Actor Smoking List

By: Robert Thomson


In 2008, the British Broadcasting Channel released a news item regarding Hollywood actors during the Golden Age era—the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s—who were paid by cigarette companies to promote their brands on film. This was revealed in a 2008 article published by the Tobacco Control journal. Researches from the University of California in San Francisco, out of several documents they discovered, revealed one dated around 1937 that lists sixteen stars and the amount given them in payment for endorsing Lucky Strike.

It has been known that Lucky Strike had exerted tremendous effort in Hollywood promotion during the Golden Age period. The multi-talented actor-singer Al Jolson, for example, was known to have stated, in a signed testimonial, that Lucky Strike was “the cigarette for the acting profession. Lauren Bacall, in 1947, was also known to have given a scripted testimonial for the same brand on The Jack Benny Show. In 1937 alone, the company had been reported to have unleashed more than $100,000, about $3.3 million in today’s equivalent. The Tobacco Control disclosed the list of Hollywood actors that were paid by Lucky Strike in 1937:

Gary Cooper, Joan Crawford, Clark Gable, Carole Lombard, Myrna Loy, Barbara Stanwyck, Robert Taylor, and Spencer Tracy received $10,000 each, an equivalent of around $146,580 today. Fred McMurray was given $6,000, which could be between $87,900 and $89,000. Henry Fonda, George Raft, and Edward Robinson each received $3,000, or $44,528 today. Bob Hope fetched $2,500, almost about $37,000 today. Ray Milland had $2,000, a little over $29,300. Gertrude Lawrence got $1,750, which is $26,600 in our time. Gloria Swanson, $1,500, today $22,000.

Anti-smoking advocates have been irate on how these stars continue to influence audiences to this day. The films they have starred in remain popular generation after generation, and the endorsements they have made are alive, well, and indivisibly attached to the reputation of the stars.

Another concern surrounding this alleged Hollywood-tobacco conspiracy is the growth of the smoking influence in PG-rated movies. In fact, according to anti-smoking advocates, 42 percent of youth-oriented films between 2004–2007 showed smoking incidents around 50 percent of the time. Here are some of the PG-films, headed by the specific actor shown smoking, that were alleged to promote the habit among young viewers:

Don Cheadle in After the Sunset, Crash, Ocean’s Thirteen, and Ocean’s Twelve; Paul Giamatti in The Cinderella Man, The Illusionist, The Nanny Diaries, Paycheck, and his voice in The Ant Bully; Vince Vaughn in Be Cool; Ben Affleck in Jersey Girl; Christopher Walken in Balls of Fury, Hairspray, and Man of the Year; Willem Dafoe in American Dreamz and Mr. Bean’s Holiday; Will Ferrel in Betwitched; and Ashley Judd in De-Lovely.

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