Celebrity Smokes: A Gallery of Star-Powered Cigarette Ads

It seems inconceivable now, but until about the mid-1960s it was quite common to see celebrities hawking cigarettes like it was no big deal. In fact, many radio, TV, and movie stars literally owed their livelihood to sponsorship from tobacco companies. Imagine seeing someone like George Clooney or Angelina Jolie smiling widely in cigarette ads exhorting you to pick up a carton of Marlboro. Weird, isn’t it?

Anyway, here’s a gallery of 20 such ads from the 1930s through the early 1960s featuring movie and TV stars, as well as famous athletes, using their star power to get you to buy cigarettes and cigars. Most of these ads are courtesy the Stanford Research into the Impact of Tobacco Advertising site.

Celebrity Smoking Ad - Bing Crosby for Chesterfield, 1944

Bing Crosby for Chesterfield, 1944

Celebrity Smoking Ad - Anne Sheridan for Chesterfield, 1947

Anne Sheridan for Chesterfield, 1947

Celebrity Smoking Ad - Ronald Reagan for Chesterfield, 1948

Ronald Reagan for Chesterfield, 1948

Celebrity Smoking Ad - Barbara Stanwyck for L&M, undated

Barbara Stanwyck for L&M, undated

Celebrity Smoking Ad - Basil Rathbone for Fatima, 1949

Basil Rathbone for Fatima, 1949

Celebrity Smoking Ad - Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz

Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz for Philip Morris, 1951

Celebrity Smoking Ad - Ed Sullivan for Chesterfield, 1953

Ed Sullivan for Chesterfield, 1953

Celebrity Smoking Ad - Frank Gifford for Lucky Strike, 1962

Frank Gifford for Lucky Strike, 1962

Celebrity Smoking Ad - Frank Sinatra for Chesterfield, 1957

Frank Sinatra for Chesterfield, 1957

Celebrity Smoking Ad - Hank Aaron for Camel, 1962

Hank Aaron for Camel, 1962

Celebrity Smoking Ad - Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart for Robert Burns, 1948

Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart for Robert Burns, 1948

Celebrity Smoking Ad - Jack Webb for Chesterfield, 1953

Jack Webb for Chesterfield, 1953

Celebrity Smoking Ad - Jesse Owens for White Owl, 1960

Jesse Owens for White Owl, 1960

Celebrity Smoking Ad - Joan Crawford for Chesterfield, 1950

Joan Crawford for Chesterfield, 1950

Celebrity Smoking Ad - Joe DiMaggio for Camel, 1941

Joe DiMaggio for Camel, 1941

Celebrity Smoking Ad - Joe Louis for Chesterfield, 1944

Joe Louis for Chesterfield, 1944

Celebrity Smoking Ad - Laurel and Hardy for Old Gold, 1937

Laurel and Hardy for Old Gold, 1937

Celebrity Smoking Ad - Paul Hornung for Marlboro, 1962

Paul Hornung for Marlboro, 1962

Celebrity Smoking Ad - Sam Snead for Lucky Strike, 1954

Sam Snead for Lucky Strike, 1954

Celebrity Smoking Ad - Spencer Tracy for Lucky Strike, 1938

Spencer Tracy for Lucky Strike, 1938

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Fred Flintstone smokes a Winston cigarette in a 1960s ad

Let’s See Fred Flintstone Smoke Winston Cigarettes in Color

Hang around the internet long enough and you’ll stumble across one of the classic TV commercials for Winston cigarettes, starring the Flintstones. Those spots from the early ’60s are practically advertising legend at this point. If you haven’t seen them, click on the link above and prepare to be amazed.

Well if you thought that was cool — or even if you didn’t — then you’ll really enjoy this find. It’s an original production animation cel from the second spot in that clip; a closeup of Fred Flintstone sparking a Winston and loving every second of it. Oddly enough, the animation is in glorious color while the cigarette appears to be a black and white photograph.

Fred Flintstone smokes a Winston cigarette in a 1960s ad

Winston tastes good like a *clap* *clap* cigarette should!

Now that’s responsible marketing!

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Plymouth Fury 1968 billboard ad

Ads from the Open Road, Volume 1

I don’t really pay much attention to billboard advertisements while I’m driving, unless it’s something fairly snappy or unique. And as much as I’d like to romanticize old billboard ads, I think the medium as a whole has been fairly bereft of great ideas. And if you think about it, it makes sense.

You’re only going to see a billboard ad clearly for what, four or five seconds? So it’s all about economy of ideas and design. Anything too complicated and you either lose a driver’s interest or cause a 20-car pileup. Neither is good for business.

I’m not holding this group of classic billboard ads up as the best ever, but I think you’ll enjoy them nonetheless. These are all courtesy the Duke University Libraries Digital Collections advertising series.

RCA (Whitey's TV) 1969 billboard advertisement

I can’t decide which part of this ’69 RCA billboard I love the most.

