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.

4 thoughts on “A Cigar a Day Keeps the Doctor Away

Will try to purchase George’s favorite cigar to smoke. Always wondered what cigar brand he smoked!

They completely changed the quality of cigar after George Burns. Made them cheaper in construction and quality. So we will never know the joy of actually smoking the same quality cigar (which was made short filler with full wrapper, not the cheesey homogenized wrappers they use today). So quality at every point in construction is not the same experience of a real George Burns style cigar.

It is called corporate greed personified

I think it is ironic that a man of such great wealth as Mr. George Burns smoked one of the cheapest (low quality) cigars on earth. It may have been a testament to his humble nature. He knew what he liked and he did not feel the need to show off his wealth by smoking cigars that cost $30-$50 each, as many in Hollywood do these days. From what I have read about George Burns over the years he was a very humble man and was always kind to those he worked with. May he Rest In Peace.

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