Celebrities have had a long and complicated relationship with plastic surgery. Going “under the knife” could launch your career or sink it, but judging by the looks of some of classic Hollywood’s most famous faces, the risk paid off. From facelifts and nose jobs to weird new anti-aging techniques, these Hollywood icons knew exactly what “beauty is pain” means.
Widely considered one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood history, Marilyn Monroe’s iconic looks didn’t come naturally. In fact, in 2013, the star’s medical records were auctioned off for thousands of dollars. They included details of medical procedures and even x-rays of Monroe’s chin and nose.
According to author Patrick McGrady, Monroe underwent chin surgery around 1949 after hearing people refer to the contracted actress as a “chinless wonder”. Cosmetic surgeon John Pangman performed a cartilage transplant on Marilyn’s chin, and soon after her recovery, the roles started rolling in. Even a director, who was told Monroe fell on her chin, told the actress, years ago.”
Austrian-born actress Hedy Lamarr was not only an accomplished performer, but she also invented several revolutionary devices that contributed to the development of cell phones and the internet. Some of his inventions have even been used by the military. When she wasn’t inventing, Lamarr starred in some of the most successful films of Hollywood’s Golden Age – she was affectionately dubbed the “most beautiful woman in cinema”. Yet this nickname would contribute to a dangerous obsession with aging later in life.
Lamarr struggled to come to terms with her appearance as she grew older, often turning to plastic surgery which ultimately left her unrecognizable. She reportedly used Botox and lip fillers, and underwent rhinoplasty and a facelift.
Famous singer, actor and legendary member of the Rat Pack, Dean Martin has plastic surgery to thank for his prolific career. The ‘King of Cool’ apparently had his nose done at the age of 27. After the procedure, his career took off and he signed an exclusive contract with MCA for his own radio show, Dean Martin songs.
His good friend and comedian Jerry Lewis supposedly liked to joke about Martin’s “old nose”.
The beautiful Mary Pickford is considered one of Hollywood’s first “America’s Sweethearts”. The silent film star became one of the industry’s most famous actors and began seeking plastic surgery in the 1930s – long after the ‘talkies’ took over. At that time, procedures such as facelifts were still in their infancy, making them a risky option for early Hollywood stars.
Pickford underwent several facelifts throughout his life, which left him with minimal ability to move his face. She could barely smile!
Classic actor Burt Lancaster made his career playing tough characters with a heart of gold, but Lancaster confessed to a co-star while filming the movie 1900 in 1976 that her famous face was due to extensive plastic surgery.
He told director Bernardo Bertolucci that he had surgery on his teeth, face and body, saying “the most real thing on my face is my eyes”.
Stunning Rita Hayworth, born Margarita Carmen Cansino, underwent a major transformation to ditch her Latin locks by dyeing her hair red and enhancing her hairline using electrolysis. The procedure uses a thin metal probe that delivers a mild electric shock into the hair follicle to permanently remove hair.
The electrolysis lifted Hayworth’s hairline an entire inch, helping to create the signature look that led her to stardom. The treatment was used all over vintage Hollywood – Marilyn Monroe even used it to get rid of her widow’s hairline.
When it comes to celebrity facelifts, Marlene Dietrich pioneered the now famous technique. During filming Kismet in 1944 Dietrich, 43, had her makeup artists twist tiny locks of hair around bobby pins which were pulled tight and pinned to the back of her head, sometimes pulling until she bled . This created a smooth facelift look without the need to go under the knife.
It is also believed that Dietrich had his molars removed to create sharper cheekbones and jawline. We guess you could say she would stop at nothing to achieve a sculpted look!
Joan Crawford quit working with MGM in 1953 and returned after undergoing a facelift and breast augmentation — but these weren’t her first cosmetic procedures. In fact, her iconic “Joan Crawford lip” was the result of botched dental surgery. According to the book Bette and Joan: The Divine QuarrelCrawford had his back molars removed to give his cheekbones a more defined shape and had his “front teeth filed down to allow the temporary caps to fit over them.”
Joan’s front teeth began to decay from the caps and her gums became infected. When the swelling finally subsided, she was left with a larger and elongated upper lip. Crawford began to line his lower lip to line it up with his upper lip, creating the iconic “Crawford mouth”.
Around the time his career began to take off, Hollywood heartthrob Clark Gable had his ears surgically “pinned” in 1933 to make them appear smaller. Around the same time, Gable was also suffering from a serious gum disease called periodontitis.
As a result, he had nearly all of his teeth removed and was forced to wear dentures from an early age, which contributed to his horrible breath, as many of Gable’s co-stars have described.
Some accounts claim that actress Lana Turner showed a photo of herself at 27 to her plastic surgeon, Dr. Richard Ellenbogen, and said, “This is what I want to look like.”
More about us: Here are the “most beautiful” people of the 90s – and what they look like today
Turner rose to fame during the height of Hollywood’s obsession with “glamorous girls.” Her career was marked by great success and beauty which also led to her narcissistic downfall.