Philanthropy Of Max Factor Cosmetics Family Is Legendary

When it comes to glamour and beauty, few families have influenced Hollywood more than the Factors. Behind the makeup, however, is a tradition of philanthropy.

Max Factor founded Max Factor & Co. at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904 before moving to Los Angeles, where he launched his theatrical makeup and wig shop, eventually working with stars like Joan Crawford, Jean Harlow, Claudette Colbert, and Bette Davis.

As Factor laid the groundwork for what eventually would become a global brand, his family took root in Hollywood society. Dorothy Levinson still recalls one particular wedding reception where the Factors and Levinsons were guests. She was only 7, but she remembers dancing with the youngest of Factor’s four sons. Sidney pushed little Dorothy around the dance floor on a chair. “They talked about getting married,” says her son Max Factor III.

Ten years later, as young adults, Dorothy and Sidney reconnected. They fell in love and launched a romantic 65-year marriage. “They had a very loving and happy marriage,” says their son, an attorney in Southern California. “They were lovers, best friends, best supporters. Some people have the resilience and wisdom to figure out solutions to the challenges we all face, and they found those solutions.”

By 1938, Sidney’s brother — Max Factor Jr. — was running the cosmetics company. Sidney, with an easy fluency in new languages, was in charge of international markets and led expansion into Canada, Australia, South America and Japan. He retired in 1962. The Factor family sold the business in 1973, and Proctor & Gamble subsequently acquired it.

A tradition of sharing and “giving back” has always been important to the Factors. Dorothy and Sidney quietly supported friends and colleagues through college and hospital stays. On a broader level, the Max Factor Family Foundation supports medical research, patient health care, scholarships, human rights, care of the eldery, and assistance to the disabled. Family members serve on the boards of several hospital and cancer research organizations, including the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. “They helped us build a playground,” Jeanne Gerson, of the Julia Ann Singer Center for disabled and abused children in West Los Angeles, told The Jewish Journal when Sidney Factor died in 2005. “He was a very generous man and very interested in the children.”

That tradition continues four years after Sidney’s death at age 89.

Items from Dorothy & Sidney Factor and Max Factor III – including jewelry and works by artists such as Edouard-Leon Cortes (1882-1969), Tom Wesselmann (1931-2004), and Arman (1928-2005) — are featured in jewelry, decorative art and contemporary art auctions being held by Dallas-based Heritage Auctions ( The events are scheduled for May 3, May 26 and June 9, 2010. One item, a diamond mounted on a platinum ring, could fetch up to $175,000.

All proceeds will benefit charities such as the USC/Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, the Julia Ann Singer Center/Baron School for Exceptional Children, the Beverly Hills Education Foundation, and the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles.

“I’m doing this for my husband, for the charities and scholarships he loved, so that his name will continue on outside the family for generations,” says Dorothy Factor. “I want him to be remembered as a person — he was a very special man — and we’re going to give every bit of the proceeds to charity.”