Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Marx Brothers and Tobacco - Part II

George Fenneman and Groucho

All the Marx Brothers were smokers--some more than others. While the relationship of the brothers and tobacco may provide fodder for future posts, in this article, I'd like to focus on someone who wasn't a member of the family. George Fenneman had a long association with Groucho as the announcer for Groucho's quiz show "You Bet Your Life." Groucho described him as the perfect straight man. Fenneman was also a spokeman for Chesterfield cigarettes. Back in the fifties, before tobacco advertising was banned from TV, Mr. Fenneman appeared in a commercial which today seems incredibly outlandish. We must remember, however, that this was an era when outlandish claims about the safety and life-enhancing qualities of cigarettes were common.

The video of this commercial can be seen at Milkandcookies.com. A transcription appears below, but you really have to see the video to appreciate Fenneman's earnest and authoritative air.

Not Adversely Affected by Smoking Chesterfields

A responsible consulting organization reports this study by a competent medical specialist and his staff on the effects of smoking Chesterfields. A group of people smoked only Chesterfields for six months in their normal amount--ten to forty a day. Forty-five percent of the group have smoked Chesterfields from 1 to 30 years, for an average of ten years each. At the beginning and end of the six months period, each smoker was given a thorough examination, including X-rays. The examination covered the sinuses, nose, ears, and throat. After a thorough examination of every member of the group, the medical specialist stated, "It is my opinion that the ears, nose, throat, and accessory organs of all participating subjects examined by me were not adversely affected in the six months period by smoking the cigarettes provided." Remember this report, and buy Chesterfields--regular or king size. Premium quality Chesterfield--much milder.
Wow! Quite a stunning display of BS, isn't it? It is fascinating that the competent medical specialist neglected to examine the hearts and lungs, unless they were considered "accessory organs."

I don't know for sure, but I presume that George Fenneman was a consumer of, as well as a pitchman for, Chesterfields. He died of emphysema at age 77 in 1997.


  1. I actually know this advert... I have a DVD of old commercials and it's one of the ones included, along with Groucho doing cars from YBYL and Harpo and Chico selling Creamy Prom Shampoo.
    I like Fenneman; his rapport with Groucho is excellent on those shows, and a genuine affection comes across...
    77's not too bad an innings, Chesterfields or not!

  2. I liked Fenneman too. This isn't a personal knock on him--more of a commentary on the different social attitudes toward smoking in the mid 20th century.

    True, 77 ain't bad, but emphysema isn't that great a way to go.

  3. Haha, well, if a doctor says so... But don't "all doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette"? ;)

    I can't believe I hadn't added your blog to my blog list! Anyway, the error is corrected now!

  4. Lo,
    Thanks. I've done the same for your blog.

  5. I have found the autographed photo of George Fenneman smoking a cigarette and it is signed Chesterfield dinner