This full-page newspaper ad – with the New York Giants endorsing R.J. Reynolds’ Camel cigarette brand – appeared in the New York Times and other papers in early October 1933.
In the annals of audacious tobacco advertising, the 1933 newspaper ad at right for Camel cigarettes ranks pretty close to the top. Indeed, the claims and endorsements made in this ad seem pretty outrageous by today’s standards — also stating that “21 of 23 Giants …smoke Camels.” In other words, an entire sports team – or very nearly that – was used in this ad to endorse the Camel cigarette brand. And this was no ordinary team, but rather, professional baseball’s Word Series champions that year, the victorious New York Giants.
Tobacco advertising in the 1930s was in its heyday – and from the 1920s through the 1950s there was little restriction on the over-the-top claims being made about tobacco’s safety or its human health effects. This ad, in fact, suggested health benefits – i.e., “healthy nerves,” with several endorsing stars making similar statements.
Baseball players and other sports figures had appeared in tobacco ads before, but in the 1930s their appearance in such ads became more common. It was also in the 1930s that tobacco companies began depicting medical doctors in ads, touting the safety of cigarettes. Still, to see an ad like the one shown here, invoking nearly an entire sports team to promote cigarette sales, and making health claims to boot, is pretty striking. Yet this was a much different era, and health-effects knowledge was not what it is today.
Enlarged section from above ad showing pack of Camel cigarettes.
A few years piror to this ad, R. J. Reynolds, the producer of Camels, had fallen to No. 2 among cigarette brands. Lucky Strike, a cigarette brand produced by the American Tobacco Co., was the No. 1. brand. The competition for cigarette sales and market share had become keen. It was in 1933 that R. J. Reynolds began using sports stars in its advertising. Baseball was then the nation’s most popular professional sport, with more than 10 million people attending games annually. Enlisting the World Series champs to your brand would indeed provide a helpful boost. In 1933, however, the Great Depression was ravaging the nation.
Franklin D. Roosevelt had been elected president in the November 1932 elections, but was not sworn in until March of 1933, then the inaugural custom. Roosevelt faced an unemployment rate of more than 23 percent, thousands of bank failures, and a GNP that had fallen by more than 30 percent. FDR would launch his New Deal in the years that followed, with a flurry of actions and new agencies coming in 1933.
The official program for the 1933 World Series, depicting managers Joe Cronin of Washington, left, and Bill Terry of New York, right.
Despite the hard times, there was optimism that a “Roosevelt recovery” was on the way. Congress had also introduced a bill to repeal prohibition, meaning alcohol would flow again, as it did legally by year’s end. Baseball, meanwhile, continued pretty much as it always had, though adding for the first time that July, an All Star game with the best players from National and American league teams in an annual game against one another. Then that fall came the 1933 World Series.
1933 World Series
The 1933 World Series pitted the National League’s Giants against the American League’s Washington Senators, also known as the Washington Nationals. The Giants had 91 wins and 61 losses in the regular season that year, while the Senators had compiled a 99 - 53 record. The Senators were the surprise victors of the American League that year, breaking a seven-year hold on winning the pennant by either the New York Yankees or the Philadelphia Athletics.
The New York Giants’ venerable and long-standing manager, John McGraw, had retired the previous year, with the Giants’ regular first baseman, Bill Terry, taking on the manager’s job. For the Senators, the equally venerable Walter Johnson, the famous pitcher, had also retired from managing in 1932, as the Senators’ regular shortstop, Joe Cronin, became their manager. Both Cronin and Terry are shown at right on a game program from the 1933 World Series. The World Series games that year were carried on NBC and CBS radio.
Oct 5 1933: Franklin D. Roosevelt prepares to throw ceremonial baseball at Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C. at Game 3 of the 1933 World Series. Directly right of FDR is Washington manager Joe Cronin and New York manager Bill Terry. AP photo.
When the Series moved to Washington, D.C. for Game 3 after the first two games had been played at New York’s Polo Grounds, President Roosevelt threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Griffith Stadium. Throughout the Series, the Giants’ pitching proved the difference, with Carl Hubbell and Hal Schumacher turning in stellar performances. The Giants took the best–of-seven Series in five games, winning their first championship since 1922. The final game of the 1933 World Series was played on Saturday, October 7th at Griffith Stadium, with the Giants winning 4-3. Mel Ott hit two home runs that game, the final one coming in the top of the tenth inning, providing the margin for victory. Two days later, the Camel cigarette ad shown above began appearing in newspapers around the country.
