Throughout the majority of his career, comedian George Burns (1896-1996), was rarely seen without his favorite cigar in hand – the El Producto Queens. He reportedly smoked 10-15 cigars each day and lived to be 100. At 98 he was even quoted saying, “If I’d taken my doctor’s advice and quit smoking when he advised me to, I wouldn’t have lived to go to his funeral.” El Producto Queens were such a large part of Burns’ persona that in 1929 he became the brand ambassador.
Though Burns does not make a physical appearance in this advertisement, graphic designer Paul Rand recreates the comedian’s likeness by substituting Burns for a cigar. Rand brings the “likeness” to life with hands holding Burns’ ever present cigar. The different items incorporated into the representation – the boater hat, cane, and cigar – clearly communicated the association to Burns to an audience familiar with the comedian. (These props were common fixtures of Burns’ in his televised comedy hour also featuring his wife, Gracie Allen).
Julia Pelkofsky is a Master’s Fellow in the Department of Drawings, Prints & Graphic Design at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. She is currently working on her MA in the History of Decorative Arts and Design at Parsons, the New School for Design.