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Success story: how Max Factor fled to America, leaving his career as a royal make-up artist

'13.07.2021'

Source: Yandex Zen

Maximilian Faktorovich, a native of the Russian Empire and founder of a cosmetic brand, became world famous when he moved to the United States. But at home, he achieved unprecedented success. Own production in Ryazan, an apartment in the capital, popularity in the theater world, and most importantly - recognition at the court of the emperor. Queues of high-ranking clients lined up to Faktorovich. At first glance, life is good. So why, in 1904, Maximilian left a thriving business and fled to St. Louis with one suitcase - says the author of the Cozy Empire blog on Yandex Zen.

Screenshot: historycomestolife / YouTube

The American Dream, embodied in Russia

Max was born into a family of Polish Jews in 1872. He had 10 brothers and sisters, father Abraham worked at a textile factory in Lodz near Warsaw, mother Leia died of cholera, Max was raised by his stepmother Cecilia. There was no money in the house at all, and the seven-year-old was sent to sell oranges, peanuts and candy at the local theater. Little Max stood in the middle of the hall with a tray of oranges and, opening his mouth in surprise, looked at the make-up actors who looked like fairy-tale characters. Thus began his acquaintance with the magical world of behind-the-scenes transformations.

A year later, fate threw him into the pharmacy - eight-year-old Max became an assistant pharmacist. There was no time to study at the synagogue, and chemistry was not taught there. And Faktorovich really liked helping the pharmacist mix medicines. He regularly skipped school and never regretted it - at the age of 9, the smart boy was caught by a local wig master. Fake hairstyles, mustaches and sideburns completely captured Max's imagination, and he stayed with the composer for 4 whole years.

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By the age of thirteen, the boy had perked up so much in making and combing wigs that he was easily taken as an apprentice to the famous Berlin hairdresser. Faktorovich celebrated his 14th birthday in Moscow - he was invited to the position of assistant make-up artist at the Bolshoi Theater. Not a bad career for a child from a poor, large family, isn't it?

Then the meteoric rise stopped - Max was drafted into the army. From 18 to 22 years old, Faktorovich served as a nurse in a military hospital. However, later Max admitted that even this difficult episode was good for him.

“I didn't like it, but I learned a lot,” he said.

After demobilization, Max decided to go into his own business. He was single, grasped everything on the fly and was well versed in his business. And when would you take risks, if not at twenty? Moreover, over the years of hard work, Faktorovich saved up a little money - enough to open a small hairdresser in the basement of a merchant's house in Ryazan, on Cathedral Street. Things went well right away, because Max offered clients an exclusive all-inclusive service - he smeared their hair with lipstick of his own invention, powdered the ruddy Ryazan cheeks so that they acquired a refined St. Petersburg pallor.

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But deep down, Max still yearned for the charms of Melpomene and Terpsichore. The Ryazan theater was located very close to his salon, and in the evenings he listened longingly to the music and applause coming from the hall. That is why Max was very happy when one day touring actors, who were bored between performances, dropped in to his hairdresser's. It turned out that the artists had come from St. Petersburg, and Faktorovich did his best - he made them up for the show perfectly, and he gave them jars with his cosmetics on the way.

Just a couple of weeks later, Max received an invitation from the Winter Palace. The imperial family became interested in the products of the talented makeup artist. That evening Faktorovich left for the capital.

but on the other hand

For ten years Maximilian was the personal consultant of the Romanovs in cosmetics and hairstyles. “I devoted all my attention to their individual needs, showing how to emphasize the advantages of their appearance,” he said. Most importantly, Max was backstage at the opera again. Faktorovich was appointed chief make-up artist of the Mariinsky Theater.

But at what cost was the success! Strict supervision was established for Max, because he knew the most personal secrets of the royal dynasty and the courtiers - what if he blabbed? He was forbidden to leave the Winter Palace unaccompanied.