The Camel Ad
Enlarged baseball with Camels endorsement from ad above.
The main headline in the Camel ad proclaims, “It Takes Healthy Nerves To Win The World Series,” with copy to follow that suggests cigarette smoking provided a beneficial help to the World Series victors. An enlarged baseball directly diretly left of the headline states, “21 out of 23 Giants – World Champions – Smoke Camels,” suggesting there must be some connection and/or advantage to smoking Camels and winning championship games, especially since nearly the whole team is involved. A Giants team photo also appears at the top of the ad, followed below by a series of photos of individual Giants’ stars making Camel testimonials. More on those in a moment. At the bottom of the ad, is the company’s narrative message, which runs as follows:
Well, the returns are in. Congratulations to the new World Champions—the Giants! Rated by the experts as a hopeless contender, this amazing team, playing under inspired leadership, fought successfully through one of the hardest National League races in years. . .and again the under dog, went on to win the World Series. It takes healthy nerves to play “better baseball than you know how.” It takes healthy nerves to go on winning day after day through crucial series after series. . .delivering time after time in the pinches. It means something when you discover that 21 out of 23 Giants smoke Camel cigarettes. These men, to whom healthy nerves are all-important, have found that Camel’s costlier tobaccos not only taste better, but also they never interfere with training. . .never jangle the nerves.
New York Giants’ players featured in the Oct 1933 Camel ad: Bill Terry top, and from left, ‘Blondy’ Ryan, Hal Schumacher, Carl Hubbell & Mel Ott.
At the center of this ad, below the team photo and the enlarged baseball, photographs of five of the Giants’ players appear, each offering a sentence or two endorsing the Camel brand, beginning with Giants’ player/ manager Bill Terry, shown in the circular photo. Considered one of the game’s greatest players, Bill Terry (1898-1989), was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1954.
Terry is most remembered for being the last National League player to hit .400, a feat he accomplished in 1930, hitting .401. The Giants would retire Terry’s uniform No. 3 in 1984, and it is posted today at AT&T Park in San Francisco. In the Camel ad, Terry, then team manager, is quoted as saying: “Great Team Work and healthy nerves carried us to the top. A check-up of the team shows that 21 out of 23 of the World Champion Giants smoke Camels.”
Carl Hubbell would become one of the game’s great pitchers.
Next in the sequence of Camel endorsers, comes “Blondy” Ryan. John Collins Ryan (1906-1959) played shortstop in the major leagues from 1930to 1938, and is remembered primarily for his fielding and excellent play in the 1933 World Series. Ryan was also ninth in MVP voting for the 1933 regular season. In the Camel ad, he is the first player shown on the left offering his testimonial. “I long ago learned that Camels are the cigarette for me,” says Ryan in the ad. “I like Camels better, and they don’t get on my nerves.” Harold “Hal” Schumacher (1910-1993), one of the key Giants’ pitchers through the 1933 season and the World Series, comes next in the Camel ad: “I prefer Camels,” he says. “I am a steady smoker of Camels and they never give me jumpy nerves or a ‘cigarettey’ aftertaste.” Schumacher played with the Giants from 1931 to 1946, compiling a 158-121 win–loss record. He was also a two-time All Star selection.
Carl Hubbell (1903-1988), shown in the photo above, was a valuable left-handed pitcher for the Giants and a key player in their 1933 World Series championship. Hubbell comes next in the Camel ad. “I can’t risk getting ruffled nerves so I smoke Camels,” he is quoted as saying. “I like their mildness and I know they won’t interfere with healthy nerves.” Hubbell played with the Giants from 1928 to 1943, and remained with the team in various capacities for the rest of his life, even after the Giants moved to San Francisco. Hubbell, a nine-time All Star, was twice voted the National League’s Most Valuable Player. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1947. Hubbell is also remembered for his appearance in the 1934 All-Star Game, when he struck out five of the game’s great hitters in succession – Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin – setting a longstanding All-Star Game record for consecutive strikeouts. Hubbell was the first NL player to have his number retired, which is also displayed at AT&T Park.
