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Archive for the ‘James Dean’ Category

Clark Gable (1901-1960)

Clark Gable (1901-1960)

In my last two posts, I blogged about Clark Gable destroying undershirt sales when he took off his shirt in the 1934 Columbia picture “It Happened One Night” to reveal only bare skin and no undergarment. Men wanted to be like Gable and stopped buying undershirts. It would take a war, 17 more years, and another sexy actor before undergarments would become popular again. This time though, the t-shirt would jump from underwear to outerwear.

It was 1951, the actor was Marlon Brando, and the production was “A Streetcar Named Desire.” On Broadway and then on the big screen, Brando electrified audiences with his portrayal of the animalistic Stanley Kowalski who struts about in his stand-alone, outerwear t-shirt. Originally, the t-shirt was issued by the U.S. Navy (as early as 1913) as a crew-necked, short-sleeved, white cotton undershirt to be worn under a uniform. Although men did wear soft cotton tees after the war, they were worn for labor or under a dress shirt, but not to be seen in public. But Brando’s Kowalski is a brawny exhibitionist, fond of strutting about the streets in a tight, sweaty, smelly, and sticky tee that accentuates his massive torso and rippling biceps. Brando pulls the tee shirt up and over his head in one scene as he flirts with the sister-in-law, and in another scene, rips at his shirt in anguish as he cries upstairs to his wife with the unforgettable line, “Stella!” (Click to see.)

Actor James Dean (1931-1955)

Actor James Dean (1931-1955)

Offscreen, Marlon Brando took the rebel fashion statement even further, pairing his white t-shirt with boots, motorcycle, and an anti-establishment sneer. It started a t-shirt craze. Next thing we know, movie icon James Dean (“Rebel Without A Cause,” see last post) borrows the Brando t-shirt, jeans and boots look but tops it off with a jeans jacket. From that point on, the t-shirt is set loose and becomes next the symbol of restless and rebellious American youth.

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Continuing from yesterday’s post, “Clark Gable: He’s Just Not That Into…Undershirts,” we are talking about name brand products being deliberately displayed in movies to influence consumer spending. Placing products in movies is big business for merchandisers, ad men, and marketers – and highly competitive, given the cluttered field.

To learn about strategic product placement in movies, I visited the website of Norm Marshall & Associates of Los Angeles/New York/Boston/Sydney/Tokyo, an entertaining marketing firm. We sense the cutthroat nature of the business when we read on Norm Marshall’s website that:

“As audiences continue to be sliced among proliferating media and properties, we continue to find ways to reach them.”  History has proven the effectiveness of product placement in movies. Norm Marshall cites these examples:

Tom Cruise in "Risky Business"

Tom Cruise in "Risky Business"

When Clark Gable got undressed for bed, he was seen not wearing an undershirt under his shirt in the 1934 movie “It Happened One Night.” The most popular undershirt in the 1930s was the sleeveless A-shirt, or tank top. Undershirt sales plummeted, thanks for Gable – for no real man would wear an undershirt if screen idol Gable didn’t.

James Dean, the movie idol of the 1950s, caused sales of Ace Combs to reach record levels when he slicked back his hair with one in “Rebel Without A Cause.”

Sales of RayBan™ sunglasses skyrocketed after handsome and sleek Tom Cruise wore them in the 1985 movie “Risky Business.”

Association with Steven Spielberg’s movie E.T. The Extraterrestrial increased the sales of peanut butter and chocolate Reeses Pieces™ by 70%.

condron.us

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