Old Hollywood & Big Tobacco
Stars, Studios Cut Secret Deals to Sell Cigarettes
WebMD News Archive
Sept. 24, 2008 --
What did the Hollywood studio head say to the cigarette? Stick with me, baby,
and I’ll make you a star.
That seems to have been the sentiment behind deals cut from 1951 and earlier
with movie moguls, stars, and the big tobacco companies of the day.
Researchers have unearthed contracts between big tobacco companies and
Hollywood movie studios and stars who endorsed certain brands of
The research was led by the University of California-San Francisco’s Stanton
Glantz, PhD. Glantz is director of the university’s Center for Tobacco Control
Research and Education.
In a news release, Glantz says, “We’re told smoking is part of Hollywood’s
history and a necessary artistic device.”
However, he adds the findings put to rest the idea that smoking on film
solely showed what U.S. culture was doing at the time.
"Our work further strengthens the case for getting smoking out of
youth-rated films by rating new smoking movies 'R.'"
"Commercial arrangements between the movie industry and tobacco
companies were there from the very beginning," he says.
Another study author, Kristen Lum, says in a news release that although
researchers looked over print ads of stars and even doctors promoting
cigarettes, key pieces of information were in the
"The contracts were the documents that really drove this research. The
actual advertisements were the end product of a very well-thought-out
commercial/PR endeavor for the tobacco industry. Joan Crawford, Gary Cooper,
Spencer Tracy, all the big names were there."
Here are some nuggets of information gleaned from the contracts:
- American tobacco and studio heads wrote about a campaign of
“cross-promoting” movies and cigarettes.
- Movie stars who endorsed Lucky Strikes cigarettes in 1937 were paid
$218,750. Researchers say that is equivalent to $3 million in today’s dollar
- Cigarette ad campaigns linking Hollywood endorsements showed “major
activity” during 1931-1932 and 1937-1938.
Public health officials have called for no smoking to be shown in films that
are geared to young audiences.
The study is published online in the journal Tobacco Control.
Research was partly funded by the National Cancer Institute.