Friday, December 30, 2011

Bad ads

I've been cleaning off my desk. The postcard which arrived from AARP, the American Association for Retired Persons, touting a supplemental medical policy for those of us about to enter the Medicare jungle, triggered a response in me.


It took a while before I realized what it meant is that oftentimes the best medical policy a mouse in your walls. OK, so maybe I don't quite get it, and I've been looking at advertising all my life. I studied advertising decades ago. The idea is to make an association in someone's mind with the product, make him want to go right out and buy it. This is a funny, eye-catching picture, but it doesn't make me think of meeting my needs with supplemental insurance.

Make sure you click on it to enlarge it.

Going through some old issues of The New Yorker magazine, I noticed these odd advertisements from two 1959 issues.

The first, for Hanes, is totally screwball. A man about to shoot himself because his wife wants nylon stockings from Hanes? Jeez, pal, no need to over-react. They're available in fine department stores everywhere.

The second is this ad for the 1959 Ford Thunderbird. It's not the full-size car with the affluent, happy waving couples, it's the tiny car with the adult man and woman waving back. It startled me when I saw they were not children.

The ads all fail for various reasons, yet in their way make me look twice or more at each of them. Maybe that's enough for the people selling the products.

The ads shown below for patent medicines, from an 1888 issue of Golden Argosy magazine, are all good examples of why the United States government eventually passed the Pure Food and Drug Act, and began policing ads touting quackery.

I especially like the first ad and its vivid descriptions of complaints: "Are you hawking and spitting all or part of the time? Are you nervous, irritable and gloomy? Do you have evil forebodings? Do your bowels become costive?" Just send to Prof. Hart, in New York, and get "one bottle of medicine FREE."

Hood's Sarsparilla will cure Scrofula, which covers a list of "'humors,' which fastening upon the lungs, causes consumption [tuberculosis] and death." I wouldn't want scrofula, so send me that sarsparilla. "100 doses One Dollar." Catchy slogan.

Compare Hood's to Piso's Cure for Consumption, which is a cough syrup. It doesn't list the ingredients, but it's probably narcotic/opium-based. As a matter of fact, so is Prof. Hart's "one bottle of medicine FREE."

Finally, a Cure for the Deaf! Man, I need this right now. Either that or my wife needs a megaphone, or mike and amplifier to speak through so I can understand her.


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Outfit

The Outfit, the 1973 movie starring Robert Duvall, Karen Black and Joe Don Baker, was taken--at least in part--from the novel of the same name by Richard Stark. Stark was a pseudonym of Donald Westlake, whose crime novels (The Hot Rock, etc.) are noted for their humor. Stark was a name aptly chosen by Westlake, because there isn't much humor in the deadly serious series of crime novels (of which The Outfit was number three) starring the heist man, Parker.

In the movie Duvall is named Macklin. Why they changed the name I don't know. That's the way of Hollywood, though, as well as aping a successful formula. I believe The Outfit was made on the coat-tails of The Getaway, a similarly themed story, released the preceding year and starring Steve McQueen and Ali McGraw. That successful movie was filmed from a Jim Thompson novel.

Karen Black is Macklin's girlfriend, Bett Harrow, who makes me wonder why women end up with bad guys like Macklin. The whole movie is one robbery after another, with violent retribution against a criminal gang who had stolen from Macklin. She's in constant danger not only from the people he is up against, but he treats her bad, even slapping her around at one point. Like a woman with Stockholm Syndrome she stays with the psychopath, and pays the ultimate price.

The Outfit has several recognizable character actors, but mainly in cameos. Elisha Cook Jr. and Archie Moore are two. Marie Windsor, with Black in the above screen capture, has a brief scene. Richard Jaeckel has a short but juicy part, as does Sheree North, as Jaeckel's slutty sister-in-law. North provides the one sex scene when she attempts to seduce Cody, played by Baker. She comes out onto the porch in a translucent top and we get a little peek at her nipples. I wonder if that thrilled anybody in 1973?

There's a brief scene with actor Henry Jones, whose familiar face and voice were everywhere in the 1960s and '70s, both in television and the movies.

Robert Ryan's days as a leading man were behind him. He played the head of the Outfit, and also received a fitting end.

As I mentioned, Macklin and Cody are bad guys, but heroes to the audience, rooting for them to get the even badder guys, the members of the organized crime gang. Macklin and Cody even kill two highway patrolmen, as well as several other people in one memorable scene. At the end of the movie [SPOILER ALERT!] they drive off in a stolen ambulance, laughing. As Cody puts it, "Sometimes the good guys win!" Yep, good guys who are also sociopathic, conscienceless killers and woman beaters, but hey, nobody's perfect, eh?

