Monday, February 11, 2013

Photoplay Advertisements (1935)

Good morning!

I hope everyone had a good weekend-- I am DOG TIRED from the trip up and back to Knoxville, but had a great time catching up with old friends. This morning, I was soothing my sleep-deprived little eyes with the welcome sight of thirties' issues of Photoplay magazine (available via the Media History Digital Library site, and what a site!), and thought I might share with you some of the advertisments that caught my eye in the Jan-Feb 1935 issues, between sightings of Joan Crawford's impossibly sleek figure and Shirley Temple in grown up clothes. Let's take a look!

One thing that has always fascinated me about 1930's advertisements is implied hyper-optimism as a byline angle. While the "have beautiful skin, be popular!" plotline of the above spread for skin-clearing Yeast Foam Tablets (great name, right?) is no more valid a marketing plot now than it was almost eighty years ago, I am just filled with a Miniver Cheevy like zeal for a time when people felt like if you just had the right thing, or you just worked hard enough, you could be anything, anybody. The girl in the top picture takes the pill and doesn't just become not-unattractive, or just not-popular, she becomes SUPER attractive and SUPER popular! "Am I happy now! A date every night if I want it!" the pretty, marcelled, blemish-free heroine crows from the final panel of the advertisement. That old American boot-strap mythos, with no sardonic edge, appeals to me so vividly that I want to go out and buy Yeast Foam Tablets, even though my complexion's fine!

Though I'm relatively sure as many men as women went to the movies back in the day, the celebrity photo magazine was apparently thought to be the unique province of ladies', and the preoccupation with lovely skin and perfect makeup is one of the dead giveaways as to who Photoplay thought of as their bread-and-butter advertisers' audience. Above, I think the "Catherine" of the article looks like a consumptive Mary Astor, but her George Sanders suitor, who is much younger than her own forty years, asks her "What keeps your skin so young and beautiful?". I might just be feeling catty, because I'm overcome with envy over that fitted hat and bow-embellished coat, but, well, we all have our shortcomings.

Eyelashes and eyebrows were seriously my number one concern as a teenager, and I can just imagine fifteen year old me reading this and thinking, "YES! I need that curler! And those tweezers! I WILL look like Myrna Loy!" Eyes being a particularly strong feature of mine, it was and is important to me that the lashes be as curled and dolled-up with mascara as possible, and that there be a clean slate of brow above it to frame the goods. "Kurlash" offers to help me with their products. See the tiny cartoon woman playing golf, the other competing in archery, and yet a third being under the surveillance of a heavily lashed, though disembodied eye? Who designs these things?

A great big "I WANT TO GO TO THERE"  to the "New York home of Hollywood Stars", The Park Central. $5 a day single in 1935 would be more like $80 a day in today's money, but today's lowest price for a single reservation I could find was $119. That's a third increase in price! You don't get a sitting room or a suite, just a single room with a king size bed and amenities that include "Air Conditioning, 32" Flat Screen HDTV, Spacious Work Desk, [and] Additional telephone in bathroom" (where's the radio I was promised?). Here's an ebay peek at the dance floor at the Cocoanut Grove...unfortunately, the Tom Cruise movie in the early 2000's lookin' Bar Bella has replaced the famous tree-shaded thirties' club. No fair! NO FAIR!

Feminine products, 1935. I know they were still as necessary then as they are now, but I am still just as shocked to see old school advertisements for them in magazines as I have always been. "Marjorie May's Twelfth Birthday", the name of the instructional booklet, sounds like a suspiciously ominous occasion to me.

If my child said this to me....oooh, I should like to hear my child say this to me. Straight to the moon, Alice! Also, if my hands ever get that bad, forget Lux, I'm just wearing cloth gloves full time. I'm glad Mrs. Sayles could be more understanding, even under pressure of serving her bridge club, with her child.

Dick Powell, you old scamp. What are you doing inspecting my lipstick? Who cares if I look painted? Did you know that OH MY GOD VERMONT COUNTRY STORE carries a nostalgia reboot of this lipstick?  I've always wondered about the looks-orange-goes-on-another-color pigment of these cosmetics. Let me go ahead and grab my pocketbook.

You should already know from my personal second-favorite-hairstyle-of-all-time (beehive is still #1 in my heart), that the pinned braids above speak to me. The language of this ad is where I'm hung up. "Guaranteed first quality, sanitized, natural wavy human hair to match yours" sounds like either a dream come true or something from a horror movie. I wonder what these things looked like in real life. Was it as easy as that to follow "Hollywood's Latest Fashion Decree"?

What is with the woman on the left?! POOR WOMAN ON THE LEFT. I distract myself by thinking about playing a trumpet and becoming a famous thirties' woman bandleader. Move over, Benny Goodman! I've got my eye on the top spot!

And last but not least, a handful of products that were on one of the last pages of one of these issues. Do you not love the one at top right that quotes Thackeray to promote its "explaining male psychology for women" book? AND it comes in a "plain wrapper", in case your bratty kid brother tries to make fun of you for figuring out how to make the boy in your homeroom class fall madly in love with you, and to become your very own Garbo of the eleventh grade. I also like how glamorous the wave cap looks, when you know it's just a plastic bonnet the likes of which everyone's grandma used to wear out to the grocery store when it was raining.

Anyway, how was your weekend? Seen any eye-catching historical ads lately? Which of these would convince you to actually sign up for the product being sold? Make sure and follow the link at the top of this post if you're into classic Hollywood-- it's a GOLDMINE.

That's all for today-- see you guys right back here tomorrow for more flims and flams.


  1. Thanks for sharing, those ads! I loved reading them, some of them really made me laugh!

    1. Haha, it's funny how the ads are sometimes the best part of old magazines! The sad little "hair off" one. My goodness.

  2. Ads need to look more like this again (and that's not just from a design standpoint!). Great post!

    1. Right? I think the hotel one might be my favorite. It sounds so glamorous!

  3. OMFG I am going to spend soooo much time looking at old issues of Photoplay now. Paul's been working 60+ hours a week and I'm running out of ways to occupy myself. Need. new. supply. of. magazines.

    The "feminine hygiene" ads always make me so glad it's 2013.

    1. There's a whole collection on that site of vintage fan magazines-- Photoplay is the most extensive, but there's non-sequential runs of several others, way back to the 'teens!

  4. You can get Tangee lipstick and rouge from the Vermont COuntry Store!

    1. I'm gonna have to get some and do a product review! ORANGE, Mrs. Leapheart! The tube says it comes in orange, but flatters all skin types. I am skeptical, but I want to find out.



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