Donald J. Angier
Donald J. Angier in kimono and hakama | Photo by Sheila Ray, all photos courtesy of Jeremy Breazeale

Donald J. Angier, a journeyman make-up artist and martial arts sensei, died Oct. 9 in Long Beach, Calif. due to heart-related medical complications.

Born May 31, 1933 in Utica, N.Y., Angier served in the Army during the Korean War, and after the war, according to his autobiography, was assigned to Operation Castle, which tested thermonuclear bombs. He was a graduate and police combat shooting instructor at the Long Beach Community Police Academy prior to becoming a full-time make-up artist—according to the Make-up Artists & Hair Stylists Guild Local 706.

Friend Jeremy Breazeale said via email that Angier became interested in a make-up career while working undercover with the Long Beach Police Department. Breazeale said Angier learned some quick disguise techniques from a neighbor, who told Angier he had some talent and should change professions. As his make-up career grew, Angier received personal instruction from several Local 706 make-up artists. He worked in labs on studio lots and for Tom and Ellis “Sonny” Burman at Burman Studio.

Donald Angier and Mary Crosby on The Ice Pirates
Angier with Mary Crosby for The Ice Pirates

Angier employed his mold-making, casting and sculpting skills on such films as Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Return of a Man Called Horse, The Ice Pirates and others. He joined Local 706 in 1977 and worked primarily in television for more than 25 years. He was the make-up department head for The Incredible Hulk and was actor Fred Dryer’s personal artist on Hunter.

According to a Local 706 spokesperson, Angier had a confident and calm demeanor and was kind to new make-up artists coming into the union.

His life’s passion, however, was studying and teaching the classical martial arts discipline of Yanagi-ryu Aiki Bugei, a form of samurai jujitsu and kenjutsu. According to Angier’s autobiography, Angier began learning jujitsu in his teens from Kenji Yoshida. By 1955, Angier had opened a dojo in California; his title was sōke, or head of family, of Yanagi-ryu.

Donald Angier and Bill Bixby on The Incredible Hulk
Angier with Bill Bixby for The Incredible Hulk

Even during his years as a make-up artist, he taught a select number of students. He gave several seminars each year, mostly in Northern California and in the Southwest, at the FBI Academy and the U.S. Embassies in Bangkok and Singapore.

According to Local 706, Angier retired as a make-up artist in 2004 and continued with his martial arts teachings and demonstrations. He is survived by Breazeale, who was adopted by Angier in the Japanese tradition to assume the role of grandson and next sōke of Shidare Yanagi-ryu. He is also survived by his friend Henry Ang and a nephew, Donald Morrissey. A celebration of his life was held Oct. 25.