If you thought hawking hair products on TV was something invented in the later years of the 20th century, you should take a look at a little gem called Lustre Creme Shampoo Commercials: The Movie Star Collection. Long before we had Rula Lenska for Alberta VO5, Victoria Principal for Jhirmack, Jaclyn Smith for Wella Balsam or more recently Sarah Jessica Parker for Garnier, there was Piper Laurie (!) for Lustre-Creme shampoo. Yes, that deep-throated nutjob mother in Carrie using her best light ingénue voice shilled for shampoo. And man, she ain’t the only one.
A who’s who of 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s Hollywood glamour girls were enlisted to be hucksters for Lustre-Creme (“It never dries, it beautifies!”) hair products. Lustre-Creme got an attractive spokesperson and the movie studios got publicity for their latest films. Joan Bennett, Vera Miles, Ruth Roman (in a ranch setting), Yvonne DeCarlo, Jane Russell, and Anita Ekberg (for the international audience, I guess) all lined up to extol the virtues of the Lustre-Creme line. Barbara Stanwyck and Elizabeth Taylor were inserted in commercials to plug their respective movies Executive Suite and Rhapsody. Sandra Dee (who always seemed the good sport) made a bunch that also promoted her current movies. Susan Kohner (who shared the screen with Dee in the Lana Turner version of Imitation of Life) also appears in a couple. Lustre-Creme’s tag line was “4 out of 5 top Hollywood stars” use it, and it looks like they did. Janet Blair (promoting herself in the stage version of South Pacific), Jeanne Crain with her young daughter, Jane Powell , Rhonda Fleming, Arlene Dahl, Esther Williams (another movie tie-in), Ann Sheridan, Martha Hyer, Ann Blyth (before Hostess Cupcakes) , Shirley Jones, Dorothy Malone, Ginger Rogers and Bess Myerson all recited the company line.
The one thing the majority of them didn’t do was appear in the commercial with shampoo in their hair. That task was left to the “model” in the ad they directed you to watch. My vote for best performer in the series is Janis Paige. She seems very game and brings just the right amount of humor to her bit. My vote for most serious (and seems most likely to think she was above doing it) is Barbara Rush. She makes her entrance descending a staircase and her opening line is delivered with a real sense of regality. She comes down to earth for her second commercial located at a fake beach setting where her hair behaves beautifully in the “wind.”
Many movie stars were also used in print ads for the product. Marilyn Monroe, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Natalie Wood and Grace Kelly were all featured showcasing their beautiful locks. Movie star marketing is big business today. The GIANT movie stars (George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp, Jodie Foster) go overseas for their “commercial” cash so as to not damage their image here. And most current female stars with large followings are either hawking their own perfume (Really, Jennifer Aniston? You need the money?) or pushing someone else’s fragrance. Some advertising is a little more covert; Supposedly even Lindsay Lohan gets paid when she’s photographed with an energy drink, etc. And many stars use their Twitter accounts to tweet about certain products they purportedly “like.” The talk show circuit is also a way to get the word out on products. A star might casually mention a brand name in passing, but they are actually getting a stipend for their conversation. They say money talks, but in this case, talk is money.