Vintage Stars & Cigarette Cards

As the Great Depression took its toll in the early 1930s, film studios on both sides of the Atlantic came up with new marketing ideas to stem the tide of declining box office revenues. An idea that found favor with millions of cigarette smokers of that era were little premiums, about half the size of a typical baseball trading card, of prominent movie stars of the day. Each card was included in a pack of cigarettes and displayed a small but elegant drawing in color and a surprisingly frank biographical sketch reciting the star’s real name, humble origins and previous marriages.

The cards were meant to be collectors’ items and indeed many people did just that. The cards displayed here were printed by the British tobacconist John Player as part of its 1933 series. A special book was available by which fans could mount these cards as they would with a typical photo album.

Although talking pictures had brought many new personalities to the public’s attention, the stars included in this post had been well-established silent film stars and extended their popularity for many years and even decades thereafter.

Gary Cooper so successfully straddled the generations from the 1920s through the end of the 1950s that many of his younger fans were unaware that he was once a silent film heartthrob.

As the bio notes, Jean Harlow first attracted attention in silent films and appeared in several films with Laurel and Hardy.

Ramon Novarro was Ben-Hur to movie fans from 1925 until Charlton Heston took over the role in the 1959 remake.

Norma Shearer had quite a following by the late 1920s but her screen personality adopted to talkies effortlessly and she continued as a top star until she chose to retire in 1942.

William Haines gained popularity as a wisecracking boy-next-door type of character. In time he became more interested in a career as an interior decorator. Indeed, many of his former co-stars hired him to remodel their homes. His career as a leading man must have seem like it was in another lifetime because for decades he was known as “Billy Haines, Decorator to the Stars.”

Carole Lombard first attracted attention in the silent film comedies of Mack Sennett in the late 1920s. With sound she proved herself as both a dramatic actress and as a comedienne. Her tragic death in a 1942 plane crash while selling War Bonds has tended to obscure her fine films.

Jack Holt was a rugged type who seemed convincing simply because he actually lived the life of many characters he played. He was always an audience favorite from the silent era up through the early 1950s.

Published in: on April 19, 2014 at 9:13 PM  Leave a Comment  
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