Anti-Ayatollah Khomeini billboard (1980)

Sammy Hagar clearly does not approve of this gem from 1980, aimed at Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini.

Plymouth Fury 1968 billboard ad

I like the shape of this 1968 Plymouth Fury ad. It’s a nice change from plain old rectangular. And I love that they used the Plymouth font for the tagline too.

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Smoke your way to luxury with Raleigh and BelAir cigarettes!

What’s this, another post with cigarette ads? Why yes it is, thanks for asking! Actually there is a bigger reason why I’m posting this — the latest addition to my Ephemera project is now up. It highlights the wonderful merchandise and retro styling found in the 1968 Raleigh/BelAir cigarette coupon catalog. New sections will be published as quickly as I can scan them, so check back here (or on my Facebook page) for updates.

We’ve got four late 1960s ads in this clip, featuring a pair of Brown & Williamson brands — Raleigh and BelAir. The first two ads showcase the kind of natural, easygoing dialogue seen in dozens of commercials like them.

The first BelAir spot was filmed in Palm Springs, California on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. Since they’re pushing a menthol brand, the music is appropriately kicky. Then we get right down to business with Raleigh. Two no-nonsense guys on their way to a no-nonsense job, driving a no-nonsense car.

But then they flip the script, and Raleigh gets downright Mod. I don’t know where the hell that guy is walking to, or why he’s walking that way in the first place, but damn that’s a catchy jingle.

Trippy Raleigh cigarette ad (1960s)

Whoa! That's some strong tobacco!

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Lucky Strike - L.S./M.F.T. square dancing cigarettes ad

Retrotisement: Lucky Strike’s square dancing cigarettes

Yeah yeah, smoking’s bad for you. But this stop-motion, square dancing classic from 1948 is very, very good for you.

Seriously, what’s not to love about this commercial? Well, other than the fact that it’s promoting a deadly product of course.

Oh yeah, speaking of Lucky Strike, they’ve got their own section on the main site. To see the rest of my Lucky Strike ads (including this one) and to find out how this commercial was inspired by a German abstract artist, check out the Tobacco Retrotisements home.

Say hello to Elektro, the Westinghouse Robot

He’s all but forgotten today, but at one time Elektro was king of all robots. He was assembled by Westinghouse at their Mansfield, Ohio facility in 1937/38 and made his public debut at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. Elektro stood at a height of seven feet, six inches and weighed 260 pounds. 60 of those pounds were his brain, which was comprised of “48 electrical relays.”

At the Westinghouse Pavilion of the World’s Fair, Elektro the Moto-Man demonstrated a wide variety of skills such as speech, counting, stand-up comedy, and of course, smoking! Witness the marvels of modern 1930s technology in this excerpt from the 1939 promotional film The Middleton Family at the New York World’s Fair.

“Stand aside puny human, as I enjoy the mild, refreshing tobacco flavor of Philip Morris!”

In 1940 Elektro appeared once again at the fair, this time with a robotic canine companion named Sparko. After the World’s Fair, he toured the U.S. and made a number of appearances on television and in film. This clip (from what I believe to be an episode of You Asked For It) finds Elektro in a decidedly more servile mood as he becomes the world’s most expensive helium tank.

I have to say I miss the spunk of earlier Elektro. He’s gone from cracking wise to proclaiming, “If you use me well, I can be your slave.” What a sellout.

By the 1960s Elektro had largely fallen out of public consciousness, despite a starring role as Thinko in the classic 1960 film Sex Kittens Go to College, co-starring Mamie Van Doren, John Carradine, Conway Twitty, and Tuesday Weld. Here’s a faux-racy but ultimately tame sequence involving fire extinguishers and lots of recycled footage.

As if that weren’t enough, the movies features a 10-minute sequence with Thinko checking out a series of strip tease dances while being served bourbon by a monkey bartender. Yup, you read that right. Here’s a brief clip (there’s nudity and whatnot, so this is definitely NSFW).

There’s probably nowhere to go but down after a cameo like this, and truly this was just about the end for Elektro. He stopped appearing in public and was consigned to the scrap heap. Luckily he was rescued and restored, and now spends his days quietly as a featured exhibit at the Mansfield Memorial Museum.

For those inclined to build a smoking Moto-Man of your own, here’s a cross-sectional drawing showing Elektro’s workings.

Elektro interior diagram

Finally, enjoy this Flickr slideshow of some neat Elektro images I’ve compiled!

Retrotisements — Classic PSA edition

I don’t know if the social consciousness of the average American is lower than it was back in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, but it sure seems like it sometimes. I remember seeing a public service announcement (PSA) at least once or twice an hour while watching TV as a kid. These days, not so much. And the ones that are around don’t seem to have much heart or soul. They’re every bit as cynical and cold as regular ads if you ask me.

