Lucy and Ricky love smoking, and you should too!

Here's Lucy and Ricky promoting Philip Morris cigs to "smart young Americans" as being free from next-day "cigarette hangovers." The thing about old adverts is that they come out of a context that is, on the one hand, so competitive and on the other hand, so regulated, that even a 60-year-old ad looks like it came from another planet, not just another century. Between the aggressively obvious airbrushing and makeup, the unabashed targeting of cigarettes to young people, and the casual use of the term "cigarette hangover" (I've never heard this before, though I experienced it when I was a smoker), this is as science-fictional as the most extreme moments in Blade Runner or The Fifth Element. Indeed, as others have pointed out, the advertising in those futuristic movies is even more anachronistic than this stuff, since it's just a straight linear extrapolation of today's ads, predicting a world where things are only "more" but not "different."

Contest Entry--Philip Morris, 1952


  1. (The bOING bOING comment dilemma regarding Desi Arnaz in this ad: Go with the ‘uncanny valley’ gambit, or fall back on the tried and true ‘he shore do have a purty mouth.’)

  2. used to be a heavy smoker but I’ve no idea what a cigarette hangover could be, but then I was smoking with filters I suppose.

  3. OK, Lucy looks purty. And Desi, looks like a goddamned dummy! I can tell from the weirdness and from seeing quite a few dummies in my time.

  4. I’m intrigued by the little square in the lower right: “Don’t miss America’s top TV show with Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. Every week over CBS.”

    “Over CBS”? Interesting. I wonder when we all started saying “on” a channel rather than “over”.

    1. @Justin

      I’m such a nerd, I noticed that, too. Is it from “over the Columbia Broadcasting System,” with the usage dropping when the callsigns became dominant? Or from “over the air,” with the usage dropping with the rise of cable? Or is it still regional? Beats me–but I love these quirks of history and language.

    1. Why is it ‘nasty’?
      Smoking tobacco used to be rather popular.
      Too much is bad for you, yes.
      So is too much of anything.
      People were not judged by their recreational use
      of things back then.
      Today, we are sold prescription drugs 24/7.
      Wheres the outrage?

  5. I’ve come to think that most smoking in movies and on TV is paid advertising. I’ve been watching Sex and the City lately and the smoking comes off as so unnatural that I’m convinced it was paid placement. I wonder how much the tobacco companies paid to have smoking in movies.

  6. Seriously, what the hell is up with Desi’s face?

    Since they seem to be from another planet, maybe that explains why Desilu picked up Star Trek back in the day.

    1. Didn’t they both die from lung cancer?

      Teh internet is a magical machine that can answer such questions. Desi yes, Lucy no.

  7. I wonder if a cigarette hangover is a related to what used to be called Saturday night syndrome, the result of too much smoking, drinking, and jitterbugging (not Saturday night palsy, the result of falling asleep with a limb slung over a chair).

    Johnny Roventini isn’t suffering from a cigarette hangover either. As a very little kid, I lived in his neighborhood. (Represent.)

      1. Well, that covers many Saturday nights of my earlier life.

        The other Saturday night syndrome appears in Eric Partridge’s New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, defined as “tachycardiac fibrillation.” Partridge cites the painter Larry Rivers, who described Saturday night syndrome as the result of “all-night dancing, carousing, and strenuous sexual activity.”

    1. either that or they’re following the “Listerine” route :-

      “Listerine was invented in the 19th century as powerful surgical antiseptic. It was later sold, in a very distilled form, as both a floor cleaner and a cure for gonorrhea. But it was not a runaway success until the 1920s, when it was pitched as a solution to “chronic halitosis”, the faux medical term that the Listerine advertising group created in 1921 to describe bad breath. ”

      BTW is there a guide to acceptable formatting for BB comments? I’ve searched for one but with no success.

  8. Lucy died from a dissecting aortal aneurism–but that may have been related to smoking as well…DAA’s are usually secondary to high blood pressure, which can be secondary to smoking. So, possibly both deaths were related to cigarette use, but “No Hangover–Just a Slow, Lingering Death” doesn’t sound nearly as catchy.

  9. @Cory… that’s a really interesting idea for a short sci-fi story… a future world where advertising ideas/ethics are fundamentally different than here.

    It reminds me of a scene in the (great) book, “The Truth Machine.” After a machine that reliably indicates truth 100% of the time is introduced into society, business deals that involve bargaining happen the opposite of how they do today. In our world, if I want to sell you something, I want the highest price possible, and so begin by asking for a price that is well above what I think is reasonable, knowing you will open low. You start low, because you expect me to do that. It’s all based on dishonesty, and *knowing* dishonesty.

    In the “Truth Machine” world, it’s the opposite… if I want to sell you something, I know there’s a distinct possibility of you asking the question, “What is the lowest price you can reasonably sell this to me for?” And I’ll have to answer truthfully. Same goes for me in terms of what you’ll pay. So I start off with that piece of information; I can’t go any lower than $X on this purchase… less than that and it makes no sense for my business. You counter with, that’s OK. For me, the value of the product tops out at $X+Y(X). So I’m glad to pay that. Or you know, right off the bat, if the deal just isn’t worth it for either of you.

