September 25, 2008

Hollywood’s Golden Age Paid to Smoke

From 1927 to 1951, some of Hollywood's top stars made up to an extra $5,000 per year -- $75,000 in today's dollars -- to endorse tobacco, researchers say.

The study authors say that smoking in movies is associated with teens and young adults starting to smoke themselves, but its persistent presence in mainstream films is rooted in deals made between the film and tobacco industries in the 1930s and 1940s.

Archived material shows that the Hollywood studios took advantage of their contracts, which gave them complete control over the use of their celebrities to craft deals for some 200 actors who took part in the cigarette endorsements including two-thirds of the top 50 box office Hollywood stars from the late 1930s to the 1940s.

Researchers at University of California at San Francisco said the actors included Clark Gable, Spencer Tracey, Joan Crawford, John Wayne, Bette Davis, Fred MacMurray, Betty Grable and singer Al Jolson and all appeared in endorsements for tobacco brands.

The study, published in the journal Tobacco Control, found that movie studios were able to negotiate the content of the testimonials and insist that the endorsement ads coincided with the release of the stars' movies.