The New York Giants’ Mel Ott, one of baseball’s greatest hitters.
Next in the line of five Giants’ players endorsing Camel cigarettes is Mel Ott (1909-1958), the hitting star of the 1933 World Series. In game 1 of that Series, he had four hits, including a two-run home run. In game 5, he drove in the Series-winning run with two outs in the top of the 10th inning, driving a pitch into the center-field bleachers for a home run. “Jumpy nerves and home runs don’t go together,” Ott is credited with saying in the 1933 Camels ad. “So I stick to my Camels when I get a minute to enjoy a smoke.” Ott played his entire career (1926-1947) with the New York Giants as an outfielder. At 5′ 9″and 170 lbs, he was a surprisingly powerful hitter. He was the first National League player to surpass 500 home runs. In his 22-year career, Ott compiled a .304 batting average with 2,876 hits, 511 home runs, 1,860 runs batted in (RBIs), a .414 on base percentage, and a .533 slugging average.
Top Celebrities. Baseball stars such as Mel Ott and Carl Hubbell – and other famous athletes of that era – were among the most publicly-visible and sought-after celebrities of their day. Broadway and Hollywood also had their share of stars, and these celebrities were also sought for product endorsements, including tobacco, and some of those are covered elsewhere at this website. Still, the “celebrity factor” in the 1930s wasn’t quite as intense or ubiquitous as it is today, as there was no television, no internet, no “Dancing With Stars” or “American Idol”– and no 24-7 media machine. In that era, in fact, World Series baseball stars were regarded as top-of-the-line celebrities, considered among the biggest “gets” of their day, prized by marketers.
Following the 1934 World Series, with the St. Louis Cardinals as champions, a similar Camel advertising pitch was used.
In fact, in the following year, 1934, the same “World Series baseball team” pitch for Camels was used again by R.J. Reynolds, this time featuring the 1934 St. Louis Cardinals, who won the Series that year. As in the Giant’s ad, the “21-of-23-players-smoke-Camels” phrase was used, and five St. Louis players made endorsements, including” the famous pitching brothers, “Dizzy” Dean and Paul Dean; Joe “Ducky” Medwick, power hitter; and “Pepper” Martin and “Rip” Collins. Player Manager Frank Frisch provided the set-up in this ad, also given a by-line as if reporting: “They sure made it hot for us this year, but the Cardinals came through in great style clear to the end when we needed every ounce of energy to win. We needed it—and we had it. There’s the story in a nutshell. It seems as though the team line up just as well on their smoking habits as they do on the ball field. Here’s our line-up on smoking: 21 out of 23 of the Cardinals prefer Camels.” Pepper Martin added: “I like Camels because when I light one I can actually feel all tiredness slip away.” And Rip Collins claimed: “A Camel has a way of ‘turning on’ my energy. And when I’m tired I notice they help me to snap back quickly.” Dizzy Dean added: “A Camel sure brings back your energy after a hard game or when you’re tired, and Camels never frazzle the nerves.”
R.J. Reynolds, for its part, was then engaged in a fierce advertising battle with American Tobacco for the top spot of the cigarette market, and its move in the 1930s to use baseball players and other athletes endorsing the Camel cigarette brand, helped the company regain its top-of-the-market position.
Tennis star Ellsworth Vines pitching Camel cigarettes in an October 1934 ‘Popular Science’ magazine ad.
In 1934, American tennis star Ellsworth Vines did some advertising for R.J Reynolds’ Camel cigarette brand. He was 23 years old at the time, and was among the world’s best players. The magazine ad at right shows Vines in a full-page endorsement for the cigarette in his tennis attire, depicted as smoking a cigarette at the end of a tennis match. However, it is not known whether Vines in fact was a smoker, as endorsing stars often posed with cigarettes to do advertising. This ad, in any case, appeared in Popular Science magazine October 1934, and perhaps other publications as well.
