Ad 56

Date of first publication: 
$150,000 from a cigarette company could buy two years of stardom.
Parent companies in ad: 
$150,000 from a cigarette company could buy two years of stardom.* In Hollywood’s “golden age,” U.S. tobacco companies spent millions of dollars to buy ad endorsements from Hollywood stars, brokered by the studios that held their contracts. What did the studios get out of it? Nationwide print and radio campaigns plugging the stars and their latest films, paid for by the tobacco industry, in decades when Paramount, Warner Bros., Fox, RKO, Columbia, United Artists, and Universal spent little of their own money on mass media advertising. What did the tobacco companies get out of it? Nearly 200 Hollywood actors — including two-thirds of America’s top box office stars in the late 1930s and 1940s — associated their cigarette brands with movies, at a time when product placement on screen was still officially off-limits. Paid up to $75,000 a year* in cigarette deals, some famous names endorsed brand after brand. In the 1950s, cigarette money shifted to TV sponsorship. But after tobacco commercials were banned in 1970, tobacco literally bought its way back into the movies. By 2000, tobacco was once again as visible in mainstream Hollywood films as it had been in 1950. Hollywood’s historical record shows that whenever the tobacco industry wanted to seize a new market — among women before WWII, among young people globally — it has gone to the movies. That’s why the world is demanding that the major studios agree to rate future films with smoking “R,” except for depictions of the real health consequences and portrayals of actual historical figures who smoked. Not to restrict what teens can see or filmmakers can imagine. But to help limit, from now on, what tobacco companies can buy. [Claudette Colbert ad for Lucky Strike] The best-kept secrets are the ones about money. Read the research report “Tobacco in Hollywood 1927-51” at
Studios in ad: 
Warner Bros.
United Artists