Charles Gemora (Carlos Cruz Gemora)
Stowed away on an American vessel sailing out of the Philippines, a young Charles Gemora arrived in California while the birth of cinema was in full swing. To help earn a little extra cash, Charlie would hang around the Universal entrance offering to sketch portraits. It wasn't long before his natural artistic abilities were noticed and Charles Gemora was working on such films as Phantom of the Opera and Noah's Ark as a sculptor. Read more... carve himself a niche as a gorilla man. Charles would spend almost 3 decades honing his realistic performance and leading the evolution of suit effects. While early appearances such as Seven Footprints to Satan were grotesque and horrific, later films like The Monster and The Girl were distinguished by gorilla suits that were grounded in reality and performances that were informed by much study at the nearby San Diego Zoo. Gemora was equally adept at comedic roles, racking up credits alongside legends like Laurel and Hardy, Zasu Pitts, Charley Chase, Our Gang, the Marx Brothers, Abbott and Costello, and Hope and Crosby. Moving from Universal to Paramount in the early 1930's, Charles Gemora continued to work in the makeup and effects department there up until his death in 1961. Throughout his stay at Paramount, Charles racked up numerous unaccredited gorilla suit appearances while working on other films like Gunga Din, Around the World in Eighty Days and The Ten Commandments. Perhaps the most recognizable contribution he made to cinema was the memorable alien menace from War of the Worlds; the result of a last minute change of plans, Charles and his daughter Diana created the creature in a late night marathon. Gemora made his final gorilla suit film in 1954 with Phantom of the Rue Morgue. A stunt man filled the hairy boots for strenuous action scenes but none could replicate the subtle pantomime skills that were unique to Charles.