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House of Westmore: Hollywood’s Salon of Beauty

Hollywood glamour found its home on Sunset Boulevard, at the House of Westmore. In 1935, brothers Monte, Ern, Perc, and Wally Westmore opened their luxurious “salon of beauty,” offering cosmetics, hairdressing, manicures, facials, and electrolysis. 

Westmore salon
House of Westmore, 6638 Sunset Boulevard (LAPL)

At 8:00 p.m. on April 16, Kay Francis unlocked the doors with a golden key. Claudette Colbert hit a button to light the exterior, while Joan Blondell pulled a switch to illuminate the salon. Dozens of other famous clients were in attendance that night, including Clara Bow, Marlene Dietrich, Carole Lombard, and Myrna Loy—all of whom stopped by the salon earlier in the day to get their hair and makeup done before the event.

Perc Westmore Claudette Colbert
Kay Francis, Perc Westmore, Una Merkel, and Claudette Colbert

The Westmores leased the 13,000-square-foot neoclassical building from another set of siblings, the Muller Bros., famous for their Sunset Boulevard car wash. Inside, ivory tones mingled with light coral and gold fixtures. The sun-filled reception room was done entirely in eggshell, with floor-to-ceiling mirrors and crystal bead drapes 

1937 Hollywood salon interior
House of Westmore foyer

The twenty-six salonettes included separate rooms for cutting and drying hair, a “fingernail hospital,” plus a children’s booth with a darling Mother Goose mural and hobby horse seating. Intercoms in each allowed for communication with the front desk who managed a team of assistants for delivery of reading materials, beverages, even cigarettes.

While nails dried and hair color processed, astrologist Louise Lockridge read fortunes. Piping hot bouillon was served to clients at 11 a.m.; followed by tea time five hours later.

Perc Westmore Kay Francis
Perc with Kay Francis

Upstairs on the second floor was the wig department, where Perc Westmore kept 2,500 pounds of imported human hair and hundreds of wooden heads, facsimiles of motion picture stars like Olivia de Havilland, Marion Davies, and Clark Gable. The wig wizard created countless iconic film looks including de Havilland’s long tresses in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938).

Perc Westmore Gloria Dickson salon
Perc Westmore with his wife, actress Gloria Dickson (LAPL)

The House of Westmore’s celebrity clientele—Dietrich, Lombard, Loy, Rosalind Russell, Clark Gable, Laurence Olivier—made it a tourist attraction. Gossip columnists Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons staked out the scene to document the drama.

One Sunday in 1940, Perc spent eleven hours lightening natural brunette Rita Hayworth’s hair for Strawberry Blonde (he claimed her head was too large for a wig). A fist fight once broke out between two suitors of Lana Turner. It was a war of words between Bob Hope and Jack Benny over the casting of 1940's The Ghost Breakers.

House of Westmore salon price list
House of Westmore price list

Known as “the men who make the stars more beautiful,” the Westmores each held the title of makeup director at the major studios: Monte (Selznick International) pioneered the technique of airbrushing makeup; Ern (RKO) was the first makeup artist to receive an Oscar; Perc (Warner Bros.) worked on Casablanca and Mildred Pierce; Wally (Paramount) created Audrey Hepburn’s iconic look in Roman Holiday, Sabrina, Funny Face, and Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Westmore brothers 1935
1935 salon opening: Perc, Monte, Wally, and Ern

Younger brother Bud—who designed the monster in The Creature from the Black Lagoon for Universal—joined the family salon in 1938 when Ern moved to England. The youngest Westmore, Frank, oversaw the makeup for Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments and devised a makeup chart for the first full color television series, Bonanza.

Their father, George Westmore, established Hollywood’s first movie makeup department in 1917 after emigrating from England. The patriarch was competitive with his talented sons, and as their respective careers eclipsed his own with the dawn of talkies, he reportedly grew despondent, and in 1931 George took his life by swallowing mercury, which slowly poisoned him over four agonizing days.

Prior to opening the salon, Ern and Perc worked for years with Max Factor. As the heads of his wig department, the twins created the “Percern,” the first commercial toupee. With Factor, they were instrumental in 1933’s Beauty Calibrator, which measured facial structure.

When the Westmores left Factor 1934, they took with them sales and advertising employees.

Max Factor Westmores
Max Factor, Perc, and Ern

Just like Factor, the Westmores launched their own cosmetics line: foundation cream, face powder, rouge, eye shadow, mascara, and lipstick packaged in gold, black, and jade containers stamped with the family’s coat of arms (which they later learned was incorrect).

Actresses from their studio projects appeared in advertisements, like Bette Davis, Jane Wyman, Judy Garland, Gene Tierney. In the 1950s, Marilyn Monroe was the face of the new Tru-Glo products.

The third generation of Westmores also made their mark on Hollywood. Monte’s eldest son Monty was Joan Crawford’s personal makeup artist and earned an Oscar nomination for Steven Spielberg’s Hook. Middle son Marvin worked on Blade Runner and founded the George Westmore Research Library & Museum. The youngest, Michael, is best known for his work on Star Trek and won an Oscar for 1985’s Mask

And the fourth generation: Marvin’s son Kevin won two Emmys for his work on The X-Files and Michael’s daughter, soap-opera actress McKenzie, is the creative director of Westmore Beauty.

Sunset Boulevard 1937
Sunset Boulevard c. 1937 (LAPL)

After three decades on Sunset Boulevard, the House of Westmore closed its doors in 1965. Despite the building’s rich history, the current owner received permits for a total structural remodel in 2020. By the time a preservation watchdog noticed the iconic sloped roof had been torn off, it was too late.

6640 Sunset Boulevard
6638-40 Sunset Boulevard
Sunset Boulevard 1930s
The same two lots in the late 1930s


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