As this is written in mid-2010, it appears especially odd and out of place to see a tennis player hawking cigarettes. Something about all those tennis “whites,” the game’s clean and healthy image – plus today’s media offerings of young and vital tennis players portrayed as epitomes of health. What’s more, having a cigarette after an exhausting tennis match is probably the last thing you’d expect a tennis player in current times to actually do, or espouse for anyone else to do. Yet, in the 1930s – and through the 1960s in fact – athletes endorsing tobacco products was not uncommon. Tobacco companies recruited them as they did Hollywood film
stars and other celebrities.
Ellsworth Vines, tennis star, featured on the cover of Time magazine, August 1, 1932.
Sports star association with tobacco products began in the late 19th century, when tobacco companies started enclosing small trading cards of baseball and other sports players in their cigarette and cigar packets (see Honus Wagner story, for example ). The cards generally included a photograph or artist rendering of the popular players of the day. Movie stars and other famous people were also used on the trading cards. Tobacco companies in the late 1920s and 1930s also began striking deals with actors and film studios, generally trying to associate their product with the famous and well known – those seen as trend setters and having an influence on the general public. By then even some notable medical publications were enlisted for tobacco advertising. In November 1933, the Journal of the American Medical Association published its first advertisement for cigarettes – Chesterfield – a practice that continued for 20 years. In 1933, Chesterfield also began running ads in the New York State Journal of Medicine. So, in the context of that era, seeing a tennis star in the 1930s with cigarette in hand did not seem out of place.
Ellsworth Vines in action at Wimbledon in 1932.
Ellsworth Vines was at the peak of his tennis career when he did the Camel cigarette ad shown above. In August 1932, he was featured on the cover of Time magazine and had become a national celebrity. The text from the October 1934 Camel cigarette ad featuring Vines, beginning with the headline, reads as follows:
You’ll enjoy this pleasing “Energizing Effect”
When you’ve used up your energy – smoke a Camel and notice how you feel your flow of natural energy snap back.
This experience, long known to Camel smokers, has now been confirmed by a famous New York research laboratory. Camel smokers enjoy a positive “energizing effect” …a healthful and delightful release of natural, vibrant energy. A typical Camel experience is this, Ellsworth Vines, Jr. speaking –
“Championship tennis is one of the fastest of modern sports. After four or five sets, you sometimes feel that you just can’t take another step. That’s when a Camel tastes like a million dollars. Not only does the rich, mellow fragrance appeal to my taste, but Camels have a refreshing way of bringing my energy up to a higher level. And I can smoke all the Camels I want, for they don’t interfere with my nerves.”
So, whenever you want a “lift,” just smoke a Camel. You can smoke them steadily. For the finer, MORE EXPENSIVE TOBACCOS in Camels never get on your nerves.
CAMEL’S Costlier Tobaccos never get on your Nerves. “Get a Lift with a Camel!”
Jack Crawford and Ellsworth Vines (right) greeting one another after a match at Wimbledon, 1932.
Ellsworth Vines was the world’s No. 1 ranked player, or shared that ranking, in 1932, 1935, 1936 and 1937. He began playing tennis as a young boy of about eight years old. As a freshman at Huntington Park High School in Pasadena, California began attracting attention, including that of Mercer Beasley, famed coach of Tulane University, who helped him develop his game. Tall and athletic, Vines had also played freshman basketball at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. But tennis was his sport. By 1930, he was playing in and winning amateur championships. By the summer of1931, he had won every tournament he entered, including the U. S. championship at Forest Hills. In 1932, on successive days at Wimbledon he beat Jack Crawford of Australia and Henry Wilfred (“Bunny”) Austin of England setting the tennis world abuzz with his talent. He turned professional at the age of 22. In 1934 and 1935 he won almost all the major pro events. In 1934, he bested Bill Tilden, 47 matches to 26 on a head-to-head tour. In a 1938 competition with Don Budge, he also prevailed 49 matches to 35, four years later.
Ellsworth Vines in play vs. Henri Cochet of France at Wimbledon, May 7, 1933.
