, make-up served to 1) cover blem­ishes; 2) prov­ide the face with an even colour tone for photo­gr­aphy; 3) clear­ly def­ine the fac­ial features for visible expr­es­s­ive­ness; and 4) make the actor app­ear attractive. As a creative art, make-up enab­led the player to take on the appearance of most char­acter-types. 

Max Factor Make Up Kit, 1930

The introduction of incandescent lighting on film sets in the 1920s made it possible to standardise the film, lighting and colours of make­up in mot­ion pictures. The Society of Motion Picture Engineers ran a spec­ial test-series in 1928. As a result Factor creat­ed a new line of compatible makeup colours, panchromatic makeup.

His Supreme Greasepaint foretold today’s foundation cream. As films bec­ame more popular, ordinary women wanted to imit­ate the look of movie stars. So Factor began sell­ing his makeup outside the theat­re and movie industry, marketing his most successful products with the Society Make-Up brand name. Although the glamorous assoc­iat­ion with Hollywood gave the brand consumer recog­nit­ion, Factor chose a ladylike name.

More make-up artists working in Hollywood created the Motion Picture Make-up Artists Association in 1927, with head­quar­t­ers in Max Factor Make-up Studio in North Highland Ave where the assoc­iation held weekly meetings for demonstrations. It must have worked; in 1929, Max Factor received an Oscar for make-up!

Max Factor Make-up Studio on North Highland Ave Hollywood.

With changing audience perceptions due to television, more natural makeup styles became more popular. 1930s remained one of the greatest eras in the cosmetic comp­any’s history, marking the introduction of gl­oss. This new fashion became massive hit with both actors and civilians

There were several important comp­an­ies in the long history of lipsticks, but no one had greater inf­l­uence than Fac­tor. His family-owned, multi-generational company became the best known name in Western cosmet­ics, creating many new products like Lip Gloss and colourless mascara.

His wives were Esther Rosa Smoller (1896-died 1906)​, Huma Sradkowska ​(m 1906-div 1908)​ and Jennie Cook ​(m 1908), with 5 children altogether. Ev­en though Max died in 1938, his legacy lived on in his comp­any supp­lying cosmetic items world­wide. Son Frank became the busin­ess head, and expanded the company internat­ion­al­ly.

Credit for photos  and history

28 June 2022

An excellent Slovak film - The Teacher (2016)

Czech director & writer Jan Hrebejk and Petr Jarchovsky created this very fine Slovak drama, and Zuzana Mauréry rightfully won Best Actress Award at the Karlovy Vary film festival. My husband & his sister remembered their childhood Czech, but not modern Slovak; I read the English subtitles.

The Teacher was set in Bratislava in the late communist era, and examined the abuse of power at a middle school. Mauréry took the part of a middle-aged educator who headed the local Commun­ist party and used her pupils to manipulate their parents for her own advan­tage.

The action alternated between two strands that later joined together. At the start of the 1983 school year, Maria Drazd­echova greeted her new class by asking them to introduce them­selves and to share what their parents did for a living. She explain­ed that she was a widow of a high-ranking military off­icer and that she needed to know how the parents might help her.
Maria Drazd­echova laid down the law to her students, 
from the very first day of school

The second strand other started in 1984 during a secret meet­ing between the school’s head teacher and the parents. The div­ision between the teacher’s supporters and detractors was quickly evident.

Drazdechova did indeed spend her evenings on the phone, asking one parent to pick up groceries, a second parent to fix her lamp and a third parent to set her hair. In return she advised the parent on which specific lessons his/her child needed to learn, before a test was given.

But not every parent obeyed Drazd­echova’s demands. Marek Kucera worked as a ticket manager at the airport. When the teacher asked him to transport cake to Moscow for her sister, he wouldn’t risk his job. But Drazd­echova resented his obst­in­acy and took out her displ­easure on the Kucera’s daughter Dan­ka. With only three of the entire class rebelling against Ms Draz­dechova’s behaviour, Danka stood out. In fact this enthusiastic young gymnast was soon suicidal.

