Hollywood's portrayal of rosacea on the big screen has made it to a much smaller one — the computer screen. A website featuring a host of skin conditions in the movies, including rosacea, is online at www.skinema.com, and getting a lot of attention.
Skin disorders such as rosacea have often been used in motion pictures to dramatize the personalities of the characters, sometimes perpetuating falsehoods or stereotypes along the way. The website — developed by Dr. Vail Reese, a San Francisco dermatologist — offers a look at cinematic portrayals of rosacea and at entertainers who have suffered from the disease.
W.C. Fields' trademark bulbous nose represented rhinophyma, one of the advanced complications of rosacea, the website says. Fields' on-stage image as a hard drinker may have led many to mistakenly connect alcohol consumption with the red face and bulbous nose often caused by rosacea.
However, while alcohol consumption may aggravate this disease, the symptoms can be just as severe in a teetotaler. In fact, alcohol is just one of many potential triggers that may cause a flare-up in various rosacea sufferers.
In addition to Fields, the website states that other performers may have battled rosacea off screen as well, including actor Elisha Cook, Jr., who appeared in The Maltese Falcon, and James Cromwell of Babe.
Still, directors often use facial disorders to help paint psychological portraits of their movie characters. For example, the film version of Dick Tracy featured characters with many skin conditions, including rosacea, the website shows. As Big Boy Caprice, the ringleader of a gang of thugs in this film, Al Pacino sports the enlarged bulbous nose associated with rhinophyma.
Other movies have made similar associations between rosacea symptoms and evil, Dr. Reese reports. The film Mary Reilly, a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde story starring Julia Roberts, features actor Michael Gambon portraying Mary's abusive alcoholic father. His ruddy complexion, inflamed pimples and enlarged nose may very well represent rosacea.
In Cat Ballou, actor Lee Marvin won an Oscar for his portrayal of a drunken hired gun and his evil twin brother. The website notes that, as the drunk, Marvin clearly displays the bulbous nose and flushed face of rosacea.
"The good news, of course, is that in real life the unsightly appearance of rosacea can be successfully treated by a dermatologist," Dr. Reese said.
The website points out that at least one new film portrays a red-nosed character in a positive light — Disney's 1997 Hercules. Phil, his gruff yet lovable sidekick and personal trainer, voiced by actor Danny DeVito, is loyal, honest and trustworthy.