Hollywood’s eye experts

Hollywood’s eye experts

Excerpted from page 16 of the January/February 2017 edition of AOA Focus.

When Morton Greenspoon, O.D., was a boy, his father, Reuben Greenspoon, O.D., sold his share of his New York optometry practice to his brother and moved his family to sunny California. The elder Dr. Greenspoon would go into private practice, opening an office in a high-rise building at 9439 Wilshire Boulevard in the relatively new community of Beverly Hills.

It was 1935 and Hollywood was basking in its golden age. Motion picture studios—Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), Warner Bros. and 20th Century Fox, to name a few—reigned. At his nearby practice, Dr. Reuben Greenspoon was becoming acquainted with just about everybody who was anybody in the movie business. He met top theatrical agents, movie executives and other entertainment bigwigs such as Ben Nye, head of makeup for 20th Century Fox; actor-director Orson Welles (whom Dr. Reuben Greenspoon worked with in "Citizen Kane"); and MGM studios cofounder Louis B. Mayer.  

His father would be in the right place at the right time, observed Dr. Morton Greenspoon, who was 6 years old when the family moved. "He had a lot of friends in the movie business. Everybody was in the movie business," says Dr. Morton Greenspoon, who would eventually open his own optometric practice in the San Fernando Valley.  

It was the very ­first time anybody had ever used contact lenses in a movie.

In 1939, Nye introduced Dr. Reuben Greenspoon to William Tuttle, who headed the makeup department at MGM at the time. Tuttle asked for a way to use contact lenses to alter an actor's eyes from their natural brown to blue for a movie, Dr. Morton Greenspoon says. Tuttle's mentor was Jack Dawn, who was the makeup creator for the ­ film "Miracles for Sale." (Dawn also was the makeup creator for ­films such as "The Wizard of Oz" [1939] and "Meet Me in St. Louis" [1944]).

Dr. Reuben Greenspoon, who made a color movie short subject called "The Eyes Have It" on contact lenses, ­ figured it out. "He fused a blue ring of ceramic material, glazed it and then put it on the lens and ran it through a kiln to see if it would fuse to the glass," Dr. Greenspoon says. "And it did."  

He adds, "It was the very ­first time anybody had ever used contact lenses in a movie."   Today, Dr. Morton Greenspoon's practice, Professional VisionCare Associates in Sherman Oaks, California, thrives. Many of its patients aren't in the entertainment business; he has seen three generations of some families.  

Yet, Dr. Morton Greenspoon is known, in some circles, as the "Optometrist to the Stars."  

Alternately, he has served as contact lens consultant, technical advisor and special eye lenses provider for several projects.  

An estimated 15 to 20 percent of Professional VisionCare Associates is dedicated to special-effects contact lenses, says practice partner Stacey Sumner, O.D., who oversees its theatrical special effects contact lens projects. Dr. Sumner supervises their ­fitting, manufacture and technical aspects.  

His practice's projects, listed on its website and the popular online movie database, imdb.com, are as lengthy as they are wide-ranging—from "The Aviator" to the "Twilight" saga. Not surprisingly, much of it is science-­fiction adventure ("Star Trek" Enterprise, First Contact, The Wrath of Khan and Voyager versions), horror ("Friday the 13th") and fantasy ("Blade Runner"). Their credits also include the 1992 film "Bram Stoker's Dracula," which earned several Oscar nominations before earning an Academy Award for best makeup, and an Emmy nomination for a "Star Trek Voyager" episode in the mid-'90s.  

He is, perhaps, best known for another project: The contact lenses that completed Michael Jackson's transformation to a "cat monster" in the groundbreaking video, "Thriller," which merged music and ­ filmmaking.  

"That project was the one that came as a big surprise," says Dr. Morton Greenspoon, describing how he met the music legend in his office and fitted the yellow-hued, cat-eye, scleral acrylic plastic lenses that Jackson wore in the music video. "The pupils had to be vertical, and we had to make sure the lenses didn't rotate."  

Read more about the doctors who help make possible some of Hollywood's most memorable special effects on page 16 of the January/February 2017 edition of AOA Focus

February 23, 2017

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