It's very rare to come across a book as refreshing and personal than that of the book by Meredith Ponedel, titled, "About Face, The Life and Times of Dottie Ponedel: Make-up Artist to the Stars." It was Meredith's own aunt Dottie that was known as the only female make-up artist to the A-list stars of classic Hollywood. Her clientele list included Marlene Dietrich, Joan Blondell, Cary Grant, Gary Cooper, Carole Lombard, May West and the incomparable Judy Garland. There are many more stars than this small list.
Dottie and her mother were like most people living in Hollywood after the turn of the century, they were transplants from somewhere else looking for a better life. Dottie and her mother came from Chicago and soon opened a bakery in town. One day a movie was being shot near the bakery and someone came in the store to ask if Dottie could be an extra. Dottie took the job and has hooked.
Dottie found easy work as an extra and it paid reasonably well. On the set one day she found that her gifted ability to dance transformed Dottie from extra work to bit work and even supporting work throughout the silent era.
While Dottie was on the set one day a camera man was upset with the make-up job done on actress Nancy Carroll, Dottie piped up with some ideas to fix the problem and right then and there a Hollywood make-up artist was born. It wan’t long before the biggest stars on the lot were insisting that only Dottie Ponedel do their make-up.
It wasn't all fame and glory either. Pondedel worked long, grueling hours and as the only female in the business she suffered attacks from the male make-up artists. It was Dottie’s loyal clientele that made sure she was there every day to do her work as they knew Dottie was an integral part to creating what we know of today as Hollywood magic.
Dottie was not just a make-up artist, but she was a dear friend to many Hollywood stars and a close confidant. Her home in Beverly Hills became a place for Dottie to kick back and hang out with the stars she helped to create. A plethora of photographs are included that show Dottie with her friends on and off the set that make the book truly a special treat.
Her closest relationships were with Joan Blondell and Judy Garland. It was Dottie that told Judy Garland that she didn’t need the fake nose and teeth that she was using up until “Meet Me in St. Louis,” in 1944.
Just about the same time that Garland lost her contract with MGM, Dottie Ponedel was diagnosed with MS. But Dottie remained a close friend of Blondell and Garland for the remainder of their lifetimes.
Meredith Ponedel was living in her aunt’s home and also has many tales to tell about visits from the Hollywood elite, including Blondell and Garland.
“About Face,” is much more that a biography of make-up artist. It’s a unique book that makes the reader feel like a fly on the wall during the Hollywood hay day. It’s insightful, a portrait of the stars that reveal the people behind the personas. It’s a must read for any classic film fan.