Barbara Stanwyck’s Career… in Advertising!


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.

17 Responses Barbara Stanwyck’s Career… in Advertising!
Posted By DevlinCarnate : July 18, 2013 7:05 pm

as an aside to this excellent article,i find it hard to think of Helen Mirren as a dame in anything but the Hollywood sense,and i can certainly see the straight line from Barbara Stanwyck to her…back then they all smoked,drank,ate and made merry,even though some of the products might have contributed to their demise,a buck was a buck,you never knew when you’d drop off the public’s radar,so grab all the gusto you can…and Barbara Stanwyck was no different

Posted By Martha C. : July 18, 2013 9:47 pm

Hate to say it, looking at these ads makes me want to go buy, buy, buy! i really think Barbara Stanwyck could sell me ANYTHiNG even now. Now to find an online source for Lustre Cream….

Thanks a great post. Loved it! :)

Posted By Christine in GA : July 18, 2013 10:20 pm

Thank you for sharing these ads featuring one of my favorite actresses! I didn’t know she promoted so many different products. Great photos and art.

Posted By Doug : July 18, 2013 11:04 pm

Trivia-that soap company Stanwick fronted for was started in Dublin, Ireland. Surely you’ve heard of the Lux of the Irish?
Barbara Stanwick was good, a great actress; I don’t know about her personal life, but if she was even half as commanding away from the cameras, she was doing all right. I think she earned every penny the studios and advertisers paid her.
Kimberly, thank you again for a post filled with fascinating pictures-I had an old magazine with an advert of Dolores Del Rio
promoting the cigarette that “My Doctor told me to smoke, so good for my throat!” It might even have been Lucky Strikes like the ad above.

Posted By Susan Doll : July 19, 2013 12:28 am

Wearing a pink evening gown with gold shoes is the only way to drink an R.C. Cola.

Posted By Emgee : July 19, 2013 3:08 am

“I keep my lingerie lovely with Lux flakes.” And still NO MAN OF HER OWN? That’s just sad.
Love Stanwyck; she could be both glamorous and down to earth, one of the reasons her career lasted for so long. I’m sure Dame Helen feels inspired by her example of how to adapt and survive in the Hollywood jungle.

Posted By Gene : July 19, 2013 5:40 am

Kimberly – What a great post! Barbara Stanwyck still amazes me, and I bet if advertisers used her likeness today she could still sell products. Of course, I first was introduced to her as a matronly figure on television. When I first saw The Lady Eve I was totally shocked (kind of like seeing your grandmother, decades earlier, in a slightly compromising way). She was “everywoman” and yet she had a command not just anyone has. I recall reading about her early years and the poverty she grew up in. This motivated her to be a very hard working adult and though many stars advertised products, I always think of Stanwyck as never resting on either her laurels or fortune. She never forgot those early years and took advantage of every opportunity and was still a driving force well into her later years.

Posted By swac44 : July 19, 2013 8:47 am

She’s an RC Cola gal? I knew there was a reason I liked her. I was going to switch to Calox tooth powder too, but can’t seem to find the dang stuff anywhere.

By coincidence, my gal runs a mattress store, and she sells latex foam pillows too. Come to think of it, she’s pretty Stanwyck-y in her own way, a modern Maverick Queen.

Posted By Lamar : July 19, 2013 11:10 am

Stanwyck is my all time favorite actress, dream girl, dream girl, beautiful Lustre Cream girl.

Posted By Blowing Wild (1953) | timneath : July 19, 2013 12:30 pm

[…] Barbara Stanwyck’s Career… in Advertising! ( […]

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : July 19, 2013 2:34 pm

Thanks for all the great comments! I’m glad people enjoyed this collection of Stanwyck ads. I’m a lifelong Max Factor user and I like Lipton’s ice tea so it was fun to see Stanwyck pushing products I already use.

Posted By Emgee : July 19, 2013 2:53 pm

I’m sure Clark Gable could do better than TO PLEASE A LADY with a Dictaphone Time-Master!

Posted By jennifromrollamo : July 20, 2013 9:43 am

Love this article- fun to see the products she helped sell. My blog is up for The Girl With the White Parasol, on My Reputation, which was assigned to me for a Day 5 entry.

Posted By robbushblog : July 31, 2013 10:48 am

I’m curious as to how one might use Calox Tooth Powder. Does one use a toothbrush or some method? I can’t imagine how it would be used.

RC Cola has never seemed so glamorous. I’m from the South and even I have always considered RC Cola the ugly step-cousin in the cola family. With that ad, I may need to reconsider. In fact, maybe RC should approach some glamorous movie star to help increase their sales.

I’ve always found it interesting to see ads for old products and product labels that are no longer in existence. It’s such a shame though.

Posted By swac44 : July 31, 2013 12:04 pm

RC Cola is a bargain brand up here in Canada, bottled by no-name pop masters Cott’s. I think you can get a six-pack for $2 at Dollarama, which is never a good sign, but I still enjoy a cold one now and then.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but my soft drink of choice is Maine-made Moxie, which was one of the first products to use celebrity endorsements. Being an East Coast drink, they went with Broadway stars like George “Yankee Doodle Dandy” Cohan and Ed Wynn in the 1910s, and some early NY-based movie/stage actresses like Muriel Ostriche and Frances Prichard. They dropped that approach for years though, although they had Ted Williams pitching it (ha ha) in the ’50s, and even gave him his own root beer.

Posted By Alfred Cheney Johnston’s Ziegfeld Girls | : March 4, 2014 2:13 am

[…] Barbara Stanwyck’s Career… in Advertising! ( […]

Posted By – John Wayne – American Adman! : April 24, 2014 10:15 pm

[…] us goods and cultivate their public image. As I mentioned last year in a piece I compiled about Barbara Stanwyck, product placements and celebrity endorsements are as old as Hollywood but modern audiences are […]

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