Howard Smit, a founder and longtime member of Local 706, died Aug. 1 in Los Angeles. He was 98 years old.
Smit was born April 19, 1911 in Chicago, Ill., and moved to Los Angeles with his parents. According to Al Taylor and Sue Roy’s book Making a Monster, Smit began working as a make-up artist at RKO Studios to help finance his law studies; eventually, he became a studio make-up apprentice. He went on to freelance for Max Factor, MGM and Republic Studios.
In 1937, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees offered the Hollywood Motion Picture Make-up Artists Association a charter, which led to the formation of Local 706, the West Coast union of make-up artists and hairstylists. Smit was elected president in 1953 and re-elected in 1955. Around that time, he helped launch the Deb Star Ball, a dinner-dance organized by the union. And he used his law experience to help the union acquire contractual pension, health and welfare benefits. He served as business representative from 1974-1994, and later as business representative emeritus.
In the mid ‘80s, Smit helped win a contractual clause granting screen credits for make-up artists and hairstylists. He also negotiated a five-day work week and successfully campaigned for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to offer an Achievement in Makeup Award, which was instituted in 1981. He served as a governor and board member for the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and as director of the Motion Picture Industry Health and Pension Fund.
Smit’s extensive film and television credits include Gunga Din, The Wizard of Oz, Streets of San Francisco, The Roy Rogers Show, The Birds, Marnie and The Mod Squad. Smit also developed a moisturizing cream sold for a time in beauty supply stores under the name Stage Ten Cosmetics.
Services for Smit will be held 11 a.m. Aug. 4 at Mt. Sinai Mortuary, located at 5950 Forest Lawn Drive in Los Angeles. A reception follows immediately afterward at Third & Olive Restaurant, located at 250 E. Olive Ave in Burbank.
To see Smit’s 1997 interview with Byrd Holland, recorded for the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, click here .