Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Seagram's VO Canadian Whisky (1959-1960)

Good morning!

I was re-watching the 1970 movie Loving with George Segal and Eva Marie Saint last night, which is pretty great, incidentally, if you're in the mood for a slightly-after-Mad-Men version of Mad Men with more actually cringe-inducing bad behavior than the former, and got caught up in an early scene where George Segal, who's a commercial illustrator in the movie, is posing reference photos for a Civil War romance book cover he's doing. He dons a Confederate general's hat, coat, sword, and gauntlets, and embraces Eva Marie Saint, who's in a super modest nightgown as I remember, and takes several shots of different expressions of happy homecoming. Watching Segal use the projected photo to then sketch the figures into his painting got me thinking about the world of illustrated advertising, which, flourishing as it was in the forties' and fifties', seems to have taken a rapid nose dive in the sixties'. Which is probably why Segal's character has so much trouble finding work!

Take Seagram's VO Canadian Whiskey, for example. I was stopped dead in my tracks by these beautiful, beautiful illustrations to accompany the "whiskey of distinction". The ad campaign, which ran the whole of 1959, featured paintings of attractive people in exotic locales, and made me want to go to a luau, faire du après-ski, and attend 1960's Mardi Gras WITH A PASSION. I mean, don't you?

I've been meaning to do an actual sit-down luau feast for the longest time (who, among us, can say that they wouldn't enjoy said feast?)-- while I might not be able to commit to cooking a pig in the ground for twelve hours, I can slice and dice a pineapple and glaze chicken with the best of them! In this picture, slim fifties' ladies eschew traditional muumuu's for cocktail dresses-plus-leis, and the men wear (here's where I'm really interested) white sports coats with SHORTS. See the guy in front on the left? Thos are shorts, man! I guess anything goes in Maui.

You don't get more exciting than dude-flying-off-snow-bluff right before your very eyes!

Here, woman-in-sunglasses makes her first of two appearances, and isn't her hooded parka and ketchup-red hair cute? The guys to stage left, under the bluff, look like they've already had a nip or two of the St. Bernard's brandy keg, as they are leaning on each other. Do you see how the perspective of the painting (how the man in the ski cap is so close to the front of the picture as to almost be obscured) makes you feel like you're there?

Let's! Go! Boating!

Woman-in-sunglasses trades her parka for a sleeveless blouse and a Virginia Slim in this seascape picture. Would I like to be a boat-spectator of the Transpacific Race? Yes! Someone go ahead and ak me, please! Is the man holding the arm of the woman in the striped jacket wearing a printed jacket or is the contrast up too high? I love the idea that the captain of the boat, ostensibly the man in the white hat at the front of the picture, is holding out an empty high ball glass in supplication like "Oh, th' shrace? Th' shrace dudn't start fer anotherrrr twenty minutes. Lessh all have another one!" Mister, you might do better on dry land.

One of the most colorful of the illustrations, and my second favorite after the luau one, is this scene set at the Aqueduct racetrack in Queens. Look! at What! The blonde in the center! Is! Wearing!!! That chinchilla lined red suit, with yellow print bloude and back-pack like leather hand bag, is actually tugging at the strings of my foolish heart. I almost bought a suit this weekend at an out-of-this-world vintage clothes sale (nothing was over $20! Everything was spectacular! I thought I might have died the night before and this was the blessed afterworld) but I am always frustrated by the straight-up-and-down body shapes of sixties' women that make the coats of said sets fit like a charm, and the skirts too small to even give it a shot, and this one was no different. Also, it was skirting the line (no pun intended) between looking like the above picture and looking like Fran Drescher, so I left it behind. I also love that pink turban and the man in a boater. Subject closed.

I've never been to Mardi Gras, but I've been to New Orleans (if you remember from my mega vacation post a few months back) and LORD would I like to go back during the baccanalian event that marks Fat Tuesday in the great state of Louisiana. Look at these Mad Men gentlemen enjoying their whiskey on one of the iconic wrought iron balconies in the French Quarter...I would advise the guy in the front to take his dapper, shined-to-a-gleam shoe off the railing before someone gets hurt! I love the devil head in the parade and the man all in Freddie Mercury style white satin at the center of the main float. Laissez le bon temps roulez!

In 1960, I continued to look for these delightful tableaux, but was sorely disappointed to find the illustrated campaign had been replaced by pretty but not as whimsical or colorful photographs. Also, what in the heck is going on with Sven to the far left? Nice jacket with appliqués, sir.

See how it's just not that same? Compare this one and the illustrated one on the boat and there's no contest!!

Which illustration do you like the best? Do you have any favorite illustrated ads from the midcentury golden age of illustrated advertisements? I'm thinking I could print some of these out and hang them in the living room to a devastatingly chic effect. What do you think?

Have a great Tuesday, and I'll see you tomorrow!

UPDATE: I did a little more detective work and the illustrations are the work of Bernie Fuchs. You can see more of his illustrations on this flickr set.


  1. As far as the Mardi Gras ad, they do not hold parades in the Quarter any longer and haven't for a few years. Too big of a fire hazard. The float looks like possibly an early "Rex" parade. Annnnnd, rarely do you see someone dressed like those gentlemen on the balcony. Ah, the power of advertising!

    1. Darn that dream. :( Still, couldn't you just dive into that picture? I really want a full-size canvas of it!



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...