William Bell

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(b. Bognor Regis, West Sussex, 14/03/1901 – d. Johannesburg, 05/11/1992). Make-up artist. Also credited as Bill Bell.


After a brief stint as a shipping clerk, William Frederick Bell enrolled to study make-up at the Max Factor Studios in London and embarked upon a career that was to last a lifetime. He worked uncredited as an apprentice on a number of British films, including Jacques Feyder’s Knight With Armour (1937) and then responded to an advertisement in a British newspaper that announced a vacancy for a make-up artist at Killarney Film Studios in Johannesburg. Somewhat to his surprise, he got the job and, upon his arrival, was handed African Film Productions' epic Die Bou Van ‘n Nasie (Joseph Albrecht & Andries A. Pienaar/1938). When war broke out he joined the De Havilland Aircraft Company and served with them in North Africa, mostly in an administrative capacity, but also flying the occasional rescue mission into Italy.

Upon his return his job with was waiting for him and between 1946 and 1968 he worked on numerous films for African Film Productions and its various incarnations – Afrikaanse Rolprentproduksies, Suidafrikaanse Rolprentproduksies, South African Screen Productions and Killarney Film Studios. He made 14 films with director Pierre de Wet and during this time he also worked with Hyman Kirstein, Bladon Peake, Jamie Uys, Gordon Vorster, Jan Perold, David Millin and Robert D. Webb. He also assisted (uncredited) on the first film version of Cry, the Beloved Country (1951), directed by Zoltan Korda. After 1968 he went freelance and worked for various production companies and with directors that included Richard Daneel, Emil Nofal. Mario Schiess, Keith G. van der Wat, Jans Rautenbach, Franz Marx, Elmo de Witt and Daan Retief. He died at the age of 91. During his lifetime he trained many of South Africa’s next generation of make-up artists, including Nola du Preez.

In January 1941 he had married Colleen Winifred O’Reilly. Their daughter Gillian, born in 1942, died young. Their adopted daughter, Susan was born in 1957.


Die Bou Van ‘n Nasie / Building a Nation (Joseph Albrecht & Andries A. Pienaar/1938), Geboortegrond (Pierre de Wet/1946), Simon Beyers (Pierre de Wet/1947), Die Kaskenades van Dokter Kwak (Pierre de Wet/1948), Kom Saam Vanaand! (Pierre de Wet/1949), Hier’s Ons Weer! (Hyman Kirstein/1950), Alles Sal Regkom! (Hyman Kirstein/1951), Cry, the Beloved Country (uncredited) (Zoltan Korda/1951), Altyd In My Drome (Pierre de Wet/1952), Hans-die-Skipper (Bladon Peake/1952), Inspan (Bladon Peake/1953), Daar Doer In die Stad (Jamie Uys/1953), ‘n Plan is ‘n Boerdery (Pierre de Wet/1954), Vadertjie Langbeen (Pierre de Wet/1955), Matieland! (Pierre de Wet/1955), Dis Lekker Om Te Lewe (Pierre de Wet/1957), Diamond Safari (Gerald Mayer/1957), Fratse In die Vloot (Pierre de Wet/1958), Nooi Van My Hart (Pierre de Wet/1959), Piet Se Tante (Pierre de Wet/1959), Die Vlugteling (Gordon Vorster/1960), Oupa en die Plaasnooientjie (Pierre de Wet/1960), Die Jagters (Gordon Vorster/1960), Basie (Gordon Vorster/1961), En die Vonke Spat (Pierre de Wet/1961), Die Tweede Slaapkamer (Gordon Vorster/1961), As Ons Twee Eers Getroud Is! (Jan Perold/1962), Jy’s Lieflik Vanaand (Gordon Vorster/1962), Die Ruiter In die Nag (Jan Perold/1963), Piet My Niggie (Jan Perold/1964), Seven Against the Sun (David Millin/1964), Ride the High Wind / African Gold (David Millin/1965), The Second Sin (David Millin/1966), Escape Route Cape Town / The Cape Town Affair (Robert D. Webb/1967), The Jackals (Robert D. Webb/1967), Majuba: Heuwel Van Duiwe (David Millin/1968), Stadig Oor die Klippe (Richard Daneel/1969), The Winners / My Way (Emil Nofal & Roy Sargeant/1972), Bait (Mario Schiess/1974), The Savage Sport (Keith G. van der Wat/1974), Ongewenste Vreemdeling (Jans Rautenbach/1974), My Skryf Matriek (Franz Marx/1975), Ter Wille Van Christine (Elmo de Witt/1975), Vergeet my Nie (Elmo de Witt/1976), ‘n Beeld Vir Jeannie (Elmo de Witt/1976), The Winners II / My Way II (Jans Rautenbach/1977), Kom Tot Rus (Elmo de Witt/1977), Dit Was Aand En Dit Was Môre (Franz Marx/1977), Sonja (Daan Retief/1978), Billy Boy (Tim Spring/1978), Elsa Se Geheim (Chris du Toit/1979), The Gods Must Be Crazy (Jamie Uys/1980), Beloftes Van Môre (Daan Retief/1981).


In 1975 William Bell was key make-up artist for Eva Harvey’s opera Esther, as well as for Anthony Farmer’s production of The Great Waltz, both for PACT.


He appeared uncredited as a bank manager in Hyman Kirstein’s Hier’s Ons Weer! (1950), while Colleen Bell made an uncredited appearance as one of the women at a tea party in Pierre de Wet’s Oupa en die Plaasnooientjie (1960).


Le Roux, André I. & Fourie, Lilla – Filmverlede: geskiedenis van die Suid-Afrikaanse speelfilm


Private correspondence

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