When Vines was at the height of his tennis powers in the 1930s, he was “nearly invincible,” according to some accounts. “Hell, when Elly was on, you’d be lucky to get your racket on the ball once you served it,” tennis star Jack Kramer would later write of Ellsworth. “What galleries at Wimbledon and elsewhere like most about Vines’s game is its blinding speed,” wrote Time magazine about his play in August 1932. He had a “cannonball serve,” noted Time, “which a good many players frankly say they cannot see…” Vines won his last big tournament in October 1939, the U.S. Pro Championship at the Beverly Hills Tennis Club. The following year, in May 1940, at 28 years old, Vines played his last competitive tennis match. Although he had some physical ailments at the time, and wanted to spend more time with his family, Vines had also developed an increasing passion for golf. In fact, he became a professional golfer in 1942 and over the years had a number of high finishes in tournaments, including victories in the 1946 Massachusetts Open and 1955 Utah Open. He also had a semi-final position in the 1951 PGA Cham- pionship. Vines was twice in the top ten of golf money winnings, and according to another famous tennis player, Jack Kramer, “he was surely the best athlete ever in the two sports.”
Ellsworth Vines also appeared in this 1935 Camel cigarette ad (upper lefthand corner), which featured a range of athletes all endorsing the cigarette.
Ellsworth Vines also appeared in at least one other 1935 magazine ad for Camel cigarettes, this one depicting a range of athletes from different sports. This ad, shown at left, is headlined, “We Asked Sports Champions,” who are then featured in a series of photographs, each offering a short sentence or two about why they like Camels. Vines, shown in the upper lefthand portion of the ad, is quoted under the segment on “Flavor!” saying: “Camels taste like a million dollars!…That rich, mellow flavor appeals to my taste… And I actually feel a ‘lift’ from a Camel!” Others in the ad, featured under respective Camel descriptors, are: Helen Hicks, pro golfer under “Energy!”; Bill Miller, champion sculler, under “Value!”; Frank Copeland, billiard champion under “So Mild!”; and, finally, Harry “Stubby” Kruger, Olympic swimmer and water polo star, under “Healthy Nerves!,” who is photographed in Hollywood poolside where he is quoted saying: “I smoke a great deal and Camels don’t ever ruffle my nerves!”
John Wayne, a highly-popular Hollywood film star, appears in a 1950 magazine ad for Camel cigarettes.
John Wayne, the famous Hollywood actor of the 1950s, is shown at right in a 1950 magazine ad for Camel cigarettes. The Camel cigarette brand, introduced by the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. in 1913, had become the top selling cigarette in the U.S. by the 1950s, thanks in part to the company’s heavy advertising. John Wayne had been a chain-smoker since young adulthood, so it was not out of character for him, or surprising for those times, to see him in a cigarette ad. Numerous other celebrities – and athletes as well – also did such ads in those days. Edward R. Murrow, for example, a popular TV news broadcaster, smoked up to four packs of Camels per day. Cigarettes with Murrow almost seemed to serve as stage prop, becoming part of his TV image, as he was often photographed with a cigarette or seen smoking during his TV shows, such as Person to Person.
John Wayne, by the time he appeared in the 1950 print ad at right, was at the peak of his movie career. Wayne had already achieved stardom in motion pictures by the early 1940s, and by the end of the decade was one of Hollywood’s top ten box office attractions. During the latter half of the 1940s Wayne had starred in notable westerns and other films including: Fort Apache (1948), Red River (1948), 3 Godfathers (1948), She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949), and Rio Grande (1950). Wayne by then had also begun producing some of his own films. He also did a number of war movies, including: The Flying Tigers (1942), Back To Battan (1944), The Fighting Seabees(1944), Sands of Iow Jima (1949), Flying Leathernecks (1951), Operation Pacific (1951). And there would also come other notable films in the early 1950s, such asand The Quiet Man (1952) and Hondo (1953). Wayne was the biggest box-office attraction in 1950, 1951, and the third most popular star of 1952. On television by this time as well, his earlier movies, especially westerns, were regular fare – though he was not a star on a specific TV show; he didn’t need one.
The Tobacco Celebrities
This is one in a series of occasional articles that will focus on the history of popular celebrities from film, tele- vision, sports and other fields who have lent their names or voice, offered endorsing statements, or made person- al appearances in various forms of tobacco advertising and promotion. Famous actors, sports stars and other notable personalities have been endors- ing tobacco products since the late 1800s. One recent report published in the journal Tobacco Control, for example, notes that nearly 200 Hollywood stars from the 1930s and 1940s were contracted to tobacco companies for advertising. And while the stigma associated with smoking and using other tobacco products has increased in recent years as medical research evidence linking disease to tobacco has become more widely understood, the promotion of tobacco products, while not as blatant and pervasive as it once was, continues to this day in a number of countries. Not all celebrities, of course, have been involved in such endorsements, and some have worked for, or lent their names to, programs and organizations that help to prevent cigarette smoking or other tobacco-related public health problems.