Filip Binder, a young and talented wrestler who fancied Danka, also answ­ered the teacher back. Often! At first the harsh Mr Binder did not understand what was happening to his son and beat him up for missing wrestling practice, unaware that Drazdechova used her pupils' labour for her own benef­it. Even though Mr Binder had a reput­ation as a drunk and a petty criminal, he refused to be black­mailed into providing labour for the teacher.

The form 2 students were very respectful to their new teacher.

At the very tense parents’ meeting, the Kuceras & Binders signed a docu­ment drawn up by the principal who had no choice but to discipline the poor teacher. Of course the other par­ents, who had “improved” their children’s marks through cooperation with Drazdech­ova, wouldn’t support the Kuceras and Binders. I was very anxious throughout the film, trying to guess which of the other parents would cave in to their fears!

The cute, quiet Mr Litt­mann, once a respected professor of astro­phys­ics, had been reduced to manual labour after his brilliant wife had left the country and abandoned her son. Drazdechova fancied Littmann and offered to help him with a proper job, whilst trying to get the young father into bed.

Life got worse for the students and parents. The teach­er's corrupt beh­av­iour and one student’s suicide attempt forced the princ­ipal to call an urgent parental meeting. They were asked to sign a petition to get Ms Drazdechova out of the school. The teacher's high connections within the Commun­ist Party forced her supporters and detractors to line up in the meeting, but they still had to decide to go against her in public OR remain silent and safe?

Lots of our Melbourne friends were asking themselves the same question after the film – what would they have done, had it been their children? Not unquest­ioning compliance with Ms Dradechova’s demands, but not abandoning their children either.

The very tense parents' meeting was splitting into two halves
- the teacher's supporters on one side and her opponents on the other.

The interiors of the families’ flats were extremely small and totally lacking privacy. But they were all decorated with colourful 1950s & 60s wallpaper and curtains, a la Robin and Lucienne Day. It was suggested that modern viewers assumed that communist era flats were aust­ere. They might have been tough days, but Slovak families valued home life.

Some published review­ers thought that dismantling comm­un­ism was goal of the story i.e  the film illustrated the dangerous moral vacuum that was created by repressive communism. If the working classes did not earn enough money to live well, they would have to buy their way out of the situation by being corrupt, or going along with other peoples’ corruption. I, on the other hand, was sympathising with the teacher’s personal drama, loneliness and lack of public respect. Perhaps she was a victim of her late husband or of her party bosses.

It was said the story had been inspired by a real case! That means that the viewer had to jump from a very specific time and place … to a univer­sal story of fear and power. The mundane nature of Ms Drazdechova’s corrupt demands confirmed the film’s satirical mode, but the script still paid careful attention to how the teacher’s re­quests weighed on her students, their parents and the viewers alike.

25 June 2022

Protecting beautiful Australian penguins at Phillip Island

Fairy penguins, Phillip Island
photo credit: rove.me

Benjamin Preiss has told the most amazing story of Peter Dann, the penguin protector, who is finishing up at Phillip Island.  Dr Peter Dann, Research Director at Phillip Island Nature Parks, is to retire after more than 40 years in research and conservation.

Penguin colony has expanded significantly in the time Dann has worked at Phillip Island. A property buy back in the 1980s helped consolidate the colony’s fut­ure. “I’ve met people who don’t like Christmas and cats and babies,” says Peter Dann. “But I’ve never met someone who doesn’t like peng­uins.” Dr Dann estimates he has watched the penguins come ashore at Phillip Island more than 1000 times, and has been fascinated every single time.

But after a 42-year career in penguin conservation and research, Dann believes the time has finally come to retire from full-time work. “It’s been a consuming passion of mine. My interest in it and the pleasure I get hasn’t diminished.”

He was the only research biologist working with the penguins at Phillip Island when he began in 1980, and it’s been his only full-time job. The conservation effort has since expanded, and Dann now leads a team of eight researchers at Phillip Island Nature Parks.

But all was not well at the penguin colony when he first arrived at the island. A housing estate at Summerland Beach, where the penguins nest in burrows, had grown to almost 180 houses. Numbers were falling in the penguin colony, which was regularly attacked by foxes and dogs. Penguins were often killed on the road by cars. It was the most difficult period of Dann’s career, and he was frustrat­ed that action to protect the penguins was happening so slowly. “I lost a lot of sleep over the population when it was clearly declining,” he recalled.

