updated: 29/04/2009

first lady makeups: Bess Truman

Elizabeth Virginia Wallace Truman (1885–1982), usually known as Bess Truman, was the wife of Harry S Truman and First Lady of the United States from 1945 to 1953. A long courtship finally became an engagement when Truman was about to ship to France in 1918; the couple married in 1919 on his return from the War, andinitially lived in her mother’s home. As Harry Truman became active in politics Bess Truman traveled with him, sharing his platform appearances as the public had come to expect of a candidate’s wife. They moved to Washington in 1934 when he was elected to the Senate. He was elected Vice President in 1944 and became President upon FDR’s death on 12 April 1945. Bess was ‘not especially interested’ in the ‘formalities and pomp or the artificiality which, as we had learned … inevitably surround the family of the President’. She fulfilled the minimum necessary social obligations of her position but in most years of her husband’s presidency she chose not to live in Washington other than when her presence was expected. Famously, after many requests from the mostly female press corps assigned to her, she held one ‘press conference’ which consisted of written questions and responses – most of which were either monosyllabic or ‘no comment’. In 1953 the Trumans went back to their family home in Independence, where the former president worked on building his library and writing his memoirs. After her husband died in 1972 Bess continued to live quietly in Independence until her own death, and was buried beside her husband in the courtyard of the Harry S Truman Library.

Truman (1995): An HBO biopic which deservedly won two Emmys and was nominated for a further six – including Best Makeup and Best Actress for Diana Scarwid as Bess Truman. The Emmy nomination for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Makeup for a Miniseries or a Special cites: Russell Cate, special makeup artist; Louise MacKintosh, makeup; Raymond MacKintosh, key prosthetics; Evan Penny, key sculptor; Ashlee Petersen, key makeup artist; Benjamin Robin, prosthetic makeup; Heidi Seeholzer, makeup; Gordon J Smith, special makeup designer; Joe Ventura, prosthetic makeup. However the movie credits show Benjamin Robin as key hair, Ann Clifford & Mike Makischuk as prosthetics, and Joe Ventura as sculptor..

Backstairs at the White House (1979): coming soon …