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The Hollywood/Coca-Cola Connection

As I wrote yesterday, my family and I had an all-too-brief trip to Atlanta this past weekend for a family wedding, but we did get to see the Fox Theatre and another of the

I’d never seen this cardboard standee of Clark Gable and Joan Crawford holding glasses of Coca-Cola before!

city’s major attractions, the World of Coca-Cola. It’s no secret that the 125-year-old soft drink was created in Atlanta, but you might be surprised how interesting it is to explore Coke’s long and fabled history. (It helps if you’re suckers for vintage advertising memorabilia like my wife and me.)

The first room you enter on the tour is packed with Coca-Cola artifacts, small and large, but the one that really caught my eye was a framed cardboard standee of—

—Clark Gable and Joan Crawford holding glasses of Coke, circa 1933. Later on the tour we saw a smaller but equally impressive standee featuring Jean Harlow. (Decades later this piece was featured on a collector’s card.)

I wish I had a better picture of this Jean Harlow standee, but trying to avoid glass reflection made it difficult—hence the odd angle.






This image of Harlow doesn’t appear to be from her MGM period, and that suspicion is confirmed by a magazine ad I found online in which she is identified as a “Howard Hughes star,” pegging her to Hell’s Angels (1930).















Clearly, Coca-Cola had an ongoing relationship with MGM in the early 1930s, as evidenced not only by the ads on display in Atlanta, but a famous color photo taken as a magazine ad on the set of Dinner at Eight (which even includes director George Cukor) and a series of metal trays that were sold to the public featuring such stars as Madge Evans, Frances Dee, Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O’Sullivan.

You can find those trays now and then at antique shows or online, but know that the one featuring the Tarzan stars has been widely reproduced in recent years; don’t pay an arm and a leg for a knockoff.

Over the years, stars endorsed a wide variety of products, and you can easily find vintage magazine ads featuring virtually every name actor from the silent era onward. But major pieces like the ones in the Coca-Cola museum are not only rare—especially in pristine condition—they’re gorgeous.

Meanwhile, if you want to take a virtual tour of the World of Coca-Cola, click HERE There’s a smaller version of the museum in Las Vegas, as well.

Only one movie star is still endorsing Coke, as seen in this display inside the gigantic World of Coca-Cola gift shop: Betty Boop..

More Hollywood stars promote Coke in these vintage ads: Lupe Velez and Wallace Beery.

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9 comments

  1. Jennifer says:

    Mark Polack, I’m not positive, but I imagine Coca-Cola probably thought an entire film devoted to their “man in Berlin” was fantastic advertising! It is worth seeing that movie for Cagney’s performance. Also, my understanding is that “One-Two-Three” was his last film.

  2. Ted Ryan says:

    Glad you enjoyed the tour at the World of Coca-Cola. If you are ever back in Atlanta again, let us know and we can arrange a tour of the Archives where we have even more movie related material.

    @Coke_Archives

    I reposted your post on our blog as well.

    http://www.coca-colaconversations.com/my_weblog/2011/06/leonard-maltin-on-coke-and-the-movies.html

    Ted Ryan
    Manager, Archives Collection
    The Coca-Cola Company

  3. alan aperlo says:

    Thanks for telling me on the little rascals salt &pepper; shakers. I payed $12.00 on ebay for spanky &petey; shakers. Thay look great with my other our gang things. thanks you made my day. Alan.A

  4. Kristine A. Cimmy says:

    Leonard :
    Also, regarding Coca-Cola and Hollywood article, Mario Lanza and
    Eddie Fisher performed on radio shows sponsored by Coca-Cola
    in the 1950’s. Your articles are always informative.

  5. Bob Merlis says:

    “One, Two, Three” is Wilder at his best and the Cold War pre-wall Berlin setting was a brilliant conception.

  6. Mark Polak says:

    My favorite Coca-Cola connection to the movies is “One, Two Three”, the brilliant Billy Wilder movie where James Cagney plays a Coca-Cola executive in Berlin. Bet there wasn’t much mention of that in the museum. I’d like to know how Wilder got permission to use the Coca-Cola name.

  7. Mark Heimback-Nielsen says:

    The color photo of the cast of “Dinner At Eight” really shows why people would confuse George Cukor with David O. Selznick 🙂

  8. Alonso Duralde says:

    Pretty hilarious that Joan Crawford was once a spokesperson for Coca-Cola, given her later, and rather intimate, affiliation with Pepsi.

  9. Vincent says:

    There’s also a 1934 Coca-Cola magazine ad featuring Ernst Lubitsch, with cast and crew, on the set of “The Merry Widow.”

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