Marilyn Monroe with camera, photo by Bert Stern
Ever since there were movie stars there have been star product endorsements.
Corporations and their advertising companies were quick to understand that those larger than life figures floating like angels on the silver screen were potent persuaders. Thus, the synergistic relationship between one product, the movie star, and a consumer product — cigarettes, perfume, makeup, whatever — was born, and continues with increasing power and sophistication to this very day.
The idea is simplicity itself: Buy me, be me.
Remember fountain pens? Well, for every fountain pen there were ink stains. Lillian Gish promotes The Main Real Estate company via their ink blotter, 1924. Notice the ad line at the top, “The Home is the Foundation of a Nation.” This country actually used to believe in such a quaint notion. The Obamanation believes that condoms and abortions are a nation’s foundation.
From Photoplay magazine, 1932, the great Jean Harlow pitches for Lucky Strike cigarettes. In the unPC past, cigarette smoking in movies served as a powerful metaphor for sex.
Dorothy Lamour is best remembered for wearing the hard-to-wear sarong in several films. It was something of a nightmare for her costume designers because Lamour had heavy thighs and wide hips. Lamour, a real pro, endured the indignities and discomfort of the costume and even managed to get several advertising gigs out of her image. Here, in a 1938 ad, Lamour is spokeswoman for Lux Toilet Soap.
Robert Cummings was rather a colorless leading man. But here, the man and the product make a perfect fit, Jeris Hair Tonic, 1949.
Tony Curtis (b. Bernard Schwartz) in 1955 for Van Heusen shirts. I like that Tony is wearing pink, the manly color pioneered by Brooks Brothers.
Okay, I’m no expert in the psychology of advertising. But I do know something about movie iconography and Rita Hayworth selling spark plugs leaves me baffled. Seriously, did one man ever see this ad and then rush out to buy Auto Lite spark plugs? An image as mysterious as string theory.
Karen and I wish all our friends and relatives a peaceful and hopeful Shabbat.