In the Camel cigarette ad above, which tries to push the “Camels-are-mild” line, Wayne is quoted as saying: “The roles I play in movies are far from easy on my voice – I can’t risk throat irritation. So I smoke Camels – they are mild.” Wayne continues his endorsement below the highlighted passage with the following: “I’ve been around movie sets enough to know how important mildness is to an actor. So when it came to deciding what cigarette was right from my throat – I was particular I made a sensible test – my own 30-Day Camels Mildness Test. I gave Camels a real tryout for 30 days. The most pleasure I ever had from smoking. My own T-Zone told me just how mild a cigarette can be.” R. J. Reynolds in the 1940s had already started touting Camels and the smoothness and taste of its cigarettes. The company invented the “T-Zone” description for use in advertising, with some ads showing a white-lined area of the mouth and throat as the “T-Zone” (as in the woman’s photograph, lower left-hand corner in this ad) – also signifying “T for taste” and “T for throat.” Wording of this sort would also appear in other Camel ad copy of the early 1950s, as well as in the quotes of celebrity endorsers.
The Stanford University School of Medicine has noted that “throat cancer was well-recognized by the middle of the nineteenth century,” known then as “smoker’s cancer.” And the tobacco industry, in advertising dating from the 1930s through the 1950s, used a strategy of “throat reassurance” to allay such fears, casting its celebrity voices in ways that stressed how their particular cigarette brands were mild on the throat.
As the Wayne ad above continues, readers are encouraged to make their own “30 Day Mildness test.” Then the ad signs off with the bold headline in the lower right: “Not One Single Case of Throat Irritation …Due to Smoking…” Then comes some additional ad copy in smaller print about that finding: “Yes, those were the findings of noted throat specialists after a total of 2,470 weekly examinations of the throats of hundreds of men and women who smoked Camels – and only Camels – for 30 Days.” This ad also includes some description of Wayne the movie star meant to appeal to men and women, as a small box to the right of his photo explains: “Man’s Idea of a Movie Hero. And the women agree. 6 feet 4 inches, John Wayne has smashed his way to fame in dozens of motion pictures!”
In another 1950 Camel print ad touting a “30-Day Camel Mildness Test,” the headline says: “With Stars who must think of their throats, it’s Cool, Mild Camels!” Wayne appears in this ad as well, with the ad copy billing him as “John Wayne, Movie Hero,” and quoting him as follows: “The roles I play are far from easy on my voice! Camels suit my throat to a ‘T’!”
An R. J. Reynolds magazine ad for Camel cigarettes features Hollywood star John Wayne, appearing to offer a personal note in his endorsement of Camels. Life magazine, July 1954.
By mid-1954, Wayne was featured in more full-page R. J. Reynolds ads for Camels. One, shown at right, has Wayne leaning back in a cane chair in a country cabin setting with cigarette in hand. The headline reads: “John Wayne…a Camel fan goin’ on 24 years!” Just below the headline is a hand-written note, with envelope behind it, as Wayne explains his many years of Camel loyalty:
“…in all that time, a man learns how to enjoy smoking – for mildness, for flavor, for pure pleasure. It’s kind of gratifying to see that my cigarette is America’s choice, too. John Wayne.”
The ad’s copy then continues: “Talk to Camel smokers like John Wayne, popular Hollywood star, and you’ll quickly see why Camels keep increasing their lead over the next brand! Clearly, nothing matches Camels’ blend of costly tobaccos for genuine mildness and specially-rich flavor! If you smoke for the pure pleasure of smoking, try Camels for 30 days. See what you’ve been missing!” Then in somewhat smaller italic print immediately below, comes a further appeal:
“Make your own 30 day Camel Mildness Test…see why more people find more pleasure in Camels year after year !”
