Friday, 19 November 2010

Got a light?

The perfect accessory, Marlene made smoking sexy

During my last visit to the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery at Stoke while viewing the branded items for the dressing table we came across a book of matches. This in turn led me to think about smoking and the huge influence it had back in the 1940's and 50's.

Before we realised that those little sticks could kill you the act of lighting up was considered fashionable and even classy! As that day, we had been also looking at entertainment and cinema from the local area, this led me to think the project's character would probably want to emmulate her idols by also taking up smoking.

Crawford takes a drag

Much of the glamour associated with smoking was proliferated by the advertising of the time which was in turn acted out in many films so popular back then. A rather brilliant article about the feminisation of smoking called 'Red tips for Hot lips; advertsing cigarettes for young women in Britain 1920-70' was brought to my attention on my last visit.

It states that one of the main strategies to make smoking an attractive option for females was to associate it with beautiful or famous women both in the USA and UK. Adverts for a brand called De Reszke Minors utilised the assistance of film stars such as Peggy Wood and Gracie Fields; 'If Gracie Fields offered you a cigarette, it would be a De Reszke of course'! These type of adverts were aimed mostly at middle class and upper class women such as the readers of Vogue and Miss Modern.

Lets also not forget the visually seductive quality of smoking. The focus of the hands the elegance of long fingers occupied, the framing of the face and above all the focus of the mouth! Smoking was probably one of the most risque things a woman could do on screen, especially if the said smoke was offered and lit by a man.

Bacall knows how to do it herself; she just puts her lips together...

The association of smoking with the movies was further solidified by the use of cigarette cards. Collectable cards which came with the cigarettes and focused on individual film stars, giving a photo and sometimes information. Although not entirley aimed at women I'm sure some girls might have got a kick from opening the wrapper to find Clark Gable nestling inside!

Some of the gimmicks proffered by the advertisers of the time to a specifically female audience were the red tip, so no unattractive red smudges would appear on the cigarette! Brilliant. And the cork tip; This little invention proved helpful in preventing tobacco sticking to lips and therefore compromising the perfect image that had been carefully constructed.

Rita avoids that messy tobacco by using a holder

Bette looks the modern and independant woman with her cigarette

The epitomy of sophisication, Katherine Hepburn

Lamarr and her long perfectly manicured hands highlighted by a cigarette

All this glamour, it's making me crave a cigarette right now! Not to smoke you understand, but to hold and wave ever so airily and elegantly about. It's true to say smoking has never been so attractive to watch since this golden era. One can't help but wonder why women were focused on quite so much at this time though, was it to make money from a previously nearly untapped market, was it because the act of smoking helped to de-stress in times of hardship? Whatever the case it sure did look pretty.


Kittie Howard said...

My mother could hold a cigarette like a movie star and knew she looked like one. It was her era; that's the way it was. What killed her was taking antibiotics whenever she got the smallest infection. The antibiotics lost their potency. Don't know, don't know. Can't cast blame for they were who they were.

Siba Sankar Mohanty said...

Nice photographs. I am going to use some of these photos in an article I am going to write on ill effects of smoking at