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Beauty Break: Smoking Kills (Glamorously)

Confessions, multiple: I have never been a smoker, I've been thrilled and proud of my friends whenever they've kicked the habit, I have never once missed the days when bars / restaurants allowed smoking...

... but I miss smoking in the movies. 

Rock Hudson blowing smoke rings

Fifty years ago this very day the Surgeon General first deemed it hazardous to your health and over the next fifty years it's slowly faded from the movies. Nowadays when you see smoking onscreen, it's nearly always to signify "rebellious character" or "villain" or is shot through some sharp retro-commentary filters: see everything about everyone in Mad Men or David Straitharn's whole act in Goodnight, and Good Luck. 

I know smoking is wrong. I know it kills. I hate the way it smells. But those tendrils of smoke on screen or a movie star's lips around a cigarette look so damn sexy. Here's proof...

Bogie & Bacall shared more than cigarettesEven without the cig, you'd know Angelina Jolie was a bad girl

Good girl gone bad: Molly Ringwald in The Breakfast ClubCarole Lombard, such an original

Gary Cooper knew how to work the camera

smoking as accessory to sadness, via miserable Kiki

Seductive smoking in A Single Man - rare in movies now

Kathleen Turner

Hollywood's Greatest Chain SmokerBrando

Angela Bassett knows how to kick bad habits in Waiting to Exhale

None of this ever made me want to take up the habit but apparently that isn't true for others so for the greater good of all we have to be okay with the No Smoking zone that is modern cinema. movies. But that doesn't mean I don't sometimes gaze rapt when I catch it onscreen in an old movie or appreciate it when a modern filmmaker fetishizes it like Wong Kar Wai or Ang Lee when they catch Tony Leung Chiu Wai smoldering. Smolder on, Tony, smolder on.

I'm only human. 

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References (2)

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  • Response
    Response: Dean House
  • Response
    Smoking symbolizes to bad character as shown in the films, and pity for the actors who are not smokers but still they have to perform.Amazing blog, really enjoyed it.

Reader Comments (19)

There was a promo poster for Schindler's List with Neeson in a cigarette haze. It looked like a Hurrell. Beautiful shot.

January 11, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

Heh. Yeah, smoking is actually disgusting, but the movies make it look soo gooood.

January 11, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterArkaan

It's gotten so that smoking was one of the reasons cited for The Wind Rises to get a PG-13 rating, forget that many of his previous films feature smoking!

January 11, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterajnrules

woody allen approves this post

January 11, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterpar

The sexiest shot of smoking on film has got to be Marla Singer in those sunglasses in Fight Club. If I knew how to gif things I would gif it here.

January 11, 2014 | Unregistered Commentertrace

Jennifer Jones and William Holden in Love Is A Many Splendored Thing. Dayum.

January 11, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

yes Brookesboy! I agree completely about Holden and Jones

January 11, 2014 | Unregistered Commentertom

Dirk Bogarde smoking in The Servant could shift many people's Kinsey scales. Ditto Garrett Hedlund in Inside Llewyn Davis.

But yes, HBC in Fight Club made me question everything I saw for an ideal woman.

I also like how it can be character-building. Like when Jim Stark gives Buzz his cigarette and when Buzz returns it he throws the bud away in Rebel Without a Cause. Everything about that relationship is underlined due to a cigarette.

But you cannot do a cigarette in film post without Marlene Dietrich.

January 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

smoking is not wrong. that would be a moral judgement.

January 12, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterbrandz

Bette Davis in Now Voyager when her French lover says "Let's have a cigarette on it" and they go out on the balcony on a beautiful starry night, and he lights two cigarettes at the same time and passes her one. Very very sexy. I got so mad when they issued a Bette Davis stamp, and they airbrushed out the cigarette. We can't pretend that people never smoked. It was a different time then. It used to be fun. I quit two years ago, but still miss it.

January 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSheldon

I quit this past April, and do not miss the health effects or the smell or the weight gain or the cost (about $5.50 / pack here in Los Angeles), but they are fun and sexy and rebellious. I miss that part. Thelma and Louise bond over a cigarette. That's one I thought of.

January 12, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterforever1267

I'm a smoker and I miss smoking in movies too.

January 12, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterbrace

Great collection, Nat! Tony Leung should be forced to have a cigarette at all times, health be damned.

My sixth anniversary for quitting smoking is coming up in a couple of months - every year I do this same sort of thing, posting pictures of actors (always actors) making the dirty habit look good, here's a link to last year's, with links to all the rest therein. If anybody needs more pictures of this sort! Lots and lots and lots.

January 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJA

At the movies smoking will always be sexy...just look at "Now Voyager"

January 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

Where's your top 10 list for 2013

January 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLavon Woods

I'm in love with this montage of people smoking in German film:

January 12, 2014 | Unregistered Commenteranna

lavon -- i suck. i'm still writing it. (sigh) i need the world to stop spinning for like 72 hours. I think i could sorta catch up in 72 hours.

January 12, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

MATCH POINT has one of the most remarkable "smoking scenes" in recent years: when Woody introduces Nola during the ping-pong scene...

January 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEd

Are we that wise to actually stop smoking? Or not ..

April 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

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