Monday, October 13, 2014

"Keep looking at the skies. Everywhere -- keep watching. Keep watching the skies!"

Filming on The Thing started on October 25, 1950, at RKO's "Forty Acres" backlot in Culver City, California. (Founded as a backlot in 1927, it was the set of King Kong and Gone With the Wind before being purchased by Desilu in 1957. Star Trek, The Andy Griffith Show, and Bonanza were filmed there. It was razed in 1976 and turned into an industrial park.)

Makeup artist Lee Greenway (Red River, Union Pacific) was hired to create the creature. James Arness, then a struggling no-name actor, was brought in to act the part of the Creature. Greenway took several casts of Arness' head during the next two months, and made more than 18 different creature designs -- none of which met producer Howard Hawks' approved. Nearing the end of pre-production, with filming to start in just a few days, Greenway made up Arness one last time and they drove to Hawks' home. A frustrated Hawks shouted "Take it off! Just put a Frankenstein head on him!" And that was that.

The makeup -- which included hands and horn-like projections on the head, neck and fingers -- took two hours to apply. To test the final look, Arness wore the hand make-up while Greenway took him to a drive-in restaurant. The waitress screamed in horror, and they went with that design.

For the scene in which the Creature is electrocuted, 4'2" little person Billy Curtis was hired. A creature head and hands were made specially for Curtis as well.

The uniform worn by the Creature is nothing more than a boilersuit coverall.

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