In the mid-1980s, the government decided to buy back the properties on the estate to protect the penguins. Dann said he lobbied the government to enact the policy, even though he was living at the Summerland Estate himself. “It was a very emotional time for a lot of people,” he said. “We had many difficult conversations, but it was a remarkably civilised process.” 

Dr Dann said in 1983 there were between 8000 and 12,000 breeding penguins on Phillip Island. It now has the largest colony of little penguins in the world with 40,000 spread across the peninsula.

Penguins emerging from the water, going across the sand to their burrows in the dunes. 
Credit: penguins.org.au

Earlier this year the seabirds set a record when 5219 waddled up to their burrows from the water at the penguin parade. Fortunately Phillip Island’s penguin population is in good health.

Dann has grown intimately acquainted with the charismatic creatures and marvels at how the flightless birds have adapted to life at sea. He can instantly recognise their short barks when emerging from the water and their louder courtship calls.

Dann has co-edited a book on penguin ecology and management and written many academic papers. Yet he insists his affection for wildlife is not limited to Phillip Island’s beloved seabirds. Dann says there would be at least 100 animals jostling for space in his top 10 list and all native species have a right to exist in their natural habitat.

A property buyback at Phillip Island from the 1980s helped consolidate the penguin colony’s future. “To me, it’s tied up in justice as well.” Now he hopes the penguins will act as a flagship species and their endearing nature will encourage people to protect the entire ecosystem.

Dann feels confident the future of penguin conservation is in safe hands at Phillip Island, and he will continue co-supervising four PhD students.

“There’s only one thing on my list that hasn’t been done: the eradication of feral cats on Phillip Island.”

Phillip Island Nature Parks board chair Liz Stinson said the little penguins faced great challenges - from ocean warming to beach erosion. She said Dann’s 40-year continuous record of penguin research had been crucial in understanding how the animals adapt to change.

“Its value as we enter a period of more rapid and potentially more devastating change is inestimable,” she said.

Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio also thanked Dr Dann for this contribution to biodiversity. “The dedication of ecologists like Dr Dann is vital to protecting our precious plants and animals, alongside sustained investment in biodiversity,” she said. 

Dann feels he can retire free of the worry that plagued him as a young biologist when he feared for the future of Phillip Island’s penguin colony. “You can bask in the knowledge that the population is thriving,” he said.


The world's smallest penguins, fairy penguins, are among most amazing Australia's phenomena. For possibly thousands of years, every evening, after sunset, in any weather, 365 days a year, these little penguins walk to their burrows at the Summerland Beach. They gather in groups of 10-50 individuals in the surf at the water's edge, and then, as if at a command, start marching through the beach to the sand dunes where their homes are located. To observe the Penguin Parade, go to rove.me 

21 June 2022

Famous inventors and scientists whose surnames went into our language

Casanova, attributed to Francesco Narichi

Many words have been incorporated into our normal vocabulary, to connote the qualities that their namesakes were noted for. In fact there are many names of historical figures and fictional characters that have become part of common parlance. Ruth Beloff went back to see who the men and women were, whose names have been immortalised, in English at least.

Romeo was the ardent young lover in Shakespeare’s (1590s) timeless tragedy Romeo and Juliet. Venetian Giacomo Girolamo Casanova was a real-life womaniser who lived and loved in 1725-98, while Don Juan was a fictional phil­and­erer first written about in a 1630 play by Spanish author Tirso de Mol­ino, The Trickster of Seville.

A Mata Hari is either a beautiful seductive female spy, or a dup­lic­it­ous woman, derived from Dutch-born Margaretha Geertruida Zelle. She was an exotic dancer-courtesan in Paris who used her stage name, then served as a spy for both French and German intel­l­igence during WW1. In 1917, aged 41, she was exec­ut­ed by firing squad in France for being a German spy.

A Florence Nightingale is someone who will come to a sick person’s aid, any time in 24 hours. The actual woman was a British nurse (1820-1910) who became famous for her pioneering nursing work during the Crimean War where she tended to wounded soldiers. This Lady with the Lamp continued to make her rounds at night.

