Jack Dawn (February 10, 1892 - June 20, 1961) was an American make-up artist whose career spanned thirty-seven years. He worked on more than two hundred films, many of them regarded as classics by historians and moviegoers alike.
As a boy living on a Kentucky farm, Dawn chopped faces in sandstone he found on the banks of a nearby creek, using a chisel, a hammer, and a spoon. He eventually gravitated to Hollywood, where he found work as an extra, portraying an Indian brave for $3 a day. He served with the British during World War I, then returned to the American film capital to work as a make-up assistant and part-time actor at Universal Pictures. One of his first creations was a stiff, uncomfortable mask he wore in the role of an ape in 1925. In order to make masks that were more elastic and lifelike, he began to experiment with a variety of materials. After nine years of research while working at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, he developed a synthetic plastic he called vinylite resin for which he received a patent. Its first application was used to create the Chinese faces for the mostly white cast of The Good Earth in 1937.
Two years later, Dawn was assigned the task of giving life to three non-human characters - a scarecrow, a tin man, and a lion - in MGM's now-classic musical film The Wizard of Oz, based on L. Frank Baum's novel. He also created the green makeup for Wicked Witch of the West Margaret Hamilton and multiple looks for Frank Morgan, who portrayed five different characters in the film, as well as for the Munchkins. His work resulted in some of the most recognizable makeup designs ever created for a Hollywood production.
In 1943, Dawn approached the San Diego Naval Hospital with an offer to help World War II soldiers whose faces and hands had been disfigured in battle. He created inlays that helped patients appear normal between multiple plastic surgery operations.
Dawn worked with many of Hollywood's legendary performers, including Laurel and Hardy, Greta Garbo, Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland, Bert Lahr, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, Greer Garson, Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Lucille Ball, Ingrid Bergman, Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly, Ginger Rogers, Lana Turner, Fred Astaire, and Betty Hutton.
Dawn died in Glendale, California, five years after retiring from films. He was buried with an unmarked grave in Glendale's Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery.