The Pop History Dig

“Vines For Camels”
1934-1935

Tennis star Ellsworth Vines pitching Camel cigarettes in an October 1934 ‘Popular Science’ magazine ad.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 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!”

     For additional stories on tobacco advertising at this website, see for example: “Al Jolson & Luckies, 1928-1940s” (Hollywood & cigarette advertising); “Babe Ruth & Tobacco, 1920s-1940s;” “Wayne For Camels,1950s” (actor John Wayne cigarette ads); “Gifford For Luckies, 1961-1962″ (Frank Gifford, football star, in cigarette ad); and, “21 of 23 Giants…Smoke Camels” (promotional ad using 1933 World Series champs).  See also the “Madison Avenue” category page for other stories on advertising, or go to the Archive for additional story choices.  Thanks for visiting.  — Jack Doyle

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Date Posted: 19 July 2010
Last Update: 15 November 2012
Comments to:  jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “Vines for Camels, 1934-1935,”
PopHistoryDig.com, July 18, 2010.

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Sources, Links & Additional Information

Ellsworth Vines depicted on a 1933 “Sport Kings” trading card from Goudey Gum Co.
Ellsworth Vines depicted on a 1933 “Sport Kings” trading card from Goudey Gum Co.
Ad: “Get a Lift With a Camel!,” Popular Science, October 1934, from, ModernMechanix.com, August 6, 2007.

Ellsworth Vines,” Wikipedia.org.

Sport: Davis Cup,” Time, Monday, August 1, 1932.

Henry R. Ilsley, “Vines Tops Allison in Three-Set Final; Wins in Newport Singles for Second Year in Row…,”New York Times, Sunday, August 21, 1932, p. S-1.

Allison Danzig, “12,000 See Vines Vanquish Cochet; French Ace Defeated, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, in His First U.S. Appearance As a Pro,” New York Times, Tuesday, February 20, 1934, Sports, p. 27.

Allison Danzig, “Twenty Service’ Aces Are Scored by Vines in Routing Perry on Garden Court; Vines Wins Match in Straight Sets,” New York Times, Tuesday, May 4, 1937, p. 33.

Jack Kramer with Frank Deford, The Game, My 40 Years in Tennis, 1979.

Scott Olstad, “A Brief History Of Cigarette Advertising,” Time, Monday, June 15, 2009.

“Ellsworth Vines,” French website.

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“Gifford For Luckies”
1961-1962

Frank Gifford, football star for the New York Giants, appeared in Lucky Strike cigarette ads in the early 1960s, including this one, which appeared on the back cover of ‘The Saturday Evening Post’ magazine, November 10, 1962.
Frank Gifford, football star for the New York Giants, appeared in Lucky Strike cigarette ads in the early 1960s, including this one, which appeared on the back cover of ‘The Saturday Evening Post’ magazine, November 10, 1962.
     Frank Gifford first rose to fame in the 1950s and 1960s as a professional football player with the New York Giants.  Later, in a second career, he became famous again as a sports broadcaster.  He is shown at right in a 1962 magazine advertisement for Lucky Strike cigarettes.

     Born in Santa Monica, California in 1930, Gifford graduated from Bakersfield High School, became a Junior College All- American football player at Bakersfield College, then proceeded to the University of Southern California where he also became an All-American.  He entered the profes- sional ranks in 1952, joining the New York Giants, where he played his entire career.

     Gifford began his career with the Giants playing both offense and defense, a rarity at a time when platoon football had begun following World War II.  He made eight Pro Bowl appearances and had five trips to the NFL Championship Game.  Gifford’s biggest season may have been 1956, when he won the Most Valuable Player award of the NFL, and led the Giants to the NFL title over the Chicago Bears.  Gifford also played in the famous December 1958 championship game between the New York Giants and the Baltimore Colts, a game that many believe ushered in the modern era of big time, television-hyped, pro football.   Gifford, in fact, has co-written a recent book on that game, titled The Glory Game.

     In the early 1960s, however, Frank Gifford was a hot commodity, and his endorsement was sought for an array of products, cigarettes among them.  In the magazine ad above, Gifford is shown in a photo from his playing days and another at leisure off the field, lending his endorsement to American Tobacco Company’s Lucky Strike brand.  The caption beneath the football photograph of Gifford reads: “Frank Gifford in action in 1957.  The young New York Giants halfback was already a top star  — and a Lucky Strike smoker.”  The other photograph, with Gifford holding a cigarette while looking trough an opened book, says: “Frank Gifford today.  Now one of pro football’s all-time greats, Frank’s still a satisfied Lucky smoker.”  The wording at the bottom of the ad says:

“The taste of Luckies spoils you for other cigarettes.  ‘Taste is the reason I started smoking Luckies,’ says Frank, ‘and taste is the reason I’m still a Lucky man. ‘ How about you?  Get the taste you’ll stay with.  Get the fine tobacco-taste of Lucky Strike.”

Frank Gifford, former New York Giants football star, appears in early 1960s magazine ad for Lucky Strike cigarettes.
Frank Gifford, former New York Giants football star, appears in early 1960s magazine ad for Lucky Strike cigarettes.

“Taste Great”

         In another early 1960s ad for Lucky Strike, Gifford is shown relaxing in a home den type setting with his football trophies behind him, cigarette in hand, as he lends his name to the Lucky Strike brand.  The caption beneath his photo- graph reads:

     “Frank Gifford, former All-Pro halfback for the New York Football Giants, remembers more than fifteen yeas of great football.  A Lucky Strike smoker, Frank remembers how great his first Lucky tasted: ‘And Luckies still taste great,’ he says. ‘This one still delivers that full, rich tobacco taste.’  How about you?  Change to Luckies and get some taste for a change.”

     In addition to advertising for Lucky Strike cigarettes, Gifford, a popular sports figure in New York in the early 1960s, also did ads for other products including: Vitalis hair tonic, Jantzen swim wear, Dry Sack sherry, and Palmolive Rapid Shave.

In a 2013 interview by Mark Weinstein, Gifford was asked about his Lucky Strike cigarette ads. Here’s some of that exchange:

MW: “…And I’m wondering if, knowing what we now know about the adverse health effects of tobacco, you have any regrets about your association with Lucky Strike?”

FG: “I do, but only in the sense that when the Surgeon General’s report came out [January 1964], I very openly quit smoking. I quit the day the report came out. And that was the end of the advertising, too. I was making more doing that—potentially, anyway—than I was playing football. But that was the end of it. I said, ‘I’m not going to do it anymore.’ It’s been kind of lost in the pages of history, I guess, but that’s exactly what happened.”


Injury & Comeback

Frank Gifford (No. 16), New York Giants, running with ball against the Washington Redskins, Yankee Stadium, November 29, 1959.  Photo, Neil Leifer.
Frank Gifford (No. 16), New York Giants, running with ball against the Washington Redskins, Yankee Stadium, November 29, 1959. Photo, Neil Leifer.
     In a 1960 game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Gifford was hit very hard on a passing play by Eagles’ linebacker Chuck Bednarik, and was knocked out of the game.  Gifford suffered a severe neck injury, forcing him out of active play for 18 months — occurring in the prime of his career.  The injury led him to retire from football temporarily.  In 1962 Gifford returned to pro football and resumed playing for the Giants, this time as a flanking, wide receiver.  Gifford made an impressive come back, learning and excelling at the new position, becoming a star once again.  In fact, he was selected to the Pro Bowl as wide receiver in 1964.  At the end of that season, however, Gifford retired for good.

     In 12 seasons with the New York Giants, Gifford proved a versatile and valuable player.  As a running back, he had 3,609 rushing yards and 34 touchdowns in 840 carries.  As a receiver he had 367 receptions for 5,434 yards and 43 touchdowns.  Gifford was also a halfback who could throw, and completed 29 of the 63 passes he attempted for 823 yards and 14 touchdowns.  Gifford was also one of those rare players in the early modern era who played both offense and defense.  In fact, during his carreer, he had Pro Bowl selections at three different positions — defensive back, running back, and wide receiver.  Gifford was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on July 30, 1977, and in the year 2000, his New York Giants’ No. 16 playing numeral was formally retired.


L-to-R, Don Meredith, Howard Cosell and Frank Gifford, the broadcast team for ABC-TV’s “Monday Night Football,” 1972.
L-to-R, Don Meredith, Howard Cosell and Frank Gifford, the broadcast team for ABC-TV’s “Monday Night Football,” 1972.
Broadcast Booth

     After his playing days ended, Frank Gifford became a full-time sports broadcaster for NFL games on CBS radio and TV.  By 1971 he became a play-by-play announcer on ABC’s Monday Night Football with Howard Cosell and Don Meredith — Meredith a former Dallas Cowboy football star.  In 1995, Gifford was given the Pete Rozelle Award by the Pro Football Hall of Fame for his NFL television work.  Gifford remained at Monday Night Football until 1998, when he left the show.  He also appeared on other ABC sports programs, including Olympic Games coverage, ABC’s Wide World of Sports, various sports personality profiles.  He also appeared as a guest on non-sports TV shows from time to time, including ABC-TV’s Good Morning America, where he met his third wife, Kathie Lee, a popular TV host.  The two were married in 1986 and would have two children together.  Throughout the late 1980s and the 1990s, millions of morning-TV viewers who watched ABC’s Live with Regis and Kathie Lee would often hear Kathie Lee Gifford’s descriptions of life at home with her sportscaster husband and their two children.  Frank and Kathie Lee Gifford have also used their celebrity to raise money for charitable causes.

     See also at this website, “Celebrity Gifford,” a longer story on the football, broadcasting, and celebrity history of Frank Gifford. Other stories on celebrity advertising at this website include, for example: Dennis Hopper pitching retirement planning for Ameriprise Financial, Madonna in a 1989 Pepsi ad, and John Wayne in 1950s’ Camel cigarette ads. Thanks for visiting. – Jack Doyle

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this Website

Donate Now

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Date Posted:  29 March 2010
Last Update:  5 January 2014
Comments to:  jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “Gifford For Luckies, 1961-1962,”
PopHistoryDig.com, March 29, 2010.

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Sources, Links & Additional Information

Frank Gifford football trading card from 1955 in protective case. Card was issued originally by Bowman Football Cards as #7 in a series. This card is graded and registered by PSA, Professional Sports Authenticator.  “EX-MT” means the card is in “excellent-to-mint” condition, followed by a numerical grade.
Frank Gifford football trading card from 1955 in protective case. Card was issued originally by Bowman Football Cards as #7 in a series. This card is graded and registered by PSA, Professional Sports Authenticator. “EX-MT” means the card is in “excellent-to-mint” condition, followed by a numerical grade.
“Frank Gifford in TV Series,” New York Times, Thursday, January 21, 1960, p. 63.

William R. Conklin, “Star Back Signed by Radio Station; Gifford Retires as Player but Giants Hope to Keep Him in Advisory Post,” New York Times, Friday, February 10, 1961.

Robert M. Lipsytet, “Gifford Returns as a Player; Giants’ Halfback, 31, Gives Up Duties as Broadcaster; Back Holds 3 Club Records,” New York Times, Tuesday, April 3, 1962, Sports, p. 48.

“Pro Football May Seem Tame to Giant’s Gifford After Thrill of Making TV Ads,” Advertising Age 1963; 34(25): 64

Mike Puma, “Gifford Was Star in Backfield, Booth,” Sport Century Biography, ESPN Classics, ESPN.com.

Mike Puma, “Versatile Gifford Led the Giants,” ESPN.com, Wednesday, November 19, 2003.

Richard W. Pollay, “Promises, Promises : Self-Regulation of U.S. Cigarette Broadcast Advertising in The 1960s,” Tobacco Control 1994; 3: 134-144.

“Frank Gifford,” Wikipedia.org

Paul Wilkes, “Frank Gifford Talks a Good Game These Days,” New York Times, Sunday, December 14, 1969, p. D-27.

M. Jocelyn Elders, Preventing Tobacco Use Among Young People: A Report of the Surgeon General, 1994, Washington, D.C., U.S. Government Printing Office, 314pp.

“Kathie Lee Gifford,” Wikipedia.org.

Mark Weinstein, “Frank Gifford: Icon” (Interview with Gifford ), BlueNatic, Tuesday, August 20, 2013.

“History of the Surgeon General’s Reports on Smoking and Health,” CDC.gov.



“Al Jolson & Luckies”
1928-1940s

Famous 1920s’ singer & film star, Al Jolson, in Lucky Strike cigarette ad.  Literary Digest, December 22, 1928.
Famous 1920s’ singer & film star, Al Jolson, in Lucky Strike cigarette ad. Literary Digest, December 22, 1928.
     In 1927, Al Jolson became famous as one of the first actors and singers to star in a talking motion picture — The Jazz Singer.  But Jolson was already a big star by this time.  In fact, by 1920, he was America’s highest paid entertainer, well known for his singing.  Between 1911 and 1928, Jolson had more than 80 hit records and had performed on more than a dozen national and international tours.  He often performed in blackface makeup — a theatrical style of that era — singing jazz, blues, and ragtime.  He also liked to have stage runways extend out into the audience, where he would roam at will, sometimes teasing and cajoling his fans, or stopping to sing a song to one person in particular.  Audiences loved his perfor- mances.

     But Jolson’s appearance in the first feature-length motion picture with synchro- nized sound and dialogue sent him to another level of stardom.  In The Jazz Singer, Jolson performed six songs produced by Warner Brothers with its Vitaphone sound-on-disc system.  The film’s release  — quite the event in its day — heralded the rise of the “talkies” and the end of the silent film era. 

Being the first popular performer to sing in a film with sound, Jolson became the equivalent of a today’s “rock star.”  In fact, some would later dub him the equal of Elvis Presley when it came to the popular jazz and blues styles of that era.  In any case, The Jazz Singer boosted Jolson’s career, sending him into more prosperous roles, and he would star in a series of successful musical films throughout the 1930s. 

With his celebrity at its peak, the economic powers of that day soon came knocking on Jolson’s door, beseeching him to endorse and promote their products.  And none of those who came calling was a bigger power than the American Tobacco Co., then one of the world’s largest companies and maker of numerous tobacco products, including Lucky Strike cigarettes.

The premiere of “The Jazz Singer” in New York at the Warners Theater, October 6, 1927, the first talking motion picture and quite the event in its day.
The premiere of “The Jazz Singer” in New York at the Warners Theater, October 6, 1927, the first talking motion picture and quite the event in its day.
     The American Tobacco Co. knew full well what it was doing with celebrity endorsers such as Al Jolson in the rising film industry.  The company, in fact, would become famous, in part, for its role in using all manner of the persuasive arts and beyond — including the hiring of advertising psychologists — in crafting its advertising and promotional strategies.  American Tobacco in the 1920s was run by George Washington Hill, the man who would lead the tobacco industry into the era of mass advertising.  Hill hired some of the leading lights of his day in advertising and public relations to help advance his plans — among them, A.D. Lasker, Edward Bernays, and Ivy Lee.  American Tobacco’s advertising and PR campaigns, for example, were among the first to target women as potential smokers.  “Together, Hill and Lasker are credited with starting more people on the smoking habit than anyone in history,” writes Milt Moskowitz in his 1980 book, Everybody’s Business.  “They also helped break the taboo against women smoking in public.”  But the film-star and Hollywood connection would become especially important to American Tobacco in all of its campaigns, and later, for other tobacco companies as well.  “The links between Hollywood and tobacco go back to the beginning of talking pictures,” says Stanton Glantz, co-author of the 2008 study, Signed, Sealed and Delivered: Big Tobacco in Hollywood, 1927-1951.  “It was a way to thoroughly embed tobacco use in the social fabric.”


“Precious Voice”

“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.

     Beginning in the late ’20s, American Tobacco began a campaign to link smoking with sophistication, slimness, and “sonorous voices.”  Part of this campaign in 1927 was dubbed the “Precious Voice” campaign, which dovetailed nicely with the arrival of the both the talking motion picture and the rise of radio and its commercialization.  American Tobacco, in fact, spent tens of millions of dollars on radio programs that ran between 1928 and the mid-1950s; shows which also used the company’s celebrity tobacco ads.  But in the late 1920s, following the release of The Jazz Singer, as “talking pictures” became all the rage, American Tobacco sought actor endorsements for its cigarettes.  It also began actor and singer cigarette advertising that claimed Lucky Strike spared their throats and protected their voices.  And American Tobacco ads also used another tack in 1928 — this time featuring Lucky Strike cigarettes as an alternative to fattening sweets.  “Reach for a Lucky Instead of a Sweet” was the slogan that ran with this campaign in 1928-1929.  Al Jolson appeared in at least one of these ads  — as shown in the December 1928 ad at the top of this story.  That ad ran in popular magazines of the day.  Jolson is quoted in the ad’s headline saying: “I light up a Lucky and go light on the sweets.  That’s how I keep in good shape and always feel peppy.”  Part of the arrangement in such ads was also to have a tie-in with the film studio — in this case, for Jolson’s latest new film.  Near the Lucky Strike pack in the above ad, the text reads: “Al Jolson, as he appears in Warner Bros Vitaphone success, The Singing Fool.”


Feds Take Note

     In 1929, however, the federal government’s Federal Trade Commission (FTC) began to scrutinize cigarette ads and their testimonials by the famous personalities.  One of the campaigns the FTC went after was American Tobacco’s “Reach for a Lucky Instead of a Sweet” campaign, and the use of that slogan.  Not surprisingly, the U.S. candy industry had lobbied federal regulators to restrict American Tobacco’s use of this phrase and would also bring legal action against American Tobacco to change its ads.  But the FTC also looked at the testimonials used by celebrities in the American Tobacco ads, calling them misleading.  The FTC would specifically cite Jolson’s words in one endorsement where he is making several claims about the supposed benefits of smoking Luckies — similar to those used in first ad above.  In the advertising, Jolson is quoted as saying, in part:

“Talking pictures demand a very clear voice… Toasting kills off all the irritants, so my voice is as clear as a bell in every scene.  Folks, let me tell you, the good old flavor of Luckies is as sweet and soothing as the best “Mammy” song ever written… There’s one great thing about the toasted flavor…it surely satisfies the craving for sweets.  That’s how I always keep in good shape and always feel peppy.”

     The FTC also found that Jolson did not write the attributed lines himself or review it before its use, specifically citing a 1928 Lucky Strike Radio Hour broadcast of the message.  Instead, Warner Brothers’ advertising manager A. P. Waxman, signed a release on Warner Brothers letterhead for text similar to what was used on air, stating that he acted on Jolson’s behalf.  In November 1929, the FTC issued a cease and desist order against American Tobacco, prohibiting the use of testimonials unless written by the endorser, whose opinions were “genuine, authorised and unbiased”.  In addition, American Tobacco did not acknowledge publicly in its print ads or radio broadcasts that its advertising testimonials were bought or that an advertising agency drafted them.


By the late 1930s, American Tobacco was regularly using movie-star celebrities in its ads, such as Claudette Colbert, shown here, also noting her co-staring role in the upcoming film, “Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife,” by Paramount.
By the late 1930s, American Tobacco was regularly using movie-star celebrities in its ads, such as Claudette Colbert, shown here, also noting her co-staring role in the upcoming film, “Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife,” by Paramount.
Celebrity Ads

     American Tobacco revised the contractual language for its 1931 endorsement campaign to ensure control over the language and messaging of the testimonials, while still conforming to the FTC’s 1929 stipulations that endorsers supply the testimonial.  While actors offered their opinions and declared the number of years they smoked Lucky cigarettes, they permitted Lord & Thomas, the ad agency, to write the actual testimonial  — “phrased in such form as to make an effective message from the standpoint of truthfulness and advertising value.”  Actors also signed revised release statements that read: “No monetary or other consideration of any kind or character has been paid me or promised me for the above statement, by [American Tobacco’s agent], or by the manufacturers of Lucky Strike Cigarettes or otherwise.”  But the money was flowing to the studios, not the actors directly, a practice that would only grow in the decades ahead, as other tobacco companies began their campaigns.  The studios would soon see big gains from the cross promotion in these ads, as their stars and latest movies were being touted, so they were generally happy to deal with the tobacco companies.  According to the study, Signed, Sealed and Delivered: Big Tobacco in Hollywood, 1927-1951, the studios also negotiated the content of testimonials, insisted that the timing of the ads and radio appearances be coordinated with movie releases, and sometimes denied permission for deals that did not serve their interest.  But all in all, it was a good deal for the studios and the tobacco companies.

     The FTC, meanwhile, in its earlier investigation of the film-star tobacco ads, had also ordered American Tobacco to disclose payments made for actor testimonials used in its advertising.  However, by 1934, American Tobacco successfully removed this disclosure requirement, presumably through its lobbying of the agency. From the late 1930s through the 1940s, two thirds of the top 50 box office stars in Hollywood would endorse tobacco products in advertising.  Soon, the FTC’s attempt to clamp down on the relationship between big tobacco and its Hollywood helpers was largely circumvented.  Some internal film industry prohibitions on actor endorsements — briefly in effect in 1931 — would be bypassed as well.  By 1937 and 1938, American Tobacco was paying to have a long list of Hollywood stars to appear in its ads, including: Gary Cooper, Claudette Colbert, Joan Crawford, Henry Fonda, Bob Hope, Carole Lombard, Ray Milland, Robert Montgomery, Richard Powell, George Raft, Edward G. Robinson, Barbara Stanwyck, Gloria Swanson, Robert Taylor, Spencer Tracy, and Jane Wyatt.  The payments to stars ranged in value, in 2008 dollars, generally from $40,000 to $140,000 for each endorsement.  In all, American Tobacco payed out the 2008 equivalent of some $3.2 million for actor endorsements of Lucky Strike cigarettes in print ads and radio spots in 1937-38.  In fact, from the late 1930s through the 1940s, two thirds of the top 50 box office stars in Hollywood would endorse tobacco products in advertising.

By the late 1940s, Chesterfield cigarettes were the dominant brand being pitched by Hollywood celebs, here by Gary Cooper in 1948, also plugging his film, “Unconquered” by Parmount.
By the late 1940s, Chesterfield cigarettes were the dominant brand being pitched by Hollywood celebs, here by Gary Cooper in 1948, also plugging his film, “Unconquered” by Parmount.
     Nearly a decade later, in the early- and mid-1940s, the FTC once again turned its attention to investigating the advertising methods of American Tobacco and R. J. Reynolds for their Lucky and Camel film-star testimonials. As it did, another cigarette maker, Liggett & Myers, maker of the Chesterfield brand, took advantage of the FTC’s focus on those companies to launch its own Hollywood-celebrity ad campaign.  Liggett & Myers began a multi-year Hollywood campaign in print and on radio, spending the 2008 equivalent of $50.9 million in 1946 alone.  As a result, the Chesterfield cigarette brand gained endorsements from Hollywood stars who had formerly endorsed Lucky Strikes.  Among these new “Chesterfield celebrities” were: Barbara Stanwyck, Claudette Colbert, Gary Cooper, Bob Hope and Ray Milland from Paramount; Clark Gable at MGM; Fred MacMurray from Universal; and Joan Crawford at Warner Bros.  On the radio too, with its Chesterfield Supper Club, Liggett & Myers had testimonials from stars such as Barbara Stanwyck, Susan Hayward, Fred MacMurray, and Rosalind Russell.  And of course, the practice of celebrities endorsing tobacco products — celebrities from Hollywood, the sports world, and other fields — did not end in the 1940s, and in fact would expand in the decades ahead with the rise of the new medium, television.