So if you feel the same way — or even if you don’t — let’s take a look at some of the more memorable PSAs of the past…

Johnny Smoke

Cigarette advertising on TV in America was everywhere until it was pulled off the air for good by an act of Congress. But in the final years of tobacco ads, there was no shortage of anti-smoking ads meant to counter their pernicious effect. One of the more striking ones was an animated spot produced by the American Heart Association and featuring a character named Johnny Smoke.

Even now, this is pretty unsettling, even with the slightly hokey script.

Out of the land of the tobacco plant
Come a tall, fast-drawin’, long lean bloke
Feared by his friends and enemies alike
Feared by all who come to know the name of…JOHNNY SMOKE!

Woodsy Owl

If the phrase “Give a hoot! Don’t pollute!” bring a smile to your face, then you remember Woodsy Owl. Woodsy was born on Earth Day in 1970 and, other than looking like a reject from a Sid & Marty Kroft series, lived to dissuade people from trashing the planet. And he did it in style.

Woodsy has served the U.S Forest Service faithfully for more than 40 years, and fills in at public events when Smokey the Bear is sleeping one off. He was rewarded with a crappy new slogan awhile back — “Lend a hand — Care for the Land!” Ugh.

Save Free TV

Now here’s one you never hear about any more. Back in the days before cable TV was something more than a novelty, the networks were sufficiently threatened by it to create this PSA (which was aired in movie theaters in the 1970s). Although I guess it’s more like an anti-PSA, as it was hardly made with the public’s best interests in mind.

Yes, who needs lousy things like choice or the free market? Keep fighting the good fight, network television executives!

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2010: The Gray Flannel Suit Year That Was

It’s been another fun year for me in running this site, and I’d like to thank all of you who visit regularly, irregularly, or even once.  I’d also like to thank everyone who has helped by contributing comments and post ideas.  It’s good to know there’s at least a few people out there who enjoy my little corner of the intertubes.  Since we’re in the midst of year-end review season, let’s take a quick look back at the posting year that was 2010 for The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit.

Most Popular Posts

This is really what it’s all about right?  It’s always interesting to me to see what content takes off and what content gets largely ignored.  Since I want to stay positive I’ll focus on the former.  So here are the eleven most-popular posts on the site for 2010.

#11. Happy Hoff-Day! – David Hasselhoff is ageless, wouldn’t you agree?  Apparently many do, as this birthday celebration post from all the way back in 2007 is an evergreen.  For Hoff lovers, might I recommend you check out my Hasselhoff/Shatner showdown post from 2008?

#10. Rush album countdown: #4-#1 – Leading up to the 2007 release of Rush’s Snakes & Arrows, I took on the task of ranking every Rush studio album to that point.  As you can guess, this was the payoff.

#9. Retrotisements – Marlboro cigarettes – I’ve made no secret about my fascination with American tobacco advertising.  This classic from July 2007 showcases some vintage Marlboro ads, from long before the Marlboro Man rode into the American pop culture scene.  Maybe he was one of the infants from these early ads?

#8. Album cover of the week: Peter Gabriel (car) – The second album cover post in the top 10, this one showcases the debut album of prog rock legend and former Genesis frontman Peter Gabriel.  Creepy stuff.

#7. Rush album countdown: #8-#5 – I guess fewer people were interested in the big finish to the Rush countdown?  Or maybe I didn’t rank A Farewell to Kings high enough?

#6. Commercials I hate – Hyundai Sonata hipster Christmas – And making a late charge into the top 10, it’s everybody’s least favorite car commercial featuring annoying hipster musicians.  I figured I wasn’t the only one who hated this spot, but even I was surprised to see how this post resonated.

#5. Album cover of the week: The Who Sell Out – I think I’m getting the picture that I need to get on the stick with more album cover posts.  Or at least more with cool information, like this Who one.

#4. Michael – Death is a weird thing.  I and countless others spent years distancing ourselves from Michael Jackson and his music, and as soon as he died it’s like it was OK to like him again.  I guess that means I can expect a ton of hits here when I kick the bucket?

#3. Attn: Cartoon porn enthusiasts – I’m not too proud to admit that I wrote this to mess with people.  I noticed a strange trend of incoming searches for cartoon/Disney porn, so I set this up as a sort of welcome tent for pervs.

#2. America the Brave: A selection of Veterans Day images – I dusted off this 2008 image gallery in November, and it’s proven to be even more popular than before.  The Vietnam War seems to be the main topic of interest for people looking at this post, so maybe I’ll write a new one just for ‘Nam.

#1. Album covers of the week: 1962-1966 & 1967-1970 – I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that the most popular band of all-time is the subject of my most popular post of the year.  I am a little surprised that this relatively obscure (for the Beatles) compilation is searched for so often.  I imagine there will be at least one or two more Beatles albums in future installments of Album Covers of the Week.

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