The name Max Factor is closely associated with the great and the good looking their best. And nowhere do they do this more effectively than in Hollywood.
The Max Factor Story
Max Factor, born Maksymilian Faktorowicz in Poland, then part of the Russian Empire, back in 1877, went from a working-class boy to a celebrated icon.
It started for Max when he returned from military service to open a shop in the town of Ryazan. Prior to joining the Imperial Russian Army, he learned his trade as a wig maker and make-up man.
Theatrical types took an interest in his cosmetic products. This high-profile attention led to him working for the Royal Family.
The Hollywood Factor
By 1914, he was in America and part of the movie business. The Max Factor website, which describes him as the Father of Make-Up, writes he created “a glamorous but realistic look on screen”.
That look lent itself to some iconic faces and flicks. Marlene Dietrich, Jean Harlow, Clara Bow, Lucille Ball, and Joan Crawford wouldn’t look the way they did on camera without Max Factor’s deft touch.
He also ran a beauty salon by Hollywood Boulevard. Among the famous faces you might possibly have seen inside were Gloria Swanson, Claudette Colbert, and Bette Davis.
Such was his contribution, he was given an Honorary Academy Award in 1929. He also appeared onscreen in various cameo roles.
From the high and mighty to the working class
Max Factor’s humble beginnings proved to be a key part of his success. He believed that “any woman could be glamorous given the right tools and make-up artistry skills.”
It wasn’t just movie stars this individual was interested in. He brought Hollywood glamour to the unlikeliest of places.
What makes Max Factor so unique to the world of make-up? He popularized the words “make-up” in the first place!
As suggested by son “Frank” (Max Factor Jr.), he took what was thought to be a vulgar definition – “cosmetics” being the favored term for snooty types – and made it the standard definition.
The Hollywood Museum is based in the former Max Factor Building. Their website pays tribute to his achievements, writing that both wealthy and working women “were all able to go to a public place for their make-up without the stigma of being called ”˜hussies’”!
The legacy of Max Factor continues
Today, the link to Hollywood continues, with megastar Priyanka Chopra Jonas becoming the new face of Max Factor.
— About Her (@AboutHerOFCL) September 2, 2021
Speaking to Elle, she said she was “so grateful to be with a legacy brand that has recognised and catered to what the world is demanding.” To her, being the company face makes her “the diversity that I never saw when I was growing up.”
Max Factor died in 1938 at the age of 60, but surely his artistry and innovation live on.