Then comes some information about Camels in the market: “Camels First in Sales ! Lead second brand by record 50.8 %.” The ad’s closing pitch comes as follows: “For Mildness… for Flavor. Camels agree with more people than any other cigarette!” This ad appeared on the back cover of Life magazine’s July 12, 1954 issue. It also appeared in Popular Mechanics and possibly other magazines of that time as well.
Wayne also appeared in some TV ads for cigarettes. In one 1952 Camel TV ad, for example, Wayne spoke for the product, saying: “Mild and good tasting pack after pack. And I know, I’ve been smokin’ em for twenty years.” This commercial was filmed in conjunction with Wayne’s then forthcoming movie, Big Jim McLain, as the tobacco industry and Hollywood commonly engaged in cross-promotion deals in some of their advertising. By the mid-1950s, Wayne reportedly was a five-to-six pack-a-day smoker of unfiltered Camels. Wayne, of course, continued his stellar Hollywood career through the mid-1950s and early 1960s, making films such as: The High and the Mighty (1954), The Sea Chase (1955), The Searchers (1956), The Barbarian and the Geisha(1958), Rio Bravo(1959), The Alamo (1960), The Comancheros (1961), The Challenge of Ideas (1961), and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962).
John Wayne in 1961, from the film “The Challenge of Ideas.”
In 1964, John Wayne was diagnosed with lung cancer and underwent successful surgery to remove his entire left lung and four ribs. Despite efforts by his business associates to prevent him from going public with his illness for fear it would hurt his image and cost him work, Wayne announced he had cancer and called on the public to get preventive examinations. Five years later, Wayne was declared cancer-free. However, despite the fact that Wayne’s diminished lung capacity left him incapable of prolonged exertion and frequently in need of supplemental oxygen, he returned to using some tobacco products. Within a few years of his operation Wayne chewed tobacco and also began smoking cigars. Wayne continued his film making into the late 1960s and early 1970s. He starred in True Grit in 1969, which led to Rooster Cogburn, a film he made with Katharine Hepburn in 1975. His last film came a year later with The Shootist, whose main character, J. B. Books, was dying of cancer.
Wayne was interviewed about his health & smoking in 1978.
In January 1979 Wayne returned to the hospital for lower abdomen surgery, when a low-grade cancerous tumor was found and part of his lower intestine was removed. In June 1979, Wayne died at the at UCLA Medical Center. The cause of death was given as complications from cancer. Wayne was 72 years old. In 1956, Wayne had been part of the 220 or so cast and crew who made the film, The Conqueror, near St. George, Utah, downwind from where the U.S. Government had tested nuclear weapons in southeastern Nevada. An astounding ninety-one people from that group, or 41 percent – including stars such as Susan Hayward and Agnes Moorehead in addition to Wayne — had come down with cancer. Many who were at that filming location contend that radioactive fallout from the government’s tests contaminated the location and poisoned the film crew. Some suggested Wayne’s 1964 lung cancer and his 1979 stomach cancer resulted from this nuclear contamination. But Wayne himself believed his lung cancer at least was the result of his six-pack-a-day cigarette habit, which he reportedly told US Magazine writer James Bacon in 1978. In the 1980s, Wayne’s family created the John Wayne Cancer Foundation and later, the John Wayne Cancer Institute, to help fight cancer with awareness and education programs and cancer research.
John Wayne remains an iconic figure in American culture, having appeared in more than 250 films during his career, more than half of which he had the lead role. He was formally recognized by the United States Congress on May 26, 1979, when he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, presented to his family at a formal ceremony in March 1980 at the U.S. Capitol. In early June 1980, Wayne also received posthumously the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Jimmy Carter.
Readers of “Wayne for Camels” may also find the following stories of interest: “Al Jolson & Luckies, 1928-1940s” (Jolson as pitchman; Hollywood studios & tobacco companies);“Babe Ruth & Tobacco, 1920s-1940s” (baseball legend & tobacco products); “Gifford For Luckies, 1961-1962” (Frank Gifford, football star, promoting Lucky brand cigarettes); “Vines for Camels, 1934-1935” (Ellsworth Vines, tennis star in Camels ad); and, “21 of 23 Giants…Smoke Camels” (entire World Series team of 1933 used in ad to pitch cigarettes).