Posted by Kimberly Lindbergs on July 18, 2013
In case you missed it, Tuesday (July 16th) was Barbara Stanwyck’s 106th birthday. Although the actress has been dead for more than 20 years, she’s still grabbing headlines and making new fans. Yesterday Dame Helen Mirren told reporters that she was a “…great fan of Barbara Stanwyck’s” and a group of Stanwyck’s fans are currently celebrating her career with a blogathon hosted by Aubyn Eli at The Girl with the White Parasol. We can also look forward to a new DVD collection from Warner Home Video and TCM due out in October that will include four of Stanwyck’s most beloved films, BABY FACE (1933), ANNIE OAKLEY (1935), MY REPUTATION (1946) and EAST SIDE, WEST SIDE (1949).
I thought I’d join in the fun and commemorate one of Hollywood’s toughest dames by diving into her career in advertising. Like many Hollywood stars and starlets of her era, Stanwyck was beholden to the studios she worked with and publicity departments often insisted that she take part in extensive advertising campaigns usually linked to a film’s release. Today it’s become commonplace for marketers to buy advertising time in a film or attempt to sell products associated with a movie’s debut but this idea is as old as Hollywood. While these advertising tie-ins may seem more subtle in a 1940’s film when viewed by modern eyes, they were blatantly apparent to viewers at the time. Audiences walked out of movie theaters well aware of the fact that the cigarettes they had just seen their favorite stars smoking would probably be marketed to them in magazines and on billboards. But Hollywood wasn’t just selling them cigarettes. Beauty products, clothing, cars, food and household items are just a few of the other products that actors were asked to pitch to their adoring public. And while Barbara Stanwyck was developing into one of Hollywood’s leading ladies she was also becoming one of the most powerful assets in advertising.
When Stanwyck began appearing in advertisements Hollywood was still trying to figure out how to market the young actress. Was she a bad girl or a good girl? A whore or a saint? A mother or a lover? A sister or a potential girlfriend? Did she threaten or comfort audiences? Did they want to root for her success or cheer on her demise? Working with advertisers helped studios discover Stanwyck’s unique appeal and it quickly became apparent that women loved her. Housewives, working girls, college students, mothers, single woman, young and old, all seemed to appreciate Stanwyck’s edgy feminine charm. She was beautiful and glamorous but she also had an everywoman quality that was incredibly valuable to marketers. And during wartime her tough as nails demeanor, apparent resilience and take charge attitude endured the actress to a movie-going public that was eager to embrace heroes. Throughout Stanwyck’s lifetime her likeness was used to sell every product imaginable and women in particular bought what she was selling them. So much so, that advertisers such as Max Factor and Lux Soap used Stanwyck’s image to sell their products for more than a decade. She was everywhere during the 1940s and the amount of advertising associated with Stanwyck is downright staggering but I compiled some of my favorite examples to share with you here. What follows is an extensive gallery of ads featuring the one and only Barbara Stanwyck; a talented actress and a skilled salesperson.
The oldest product advertisement featuring Stanwyck that I’ve been able to find is this 1934 ad for Lux Soap published in association with the release of THE GAMBLING LADY (1934). It highlights the actresses’ leggy assets and proclaims “How Barbara Stanwyck keeps stockings smooth-fitting _ cuts down Runs.” The ad also quotes Stanwyck as saying, “My maid uses Lux for all my washable things—sweaters, blouses, dresses, negligees, stockings, too. It’s so safe and it keeps things new twice as long.”
5 years later and in conjunction with the release of UNION PACIFIC (1939) Barbara Stanwyck is still advertising Lux soap but this time it’s their ‘Toilet Soap’ which promises users ‘romance.’ According to Stanwyck, “Want romance? Then be careful about cosmetic skin.” Her advice continues in small print with, “I use cosmetics but I remove them thoroughly with Lux Toilet Soap’s active lather.” Sue (apparently a young Stanwyck fan) takes the actresses’ advice and “passes the love test.”
In 1950 Stanwyck was still selling Lux Soap in conjunction with the release of NO MAN OF HER OWN (1950) and proclaiming, “I keep my lingerie lovely with Lux flakes.”
Stanwyck promoted a lot of different cigarette brands. The earliest example I’ve been able to find is this advertisement for Lucky Strikes released in association with STELLA DALLAS (1937). The ad tells readers that the actress “Spends 1/3 of her life before the sound truck.” And Stanwyck is quoted as saying, “When the talkies came to Hollywood my previous stage experience on Broadway gave me my chance in pictures. Taking care of my voice became serious business with me. I decided I had to treat my voice well so I changed to Luckies, a light smoke.”
By 1950 Stanwyck had apparently started smoking another brand of cigarette while promoting THE FILE ON THELMA JORDON (1950) and announced, “To all my friends and fans I recommend Chesterfields. It’s MY cigarette.”
Stanwyck also sold lighters. In this ad for Ronson we see David Niven giving Stanwyck a Ronson Adonis lighter in a scene from THE OTHER LOVE (1947) while suggesting that readers should also, “Present the greatest name in lights…” to their loved ones.
Stanwyck started to appear in Max Factor ads in the 1930s. This ad for face powder was released in conjunction with Stanwyck’s starring role in GOLDEN BOY (1939) and has Stanwyck proclaiming, “This powder really makes my skin look lovely.”
During the release of LADY EVE (1941) Stanwyck peddled Max Factor’s Pan-Cake Makeup and suggested that the product was, “Like a miracle, it creates a lovelier beauty!”
This vibrant ad for Max Factor’s Tru-Color Lipstick was created in association with the release of DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944) and features a smiling Stanwyck telling us that, “. . .the color stays on through every lipstick test.”
Max Factor wasn’t the only beauty product Barbara Stanwyck sold. Here are two ads she did for Calox Tooth Powder made to help promote the release of YOU BELONG TO ME (1941) and BALL OF FIRE (1941). According to Stanwyck, Calox was the, “Brightest idea in Hollywood.”
This advertisement for Luxtre-Cream Shampoo was produced in 1954 in association with the release of EXECUTIVE SUITE (1954). The small print reads, “Yes, Barbara Stanwyck uses Luxtre-Cream Shampoo. In fact, in a mere two years, Luxtre-Cream has become the shampoo of the majority of top Hollywood stars!”
Stanwyck also sold food products and drink including Lipton Tea. These two adds were made conjunction with the release of THE OTHER LOVE (1947) and DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944). In the first ad Stanwyck proclaims, “What a delightful tea Sir Thomas gave us! So fresh… so spirited… so different!” It’s almost as if Stanwyck is talking about herself. In the second ad Barbara Stanwyck says, “Lipton’s brisk flavor is superb!”
In this Thanksgiving holiday ad for Royal Crown Cola Stanwyck tells us that Royal Crown, “Tastes best by far!” but what she was really selling was her latest film; MY REPUTATION (1946)
After the release of THE FILE ON THELMA JORDON (1950) Stanwyck started peddling Star-Kist Tuna and proclaimed that it was, “…Quality Tuna!” She also shared what we’re told is her favorite tuna recipe, “Star-Kist Tuna Chow Mein.” In 1950 Stanwyck was also trying to sell us Dictaphones. The ad says, “Barbara Stanwyck tells Clark Gable TO PLEASE A LADY get a Dictaphone Time-Master!” Of course, TO PLEASE A LADY was the title of Stanwyck and Gable’s latest film.
Stanwyck sold household items for years including 1847 Rogers Bros. silverware in association with the release of LADY EVE (1941). “Are you sensible or sentimental?” she asks readers. The answer seems to be that Rogers Bros. silverware is both practical and a treasure to be handed down through generations.
This 1946 ad for Trimz Ready-Pasted Wallpaper wants us to believe that Barbara Stanwyck actually wallpapers her own home. The actress is quoted as saying, “. . . Anyone with absolutely no previous experience can put up this marvelous ready-pasted wallpaper with professional results!” I’m sure the revenues from this ad afforded Stanwyck the luxury of hiring someone to wallpaper her home but it’s fun to imagine the actress actually using Trimz.
The last ad I’m going to share is one from Koolfoam latex pillows produced in conjunction with the release of CLASH BY NIGHT (1952). These pillows promised that they would keep users cool and according to Stanwyck, “Koolfoam is a fabulous pillow. . . it’s so cool . . . so comfortable!” In the small print she confesses that, “Breathlessly hot summer nights never worry me!”
This is just a small sample of the various advertisements that Stanwyck appeared in. Have a favorite I didn’t include? Feel free to share it in the comments.
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