Marilyn and the House of Westmore

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More than sixty years before Max Factor chose Marilyn as their poster girl, her image was regularly used to promote House of Westmore, Hollywood’s homegrown beauty business. Mary Mallory has investigated the company’s glamorous past for her L.A. Daily Mirror blog.

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“Patriarch George Westmore introduced the family to the beauty field back in England, getting his start at as an assistant to a barber…Westmore became a successful wigmaker, before moving the family to New Orleans and eventually to Los Angeles. Once in the city of Angels, Westmore established the first film makeup and hair department at Selig Studios on Edendale Boulevard in 1917.

His six sons (Montague or ‘Mont’, Perc and his twin Ernest Henry ‘Ern’, Walter or ‘Wally’, George Hamilton or ‘Bud’, and Frank) followed him into the hair and makeup business, with a Westmore heading every studio Hair and Makeup Department at some time, except for MGM and Columbia.

Perc soon realized that the family could earn more money working on their own rather than creating products for a major competitor, leading to the creation of the House of Westmore…Thus was born one of the most potent competitors to Max Factor and his dominion over Hollywood cosmetics.

The Westmores acquired a lovely building at 6638 Sunset Blvd…The lavishly decorated salon finally opened April 16, 1935 with hundreds in attendance, including many of the Hollywood hoi polloi…Golden doors decorated with the Westmore coat of arms welcomed all who entered the pleasure palace, leading to a luscious art deco foyer. Floor to ceiling mirrors and peach blush carpets filled the structure, along with white silk drapes and white, bronze, and coral color furniture. White and gold telephones occupied each cubicle.

Quickly copying the advertising strategies of fellow competitors Max Factor and Elizabeth Arden, the family established Westmore’s News Service in their beauty establishment, which mailed out press releases noting Westmore beauty suggestions to syndicated newspaper columns and radio programs, highlighting special products created by the brothers, and announcing special honors and appearances.

The Westmores established their own cosmetics plant at Sunset Boulevard and Gordon Street and began selling products in the fall of 1935, the true cash cow of any beauty establishment.

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Attendance sagged in the 1950s as more competition entered the scene, women moved further west, and the brothers grew older. By the 1960s, the disintegrating neighborhood and dilapidated building led to the House of Westmore’s demise on August 10, 1965.

Though gone in spirit, the lovely building still survives, providing nostalgic glimpses at a glamorous Hollywood past that now only exists in classic 1930s and 1940s films or vintage photographs.”

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