The Relationship between Early Hollywood and Plastic Surgery

Posted October 26, 2015

The relationship between Hollywood and Plastic surgery continues because there is always attention paid to celebrities who undergo some form of plastic surgery. Celebrities have become the standard of beauty by which many people measure themselves. Daily entertainment news shows and celebrity gossip sites have made celebrity plastic surgery spotting a national pastime. While celebrity plastic surgery might seem like a trend that has only been “a thing” for the past few years, celebrity plastic surgery is as old as the movie industry itself.  Long before any Kardashian came into the plastic surgery spotlight; movie stars were undergoing plastic surgery in order to succeed in Hollywood.

Hollywood and Plastic surgery will always be a thing

The inseparable bond between Hollywood and plastic surgery is as a result of several factors. In the world of Hollywood, there is pressure to stay young looking and not be viewed as an older celebrity. In an industry where your appearance is arguably more important than your talent, keeping your face young and fresh goes a long way in determining your relevance in the industry. The fierce nature of the competition within the industry is another reason why the relationship between Hollywood and plastic surgery isn't going to end in the near future. In an industry that favors a youthful look over almost all things, a celebrity who looks old will find it difficult to get major roles or stay relevant. This is especially true for women in Hollywood.

Andrew Hansssen, a professor of economics at Clemson University, co-authored a study in 2016 that outlined the shrinking opportunities for women in Hollywood as they age. The study found that women in the “20-something” age range landed 80\\\% of the leading roles in Hollywood. On the other hand, only 40\\\% of 30-year-olds landed juicy parts. After the age of 40, only 20\\\% of women were able to nab a leading role. After the study results were released, Hanssen remarked that aging is seen as even more of a negative for females in the workplace. When it comes to movies, Hanssen noted that in popular romantic movies where sexual attraction plays a role, the youth of a female is seen as being prized above other attributes.

Plastic surgery and Early Hollywood

Many stars in the early days of Hollywood had some form of plastic surgery:

  • Mary Pickford was a major movie star in the early 1900s. She was one of the founders of United Artists as well as a founder of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. There is one other legacy of her career that is not discussed as much her acting. It’s said that Pickford underwent a facelift that left her completely unable to smile. Facelifts back in the 1930s involved moving the skin upward and then stretching it in such a manner that it left the patient with a “wind tunnel” look.
  • One of the biggest stars of the silent movie era was Rudolph Valentino. He was loved all over the world for his work in front of the camera in silent movies. However, he wasn’t immediately loved when he first arrived in Hollywood. It’s been said that his ears “stuck out like a mad elephant”. In order to jumpstart his career, Valentino had his ears pinned back so they would not stick out on screen or in person.
  • Rita Heyworth was a Hollywood glamour icon during World War II. In fact, she was the top pin-up poster girl for enlisted men during the war. She was born Rita Cansino and changed more than her name when she arrived in Hollywood. She went from being a dark-haired Latin beauty that had a low hairline to a redhead Hollywood siren with a hairline that was almost an inch higher thanks to electrolysis.
  • Marilyn Monroe is the face many people think of when it comes to classic Hollywood beauty. Marilyn wasn’t always the blonde goddess that appeared on screen. In order to achieve her signature look, Monroe had operations to reshape her jaw and nose because her natural look was deemed to be “witchy” by some studio executives.
  • One of the most radical examples of cosmetic surgery among the stars of early Hollywood is Marlene Dietrich. When Dietrich was in her 40s (in the 1940s), she had her make-up artists take strands of her hair and twist them around hairpins. They were then pulled so tight to the back of her head that they would sometimes bleed.  Curious about what Dietrich was trying to accomplish? It was her version of a facelift since cosmetic surgery was still in its infancy at that time. Dietrich was also known for running a fine gold chain behind her ears, as well as under her chin, so nobody could see the chain under her hair. The chain was used to pull and hold sagging skin in place in order to give her a younger look.

Plastic Surgery is Still Popular in Hollywood

The next time a Hollywood star is suspected of having some work done, just remember that changing looks are as old as Hollywood itself. Celebrities are expected to look perfect at all times and are the standard by which many people (both men and women) define beauty in our modern society. Some celebrities will admit that they’ve gone under the knife while others will deny ever having any work performed. It makes no difference which star does, or doesn’t, admit to having surgery performed on their body. As long as there are movies and red carpets, there will be a list of stars wanting plastic surgery procedures in Hollywood.

- MA


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