Celebrities have had a long and complicated relationship with plastic surgery. Going “under the knife” could launch your career or sink it, but by the looks of some of classic Hollywood’s most famous faces, the risk paid off. From facelifts and nose jobs to strange new anti-aging techniques, these Hollywood icons knew exactly what “beauty is pain” means.
Widely considered one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood history, Marilyn Monroe‘s iconic looks didn’t come naturally. In fact, in 2013, the star’s medical records were auctioned for thousands of dollars. They included details of medical procedures and even x-rays of Monroe’s chin and nose.
According to author Patrick McGrady, Monroe underwent chin surgery sometime around 1949 after she overheard people referring to the contract actress as a “chinless wonder.” Cosmetic surgeon John Pangman performed a cartilage graft on Marilyn’s chin, and soon after her recovery the roles started streaming in. Even one director, who was told Monroe had fallen on her chin, told the actress, “Honey you should have cut your chin two years ago.”
Austrian-born actress Hedy Lamarr was not only an accomplished performer, but she also invented several groundbreaking devices that have contributed to the development of cell phones and the Internet. Some of her inventions were even used by the military. When she wasn’t inventing, Lamarr was acting in some of the most successful films of Hollywood’s golden age – she was fondly dubbed the “Most Beautiful Woman on Film.” Still, that moniker would contribute to a dangerous obsession with aging later in life.
Lamarr struggled to accept her appearance as she aged, often turning to plastic surgery that eventually left her unrecognizable. She is said to have used Botox and lip fillers, and underwent a rhinoplasty and facelift.
A celebrated singer, actor, and legendary member of the Rat Pack, Dean Martin has plastic surgery to thank for his prolific career. The “King of Cool” apparently underwent a nose job when he was 27. After the procedure, his career took off and he booked an exclusive contract with MCA for his own radio program, Songs by Dean Martin.
His good friend and comedian Jerry Lewis supposedly liked to joke about Martin’s “old nose.”
The beautiful Mary Pickford is considered one of the first “America’s Sweethearts” of Hollywood. The silent film star became one of the most famous actors in the industry, and began to seek out plastic surgery in the 1930s – well into the takeover of the “talkies.” Around this time procedures like facelifts were still in their infancy, making them a risky option for early Hollywood stars.
Pickford underwent several facelifts throughout her life, which left her with minimal ability to move her face. She could barely even smile!
The classic actor Burt Lancaster made his career playing tough-guy characters with a heart of gold, but Lancaster confessed to a co-star while filming the movie 1900 in 1976 that his famous face was all thanks to extensive plastic surgery.
He confided in director Bernardo Bertolucci that he had surgery done on his teeth, face, and body, saying “the most real thing on my face is my eyes.”
The stunning Rita Hayworth, born Margarita Carmen Cansino, underwent a major transformation to ditch her Latina locks by dying her hair red and raising her hairline using electrolysis. The procedure uses a thin metal probe that delivers a slight shock of electricity into the hair follicle to permanently remove the hair.
Electrolysis raised Hayworth’s hairline a whole inch, helping to craft the signature look that led her to stardom. The treatment was used throughout vintage Hollywood – Marilyn Monroe even used it to get rid of her widow’s peak hairline.
When it comes to celebrity facelifts, Marlene Dietrich was a pioneer of the now-famous technique. While filming Kismet in 1944, the 43-year-old Dietrich had her makeup artists twist tiny strands of her hair around hairpins which were pulled tightly and pinned to the back of her head, sometimes pulling until she bled. This created a smooth facelift look without needing to go under the knife.
It’s also believed that Dietrich had her molars removed to create sharper cheekbones and jawline. We guess you could say she would stop at nothing to achieve a sculpted look!
Joan Crawford took a break from working with MGM in 1953 and returned after undergoing a facelift and breast augmentation – but those weren’t her first cosmetic procedures. In fact, her iconic “Joan Crawford lip” was the result of a botched dental surgery. According to the book Bette & Joan: The Divine Feud, Crawford had her back molars removed to give her cheekbones a more defined shape and had her “front teeth filed down to allow for temporary caps to fit over them.”
Joan’s front teeth began to decay as a result of the caps and her gums became infected. When the swelling finally subsided she was left with a larger, elongated upper lip. Crawford began over-lining her lower lip to line up with her upper lip, creating the iconic “Crawford mouth.”
Around the time his career began to take off, Hollywood heartthrob Clark Gable had his ears surgically “pinned” back in 1933 to make them appear smaller. Around the same time, Gable also suffered from a severe gum disease called periodontitis.
As a result, he had nearly all of his teeth removed and was forced to wear dentures from an early age – contributing to his horrible breath, as described by many of Gable’s co-stars.
Some accounts claim that actress Lana Turner showed a photo of herself at 27 to her plastic surgeon Dr. Richard Ellenbogen and said, “This is what I want to look like.”
Turner rose to fame during the height of Hollywood’s obsession with “glamour girls.” Her career was marked by great success and beauty which also led to her narcissistic downfall.