Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Wayback Wednesday: A Tribute to Classic Television
- Famous Female Commercial Icons From the 60's and 70's

I've been thinking a lot about the television shows of my childhood. Growing up in the 60's, I recall when we got our first colored television set. I was probably about six or seven years old, and I remember with fondness my mother's excitement when she told me that the next day we would be able to watch our favorite television shows in color because a new t.v. set was going to be delivered! Color breathed new life into the characters and stories we had already come to love. For my mother that was soap opera's, her favorites being As The World Turns and The Guiding Light. And speaking of, did you know that As The World Turns aired on radio and television from 1956 to 2010? That's 54 years, and The Guiding Light aired from 1952 to 2009, 57 years! I'm pretty sure there was never a prime time show with that kind of staying power!

As a young bride in the 80's I watched soap operas for a short time. But in the end it was old movies and sitcoms that really captured my heart and still do to this day. With that, I thought it might be fun to share some of my favorites with you, here, in a series of posts I am fondly dubbing . . . Wayback Wednesday : A Tribute To Classic Television from the 50's, 60's and 70's. Every week, or so, I'll discuss one of my favorite old movies or a sitcom that I grew up on, many of which we still enjoy as a family today. In addition, since many of my fondest television memories also includes the commercials from that era, I thought it might be fun to revisit some of the products and memorable advertising campaigns that were popular then, as well, which is where we'll begin today.

I think you'll agree that commercials these days are not what they used to be. Largely monopolized by pharmaceutical and insurance companies, they reflect the society we have become. Gone are the days when our biggest worry was how to make a good cup of coffee or leave our bathtub sparkling clean. These days we're in search of the latest pill for our ills and if that doesn't work, maybe we should look over that life insurance policy again? Modern day marketing campaigns, while laughable at first, quickly go sour, Flo caught my attention for awhile, but lately the old gal is beginning to wear on me. But when I think back to commercials from the  60's and 70's I recall that watching them was almost as entertaining as the shows themselves, and there were a few female commerical icons that I remember with fondness. They were the faces of products that depicted every day life in small town America. So join me for a few minutes as we take a little step back to a time not so long ago, and reacquaint ourselves with a few of them.

Do you remember?

 Josephine the Plumber / Comet Cleanser
"Gets out stains when other leading cleansers can't!"

The friendly household pitchwoman, Josephine, was the face of Comet Cleanser in the 60's and 70's, and no one could pull off a "side by side comparison" better than her, sprinkling and scrubbing Comet against any number of "other leading cleansers".

Jane Wither's career began as a child, with one of her most notable roles being the spoiled, obnoxious, doll-ripping, bicycle-riding brat who terrorizes sweet Shirley Temple in Twentieth Century-Fox's Bright Eyes (1934). huggable, brunette-banged Jane was fun, rambunctious and full of kinetic energy--a scrappy little tomboy who could take on any boy at any time, which won her the leading role in close to 50 B-level films back in the day, such as,  Ginger (1935), and Johnny Doughboy (1942), among others.

It was TV, however, that would turn Jane into a wealthy woman as a friendly household pitchwoman. Her decades-long job as the dress-downed Josephine the Plumber pushing Comet cleanser made her one popular gal. Here you can watch her in one of those ads, where Rosie is selling a young Robby Bensen on the superior performance of super-stain removing Comet!

 Mrs. Olson - Folger's Coffee
"Mountain grown, it's the richest coffee there is!"

No one came to the aide of hapless young housewives who struggled to make a decent cup of coffee better than Mrs. Olson. With her sweet Swedish accent, Mrs. Olson saved many a marriage, so long as the her protege always remembered to use Mountain Grown Folger's Coffee!

Portrayed by Virginia Christine, she worked in radio while attending the University of California, and was trained for a theatrical career by Fritz Field, whom she married in 1940. She appeared in films such as Edge of Darkness (1943), High Noon (1952) and The Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956). But her greatest fame came in the 1960's when she started her 21-year stint as the matronly "Mrs. Olson", offering words of comfort to young married couples while pouring them a cup of Folger's Coffee. You'll find her here, serving up comfort with coffee to a distraught young wife.

 Madge the Manicurist - Palmolive Dishwashing Liquid
"You're soaking in it!"

Probably the most memorable from my childhood, is Madge, portrayed by actress Jan Milner. The campaign ad, which featured a manicurist who worked at Salon East Beauty Parlor, soaked her customers fingernails in Palmolive dishwashing liquid, advising her clients, "Palmolive softens your hands while you do the dishes".  The campaign ran from 1966 to 1992, and was televised in other countries, as well. In France (where Madge was "Françoise"),Germany, Switzerland, and Austria (in all three as "Tilly"),and in Finland (as "Marissa").

Miner was a well established radio and film actress. She had featured roles in the dramatic radio anthology, Radio City Playhouse, and appeared on television in shows such as, Boston Blackie and Casey, Crime Photographer. But she became an icon to TV viewers as Madge, the wisecracking manicurist. You can catch Madge in action in this clip, from 1981.

There were a few other notable ad campaigns featuring women, such as;

 Rosie the Waitress - Bounty Paper Towels 
"Bounty, the quicker picker upper!"

Portrayed by Nancy Walker (also of Mary Tyler Moore/Rhoda fame, where she was cast as Rhoda's mother.) She's pitching Bounty, here.

But no compilation would be complete if I didn't include

 Cora, The Maxwell House Lady
"Good to the last drop!"

Portrayed by legendary Margaret Hamilton, who frightened me to bits as a child, not as The Wicked Witch of the West, but oddly enough, as Elmira Gulch. I would watch that movie end to end in my childhood days, with the exception of one scene, Elmira Gulch on her bicycle. I had nightmares about that woman riding down my street and stuffing me in her basket and whisking me away.  Isn't it funny, the things that frighten us as a child? To be honest when I watch it now, I think it was the music and image combined that frightened me. Who really knows?

Sweet Miss Cora however, showcased Margaret in a much sweeter light.

Well, I hope you've enjoyed reminiscing with me today, and if you liked this post, I'll be back next week with some iconic men of the 60's and 70's, who memorably pitched their wares and secured a place in our hearts! 

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