It's been almost 40 years since The Outfit was made, and several of the actors are now deceased. Ryan died in 1973, Sheree North in 2005. Richard Jaeckel died in 1997 at age 70. Marie Windsor died in 2000, Henry Jones the year before, in 1999. Elisha Cook Jr. died at the advanced age of 91 in 1995. Another of the character actors in the movie was Felice Orlandi, who died in 2003 at age 78. Orlandi might not be remembered by name, but by his handsome face. He was also in 1955's Killer's Kiss, directed by Stanley Kubrick, and in the Steve McQueen classic, Bullitt, in 1967. The lead actors in the movie are still living, but getting up there in age. Robert Duvall was born in 1931, Karen Black in '39, and Joe Don Baker in '36.


Saturday, December 24, 2011

Chri$tma$ adverti$ing, 1950

I've been reading this Time magazine commemorative book for 1950 (which actually came out in 1999).

At Christmastime, 1950, United States soldiers and marines had been in a bloody rout. The Chinese, in human waves of shouting, shooting troops, had repelled our forces, and forced them into retreat. It was bitter cold, and a bitter failure for the armed forces. Despite bloody warfare, advertisers in the U.S. needed to sell products, so advertising went on its cheery way, despite the gloom surrounding that winter.

Christmas is for kids, and American toy manufacturers wanted to remind parents to buy toys made in America. Nowadays the companies listed in five page advertisement who are still in existence have their toys made in China.

Sex, and the promise of it, is a big seller at Christmas.

General Electric wanted to make sure you bought plenty of appliances that ran on electricity, including that new-fangled gadget, the television, which despite being on the market for a few years, was still in its infancy. (We got our first TV in 1950, and I remember it well.)

There are ads for hobbyists or budding pros, too. Photographers would have loved to have gotten their hands on Graflex equipment. So, Merry Christmas, shutterbugs.

In 1950 you could buy beautiful pens as gifts. They still have them, but how many people actually write by hand anymore? Oy, you should see my handwriting nowadays after using a computer keyboard for 20 years. Before that I used a typewriter from the mid-1960s until I got my first computer in 1992. The most expensive pen in the world will still make me seem a drooling illiterate when it exposes my atrocious penmanship.

I thought of a slogan for this C.F. Rumpp and Sons leather wallet: "Put your Rumpp next to your rump!" I checked to see if C.F. Rumpp and Sons was still in business, but I don't believe they are. Guys need wallets, and they need shirts, too.

Men, here's something I found out decades ago (I've been married for over 40 years, and know what I'm talking about): a vacuum cleaner is not a gift, not for a birthday and especially not for Christmas. Make-up would be a good choice if you knew what she used. My wife told me that Max Factor has stopped selling in the U.S. She has to send to the UK for her favorite brands! I wouldn't dare try to buy anything as personal as make-up for her, nor anything as impersonal as a vacuum cleaner. If you slopped out horse stalls for a living, would you consider a new shovel to be an appropriate Christmas present?

A great gift for a dad would be a car, but what working family in 1950 could just buy a new car for Christmas? What working family in 2011 could buy a car for Christmas?

Smoking was big in 1950, very hip, very cool. So smoking accessories were big. Lighters were big, but so is a device you hook onto the steering column of your car. You can keep 23 cigarettes in the device, and by pushing a button it delivers a lighted cigarette. As my wife put it, "You could text and not have to light a smoke at the same time."

Celebrity endorsements of tobacco products were big.

Drinking was also associated with Christmas, and Life featured dozens of ads with beer, wine, whiskey...or any kind of alcoholic beverage. The guy in the Schlitz ad who is anticipating midnight so it can officially be Christmas is getting a look from his wife. Guys, if you've ever gone for a beer or a drink when your wife doesn't approve you've gotten a similar look. The Budweiser ad features the vice-king, Santa, who drank, smoked, took snuff, chewed tobacco, and had any number of bad habits.

The Schenley ad is a photo montage of the actors. In the pre-Photoshop days these sorts of things had to be done mechanically, and this one is pretty tricky, looking like those five Hollywood types are all in a line ready to hoist a Schenley's. But if you look closely you'll see the hands of each are the same hand, undoubtedly some male hand model, so my guess is they just plopped the actor's heads on some other bodies and inserted the hands. Prosit!

I have no idea why someone came up with the totally crazy idea to feature fluffy animals, more appealing to the nursery than the barroom, in these ads. I've heard of liquor companies trying to get their customers started young, but this was ridiculous.

Along with the ads for indulgence come the medicines to take away the stomach problems from over-eating and the headaches from all the alcohol.

I've saved the best for last. Illustrator Haddon Sundblom's Santa Claus is said by some to be the model for the look of our contemporary Santa. Maybe so; it sure is iconic, and appeared for years on the backs of magazines and in store advertising. They were many wonderful illustrators doing advertising work, but when it came to creating an image, Sundblom might have been one of the most influential of all.


Friday, December 23, 2011

Hark! the Caroled Angels Sing!

This giveaway booklet was available from Richfield Oil dealers in California. It's undated but it's from the 1950s.

Do you remember when oil companies were anxious to get your business and actually cajoled you with freebies? Not any more. You even have to pump your own gas and wash your own windshield.