    What would ads look like, for instance, in that world? Or a world where *only* the emotional attachment to a product was allowed to be advertised (ie, no product details). Or one where only user data could be used in ads (% approval, % would recommend, etc.)? Or if ads had to rate their products in terms of overall happiness gained/lost…

    Verry interrrestink.

  10. I don’t think this is bad airbrushing on the part of some Art Dept. flack; I think they probably got handed one Desi’s glossies with a note attached reading “airbrush until he doesn’t look Cuban anymore.” You can find similar advertising “photographs” of Louis Armstrong, who was not at all light-skinned, that make him look like he fell face-first into a flour barrel.

    1. I’d add, too, that the scan itself looks pretty poorly balanced. The blacks are way too dense to be an accurate scan of a circa-1952 magazine ad. Blacks simply didn’t print that deep and dense in general magazines of that era. I’m thinking the balance has been tweaked improperly, thus giving the darker tones more emphasis. I’m also seeing that the contrast has been bumped, which would add to the abruptness of the darks against the lighter tones.

    2. I hate to admit it, but I work at a newspaper (you know, those things that died off years ago) and when we do graduation photos, or even pictures which have black people wearing white shirts, we tend to lighten those peoples’ skin. This isn’t an attempt to be racist, but there’s no good way to say this: without lightening their skin, they turn into teeth and eyeballs.

      Folks, if you have really dark skin, and you know you’re going to be photographed, especially if it’s going to be published in halftone print, please don’t wear a white shirt. Just don’t.

  11. Cigarettes used to give you hangovers?

    What the hell was in them?

    Man, everything our greats and great-greats had was niftier … first the cocaine-laced Coke to this. Sure, there’s computers and all, but give me alcoholic bubble gum any day!

  12. Perhaps most chilling is the tag:

    “You’ll be glad tomorrow…that you smoked Phillip Morris today!”

    Yeah…until the emphysema gets ya.

  13. Yes am all giggly for nostalgia and the goofy ads that promoted DDT, smoking and other poisons but have you looked at the ads now on TV?
    Beer, soda, chips, sugary cereals – 30 yrs from now another gen will be laughing at the idiots who overdosed on these poisons.

  14. In fairness to the graphic designers, some of the weirdness of the makeup/airbrushing may have been very much intentional(and quite reasonable, in context.)

    The page gives a 1952 publication date. Color NTSC television had been dabbled in at that time; but was functionally unavailable outside of tech demos and studio tests until something was finally standardized in late ’53. Broad adoption would have taken at least a couple of years, since that was back when TVs actually cost real money, and the early color cameras were significant beasts as well.

    Under heavy stage lighting(even in a naked-eye theatre context) people just look wrong in a very unhealthy way. Various tricks of makeup and light tinting are used to compensate. In an analog black and white TV broadcast, likely seen by most viewers with less-than-perfect reception and hardware, some fairly lurid makeup would likely have been necessary to bring out enough facial detail for effective comedic emoting.

    It seems reasonable to assume that(whether by explicit design, or just because they also tuned in to the show) the graphic design guys ended up aiming at the familiar-but-somewhat-unnatural visual style of the show from which the characters would be known…

  15. His makeup doesn’t look any worse than the pink lipstick and blush they splatter over every man on American TV today. I’m just sayin’, I’d rather look like a wax dummy than a fourteen-year-old cheerleader, given the choice.

    Also, I’m astounded at those of you who’ve never run across the notion of a cigarette hangover. It’s a very common meme. Most recently, I noticed a discussion of it in David Sedaris’ When You Are Engulfed in Flames, but I’ve heard and seen it many, many times.

  16. One nitpick on the front of the cigarette pack: I don’t believe a company can simultaneously be “limited liability” (LTD) and incorporated (INC).

  17. This reminds me of the ads in the background of Geof Darrow and Frank Miller’s book Hard Boiled. That sort of far-future 50s art deco look, plastic smiling faces that aren’t so much human as approximations of humans. Good stuff.

  18. In regards to the makeup – it was because of the black and white filming, which is also why a lot of early color looks strange – because, even though it was filmed in color, most people would see it on a black and white screen.

    As for a cigarette hangover, I never smoked a lot – um, cough, don’t really smoke now, but there have been a few times where I’ve smoked waaay too much and yes, these things do happen, cough, cough etc…

  19. “the aggressively obvious airbrushing and makeup”

    Yeah, thank goodness we’ve grown past that one.

  20. I know I have mentioned this with a buddy of mine. Until you have had a smokers hangover you haven’t had to deal with a worse hangover.

    Basically the more you drink, the more you smoke, and you feel no pain that night, but the next morning is another matter…

    Enough that you want to swear off smoking as well as the booze. Presumably that is what they were trying to say, is that you won’t feel as horrible the next day after have a few too many the night before. Either just advertising or really light maybe.

    Either way not fun as I can attest to. Avoid at all costs if at all possible!

  21. Interesting that since we’re USED to seeing Lucy in heavy, pancake makeup, she doesn’t look so strange, but since Desi did’t wear as much on TV, he looks like he just got back from the uncanney valley spa.

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