Eddie Cantor

Eddie Cantor
Building on a growing vogue for celebrity endorsements, Brown and Bigelow published Frederick J. Garner's twelve caricature images of Eddie Cantor in 1933 for use as advertising cards. Business owners could buy the set in bulk and mail them out monthly to special customers. According to the Business Builder, a direct-mail trade publication, the brisk sale of the Cantor cards to auto body shops, funeral directors, dental laboratories, and vegetable wholesale dealers proved not only the actor's enormous appeal, but the complete obsolescence of billboard, radio, and newspaper advertising. "It's a regular poster, that's what it is," the promoters shrilled. "We did it by eliminating the border, by letting the picture bleed off all around. That's modern treatment."

Stylized celebrity faces had become as familiar as a product logo or a cartoon character. Although this accessibility and broad appeal heightened the vogue in the short run, it also subjected caricature to the whims of fashion and the stigma of commercialization, which ultimately diminished its sophisticated aura.

Eddie Cantor 18921964
Frederick J. Garner (born 1900)
Ink on paper, circa 1928
Watercolor, ink, and pencil on paper
for Brown and Bigelow advertising cards, 1933
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

NEXT portrait

BACK to "Around the Town"

Past Exhibitions | National Portrait Gallery Home