Scared to Death
August 30, 1938 - The man who popularized the term "makeup" died on this day.
Max Factor was a cosmetics pioneer who rose from rags to riches and became famous around the world. Born in Poland his birth name was Maximilian Faktorowicz, but when he immigrated to America at age 32 the clerk at Ellis Island westernized it to "Max Factor."
Factor had built a successful career as a wigmaker and cosmetics expert in Europe, so he worked his way to Hollywood where his services were needed in the booming movie business.
One of Factor's greatest innovations was a flexible greasepaint that went on thinly but provided excellent cover without caking or cracking. By 1920 all the biggest names in Hollywood were clamoring to get a seat in Factor's beauty salon. Clients included Claudette Colbert, Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Judy Garland, Jean Harlow and Gloria Swanson.
During a 1938 business trip through Europe Factor received an ominous note demanding a huge ransom in exchange for his life. The police tried to track down the extortionist but the case remained unsolved. Factor was terribly unsettled by the incident and his health began to rapidly decline.
He was rushed back to Beverly Hills where he took to his bed and died. He was only 61.
Factor's heirs carried on the business and expanded it. In 1973 they sold the company for $500 million.