Famous Adverts of Filmland (1)

In our little village in the early 1960s, all of the various American magazines which appeared from time to time in Albert Taylor’s newsagent’s shop had one thing in common. They had advertisements for products which were largely unobtainable in England. I don’t know if this was in the aftermath of World War II or because of rationing, but none of the shops around where we lived had giant monster feet for sale, and neither did they have giant inflatable snakes.

If truth be told, very few of these American adverts had any relevance to our lives in a grey Midlands mining village. They showed us television programmes we could not watch. We had never seen “Land of the Giants”, still less his snake, and “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea”, “Star Trek”, “Lost in Space”, all of these were still in a distant future. Well, four years or so in the future:

Furthermore, nobody I knew had the money for a film projector, still less the facilities to accommodate a “Killer Gorilla”:

Mind you, I would have been pretty happy to have received an astronaut space suit, even if no size is mentioned at any point. Just look at the blurb:

“Elastic air compression chambers run the entire length of both arms and legs and along the sides of the body. These chambers are easily inflated with any hand pump or gas station air pump through the three air hoses and air lock valves.”

Wow! Elastic air compression chambers !! And three air hoses !!!

And only a limited number available. How many’s “a limited number”? Four million?


Some of the things advertised you absolutely could not live without, of course. Just take a look at this radio.  And what does that mean?……..“It does not connect to any source of power”.

Beyond the usual claims, of course, the radio may even be useful during a nuclear war:

“In the event of a power failure the GERMANIUM RADIO will allow you to hear the news & civil defense broadcasts”.

Wow !!No Dirty Commie’s ever going to creep up on you.

Finally, my favourites. The first is the official make up kit, as used by Olivia de Havilland in “Gone with the Wind”:

If you follow soccer, you’ll recognise the man in the mirror as Arturo Vidal who used to play in midfield for Juventus, Bayern Munich  and FC Barcelona and has now moved on to Inter Milan.

My second favourite is a handy inflatable ten foot plastic snake:

And most of all, back to the days of the Raj with your very own pith helmet. It’s never too late to revive the British Empire:

Mind you, if you do want to revive gin and tonics on the verandah, you may want to buy one of these. A snip at the price at $19.95.

Just look at the address you have to write to, if you want a live monkey. It’s Grand Central Station, New York. I bet if you paid a little bit extra for a clever one, he’d catch the train, get off in your town and then walk round to your house.


Filed under Film & TV, History, Humour, Personal, Writing

15 responses to “Famous Adverts of Filmland (1)

  1. Fancy that all being history now 🙂

    • Yes, indeed. For me, the moment when I realised that history was creeping up on me came when I saw a TV programme about a particular part of the Western Front where my grandad had fought. They weren’t using historians for the programme, though, but archaeologists. Exactly as if my Grandad had joined the ranks of the Ancient Egyptians or the Ancient Britons!

  2. GP

    Ah, the days of fantastic and outrageous ads in the back of comic books and magazines!! Whatever happened to those magnificent X-ray eyeglasses?

  3. Chris Waller

    I am intrigued by the advert for a live monkey. How on earth would they deliver it? Given the address of the company, did they just put it on a train and hope it would find its own way?

    • I have an idea that in the USA at the time, animals could be sent on the train, and would be in what we would call the “guard’s van” (or “caboose”).
      The guard would give the animal water and also food, if provided. Occasionally, with monkeys, the guard would also play the odd game of cards or chess with him. If my idea is mistaken, though, then I don’t know how it was done.
      Don’t forget that in England a hundred years ago, you could post yourself, rather than buy the much more expensive train ticket. In this case, like an American monkey, you stayed in the guard’s van as if you were a very large and intelligent parcel. Eventually, Parliament passed laws to stop this practice.
      Incidentally, if you used to like Spike Milligan, I bought his “Q. – The Almost Complete Q “, which is a superb example of the free speech we used to have and the tiny gap between genius and madness.

  4. An interesting post, John. How times have changed! Nowadays, we’re bombarded on all fronts with adverts for a 1001 things we don’t need that are only a click away.

    • I wouldn’t argue about that ! A few years ago our school politics society was visited by an eco-communist. He talked to them about how he had gone to look round a mobile phone shop on his way up to the school. He had found 52 different types of phone for sale.
      His audience then divided into two camps. The ones who thought that there were better phone shops with 152 different types of phone and the others who thought it was marvellous that there were as many as 52 different phones, to cater for everybody’s whims.
      Poor man, he had come along to explain that if we have that many different phones for no really good reason, then we are abusing the planet. Half a dozen was more than enough.
      He was right though. We need all those different phones as much as we need a miniature germanium radio, a giant 10 foot inflatable rubber snake or even a pith helmet. And one day we will all suffer for that desire to have 1001 things we don’t need that are only a click away.

  5. These ads are just outrageously fabulous. Everything you need to survive. A ‘genuine’ surplus spacesuit, a radio that will work after armageddon (even though the broadcasters radio won’t) and an inflatable snake. I’ll have one of each and that’ll be me sorted!

    • I searched for quite a long time for the advert that I had seen as a little boy. It was for a pair of binoculars that enabled you to see 25 miles away with a perfect picture. Straight away, I worked it out. I will be able to watch the football at Derby. The ground is only 14 miles away, so there’ll be no problem.
      Looking back, I was probably saved by the fact the currency was dollars. Had the adverts been in pounds and pence, I would have bought the lot, the miniature germanium radio, the spacesuit, the giant 10 foot inflatable rubber snake and even a pith helmet and certainly a monkey. I might even have purchased the films even though we did not have a film projector.
      Instead, I was forced to spend my cash on the comics necessary to complete my League Ladders, given away free with Valiant, I think it was.

      • As fun and outrageous as their claims are, I’m sure trading standards would have a great deal to say about these ads. Many a young boy would have no doubt followed you down that path and spent their hard earned pocket money on such items. After all, you’d be the envy of your friends with a blow up snake and pet monkey!

  6. Your post reminded me of advertisements of the seventies and they were fun. I don’t think my parents ever bought things influenced by advertisements. My mother used to say there was never much money left by the end of the month. Life was so different then. Some people are so influenced by ads and it has always surprised me 🙂

    • Your mother sounds like my mother. She too was always short of money, because teachers were so poorly paid (and still are!) . My theory is that many people buy things from adverts just to show off to their friends that they are wealthy enough to do it. A rather stupid approach to life, in my opinion!

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