“It was enough to ask for something, and I immediately received it,” Faktorovich recalled. “But I lived like a prisoner. I only wanted freedom. "

By some miracle, he managed to get married. Max still owned the Ryazan salon and once met there a charming client, Esther Rosa. Then he began to secretly meet with her, running away from his guards. In the end, the lovers entered into a secret marriage, they had two daughters - Freda and Cecilia - and a son, David.

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Meanwhile, anti-Semitic sentiment was growing in the country. Alexander III tightened state policy towards Jews, and his son Nicholas II supported the trend.

“The people are convinced of complete impunity for the most serious crimes, if only those are directed against the Jews,” wrote one of the high-ranking officials of the empire.

There were waves of Jewish pogroms in the country, for which no one was responsible. According to some historians, the pogroms were perceived as a method of "playing off" social tension, a way to distract the people from the revolution. In 1903, one of the worst happened - the Chisinau pogrom, during which 50 people died, 600 were injured, and a third of the entire city was destroyed.

Now Maximilian Faktorovich himself was afraid to go out into the street without protection. He was afraid for his wife, for his children and for their future. I had to do something.

Best of all, the story of Max's escape from Russia was described by the famous American novelist John Updike, who reviewed a biographical book about the great make-up artist.

“Max was eager to go to America, where his brother and uncle had already settled in St. Louis. His despondency was noticed by a certain general, to whom Max confessed his fears for the family. And with the general's unexpected help, the court hairdresser carried out a daring plan. Skillfully covering his face with a yellowish cosmetic cream, Factor assumed a sickly appearance, which the doctor of the kind-hearted general diagnosed as a symptom of the disease and prescribed the patient for three months in Carlsbad. Max was sent there with an escort, ”wrote Updike.

Esther and her children were already waiting for Max in Karslbad. They met at the fountain square. The most difficult thing was to break away from the guards. Seizing the moment, Max grabbed his wife by the hand and was lost in the crowd. All that remains is to get to the coast and take a steamer to America.

Let us turn again to the biographical book: “On a February night in 1904, Max Factor, with his young wife and three small children, made his way through the dense forest, shivering not so much from the cold as from fear that he would be intercepted by the tsar's spies. A few days ago, Max was the favorite hairdresser of the royal court. Now they hunted him like a fugitive. "

Faktorovich had the only bag with him, which contained 40 thousand dollars - everything that he had earned during the years of his court service.

Max Factor's X Factor Triggered Again

The escape was a success, like everything in Maximilian's life. He made it safely to New York, where the customs officer shortened his name to "Max Factor" and released him into a new, unexplored life.

Max had to once again, from scratch, realize his American dream - but now in the very country where it, in fact, was invented. He was 32 years old, but everything worked out for him again - despite the quick death of his wife, the betrayal of relatives, the loss of all savings and the upbringing of now five children. He made his way to the very top of Hollywood, despite his terrible, comical Russian accent, which made him banned from interviews.

Photo: Shutterstock

They literally made ballads about Max. Doris Day mentioned him in the song Hooray for Hollywood (early 1930s):

“Hooray for Hollywood!

You can be nondescript to your neighbors,

But if you think you can become an actor,

Meet Mister Factor -

He will even put the monkey in order.

Half an hour and you will look

Like Tyrone Power.

Hurray for Hollywood! "

And the most remarkable thing is that until the end of his life Max retained his love for Russia. Ilf and Petrov described their meeting with him in their book One-Story America: “Now Max is incredibly rich and loves to tell visitors the magical story of his life. And if by chance a visitor comes from Elisavetgrad, Nikolaev or Kherson, then he can be sure that the happy owner will make him take as a memento a large jar of face cream or a set of artificial eyelashes with the best reviews of Marlene Dietrich or Marion Davis. "

Screenshot: Dasha`s Stories / YouTube

It is interesting that the American period of Max Factor has been described many times, in detail and with love - but there is almost no information about his life in Russia. Although the entire biography of the genius makeup artist and entrepreneur is worthy of cinema. Its amazing destiny is like a finished script for a Hollywood film from the series "Brands Lost by the Russian Empire".

Original column published on the blog. "Cozy Empire" on Yandex Zen.

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