Vintage Ad Tropes: Cars on Movie Sets

Action! For almost as long as there has been the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, automakers have been trying to get some of that movie magic to rub off on their products by association. Sometimes this was done with actual movie stars, other times just the trappings of a movie set were shown in the ad.

This 1937 DeSoto ad featuring Gary Gooper embodies all the aspects that would come to define this trope: Paramount back lot? Check. Crane-mounted camera? Check. Klieg lights? Check. Really, the only thing that is missing is a boom microphone and a director wearing a beret and holding a megaphone.

Desoto actually ran a whole series of ads like this between 1937 and 1939 featuring a multitude of Hollywood celebrities, like Myrna Loy in the lede photo.


Here’s a 1946 Ford crashing a movie set filming what appears to be a southern setpiece. Or is it? Because there also appears to be a cowboy and a cabaret dancer off camera. I guess in the presence of all these non-sequiturs, a Ford driving through the set doesn’t seem so strange. In any case, the cameraman on the crane appears to be ignoring the car and is focused on the actress.


Here we see the trope distilled down to its bare essence: A car in a studio, two cameras, a boom mic, and a celebrity (in this case a young Ed Sullivan).


The 16mm movie cameras and Marilyn Monroe knockoff in the driver’s seat in this 1956 Chevrolet ad scream low-budget production. Maybe an Ed Wood horror film destined to end up on MST3K decades later?


More (or should I say Moore) CBS comarketing, this time with a Plymouth. An even more distilled version of the trope – A car, crane-mounted camera, and a pseudo-celebrity who I confess I had to Google, all on a plain white background.


Maybe not quite a movie set, but what exactly is going on with this 1961 Chrysler Newport? Did Project Blue Book somehow mistake its far-out styling for a UFO?