A Mother Theresa is a good person who embodies all that is caring. Born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu in Albania (1910-97), this Catholic nun spent her life to the sick and impoverished in India etc. She founded the Mission­aries of Charity congregation in 1950, with hundreds of missions to help people around the globe.

There are words based on peoples’ names that became nouns or verbs. Boycott is the act of refusing to use a product or service, as a form of protest. The term came from Ir­ishman Char­l­es Boy­cott (1832-97), an agent who refused to give in to land reforms back then.

Many exercise in a fitness regime to improve their shape, and may wear a leotard. This skinny one-piece garment that cov­ers the torso was created and worn by French acrobatic performer Ju­les Leotard.

And others like soaking in a Jacuzzi. Italian Can­dido Ja­c­uzzi in­vented the whirlpool bath in 1949 for his young son who suf­f­ered from rheumat­oid arthritis.

Or ride on a fairground Ferris Wheel. This owes its origin to Am­er­ican engineer George W Ferris who designed the first one for the World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago 1893; it celebrated the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the New world.

The temperature gauge was devised by two men. The 3 countries in the world that still officially use the imperial system: US, Lib­eria and Myanmar, use Farenheit, named for Danzig physicist and ins­tr­ument maker Daniel Gabriel Farenheit (1686-1736). Anders Celsius (1701-44) was a Swedish astronomer and physicist who, in 1742, de­signed an inverted form of the centigrade temperate scale.

George Ferris Jr. invented the Ferris Wheel 1893
at the bequest of the Directors, Daniel H. Burnham, for the upcoming Chicago fair.

In a 1902 political cartoon in the Washington Post, US President Teddy Roosevelt on a hunting trip was depicted showing compassion to­­wards a captured bear. Inspired by this cartoon, an immigrant in New York created a little stuffed bear cub and placed it in his shop window with the sign Teddy’s Bear. It was very successful.

The Rubik’s cube was invented in 1974 by Hungarian Prof of Archit­ec­ture, Erno Rubik. He worked at the Dept of Interior Design at Budap­est’s Academy of Applied Arts, trying to solve the struc­t­­ural prob­lem of moving the parts independently, without the entire mechanism collapsing. (The puzzle appeared later).

Now some surnames used as words in the Oxford English Dictionary. The phrase Hobson’s choice was first noted in 1660, referring to Tobias Hobson (1545-1637), a puritan mayor of Cambridge and horse-hirer. He earned a national reputation by offering cust­omers either the horse nearest the stable door ..or nothing.

Bowdlerise is to expurgate words or passages considered in­del­icate or indecent and refers to the moral Dr Thomas Bowdler. In 1818 he publ­ish­ed an expurgated edition of Shakespeare’s plays. Bloomers, orig­inally a combination of skirt & trousers, was named for an American woman, Amelia Jenks Bloomer (1818-94), who started a revolution in wom­en’s cl­othing when she wore them. It’s common for the views and st­yles of writ­ers and politicians to be used, in adject­ives & nouns eg Machiavellian (1566), Dickensian (1881) and Thatch­erite (1976) and words from fictional surnames eg Dickens’ Scrooge (1940).

Science and invention were great sources of new words, or products. Newtonian, describing the theories of Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) was recorded by 1676. Volt and Ampere were named after two physic­ists, Italian Alessandro Volta (1745-1827) and French André-Marie Ampère (1775-1836). The original design of the hansom cab was patented by Joseph Hansom in 1834. In Mackintosh the pro­duct name has become gen­eralised to denote a rainproof coat, whether made of the rubberised cloth patented by Charles Macint­osh in 1823 or not. Pasteurisation (1890) is the method of ster­il­is­ing liquids invented by the French chemist, Louis Pasteur (1822-95). Hoover has long been used in British countries to refer to any make of vacuum cleaner, not exclusively the machine patented by William H Hoover in 1927. Tommy-gun (1929), origin­ally a nickname for the John Thompson sub-machine-gun, is now used for any make of the weapon. NB brand names are normally excluded from the OED if they do not have generic uses.

Hoover showroom in the late 1920s.