     Stay tuned to the this website for more stories on the history of tobacco advertising by celebrities, and generally for stories on the history of advertising and its impact on modern culture. Thanks for visiting — and please consider supporting this website. Thank you. – Jack Doyle

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Date Posted:  31 January 2010
Last Update:  8 June 2014
Comments to:  jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “Al Jolson & Luckies, 1928-1940s,”
PopHistoryDig.com, January 31, 2010.

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Sources, Links & Additional Information

Lucky Strike Radio
1928-1950s

     Between the late 1920s and mid-1950s, the American Tobacco Co. spent tens of millions of dollars on radio programs that ran between 1928 and the mid-1950s; shows which also used the company’s celebrity tobacco ads.  Among these programs were: The Lucky Strike Dance Orchestra, also known as the Lucky Strike Dance Hour, which aired on NBC radio from 1928 to 1931; Your Hit Parade, which ran on NBC and CBS from 1935 to 1955; Your Hollywood Parade, an hour long weekly program broadcast from the Warner Brothers studio Hollywood lot; and The Jack Benny Program, which ran from the mid-1940s to the mid-1950s.  Of the program Your Holly- wood Parade, broadcast from the Warner Brothers studio lot, the authors of Signed, Sealed and Delivered: Big Tobacco in Hollywood, 1927-1951, would write: “The radio show re- inforced the impression, also encour- aged by the print campaign, that everyone in Hollywood smoked Lucky Strike…”  In fact, on that radio program in the early 1940s, Lucky Strike “impressions” — phrases, jingles or brand name mentions of one kind or another — were being heard by listeners nearly every 30 seconds.

K.L Lum, J.R Polansky, R.K. Jackler, and S.A. Glantz, “Signed, Sealed and Delivered: ‘Big Tobacco’ in Hollywood, 1927-1951,” Tobacco Control Journal, September 25, 2008.

Moirafinnie, “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes,” MovieMor- locks.com, May 13, 2009.

“Al Jolson,” Wikipedia.org.

Milton Moskowitz, Michael Katz and Robert Levering, “Cigarette Makers,” Everybody’s Business: The Irreverent Guide to Corporate America, Harper & Row, 1980, pp. 765-769.

John Stauber & Sheldon Rampton, “The Art of the Hustle…,” and “Smokers’ Hacks,” in Toxic Sludge is Good For You: Lies, Damn Lies and The Public Relations Industry, Common Courage Press, Monroe, Maine, 1995, pp. 17-32.

AFP- Paris, “Tobacco Giants Paid Millions to Stars in Hollywood’s ‘Golden Age’,” September 24, 2008.

Ewen Callaway, “Hollywood Cut Secret Deals to Promote Smoking,” NewScientist.com, September 25, 2008.

“Tobacco Companies Paid Movie Stars Millions in Celebrity Endorsement Deals,” EScienceNews.com, Thursday, September 25, 2008

Tracie White, “Tobacco-Movie Industry Financial Ties Traced to Hollywood’s Early Years in Stanford/UCSF Study,” Stanford.edu, September 24, 2008.

“Not a Cough in a Carload,” Extensive On-Line Exhibit of Tobacco Ads, Lane Medical Library & Knowledge Management Center, Stanford.edu.

A. M. Brandt, The Cigarette Century: The Rise, Fall, and Deadly Persistence of the Product That Defined America., Basic Books, 2007.

R. Kluger, Ashes to Ashes: America’s Hundred-Year War, the Public Health, and the Unabashed Triumph of Philip Morris, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1996.

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