Sunday, June 27, 2021

147 famous automobiles ... and Peter Lorre

This advertisement is featured on the back cover Dell's comic book adaptation of the 1963 Roger Corman movie The Raven, starring Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff, Hazel Court, Olive Sturgess and Jack Nicholson. (Yes, that Jack Nicholson.) It's a good comic based on the wonderfully funny movie, which Ashar and I would list as one of our favorites.

But today we're focusing on this advertisement. For JUST $2.49 (about $21 today), kids could send away for what appears to be a nifty garage filled with all sorts of classic vehicles, from the 1918 Baker Electric to the 1934 LaFayette to a 1963 Oldsmobile. The advertisement states:
"KIDS! Here's the greatest assortment of famous cars from Grandpa's days to today! Yes, a model car for each year from 1915 through 1963! And there's 3 each of each model so that you can trade them and save them! ... Made of pure plastic styrene. Fun for you and the whole family."
As you have surely already guessed, not all was as it appeared. Volume 63 of the Federal Trade Commission Decisions tells the story:
In the Matter of
Lucky Products, Inc., Et Al.


Docket C-608. Complaint, Oct. 16, 1963 — Decision, Oct. 16, 1963

Consent order requiring distributors of toys and related products in Westbury, Long Island, N.Y., to cease misrepresenting their products in advertising in newspapers and magazines by such practices as representing falsely that toy soldiers were 4 inches in length, that they and toy "Knights" were of more than one color and three-dimensional; that cannons and rifles emitted smoke and blasts of fire, etc.; that an 8 inch "Aircraft Carrier" was a foot long; and that "Famous Automobiles" were three-dimensional models of their full-size counterparts.
The complaint describes the images and text of the "147 Famous Automobiles" advertisement by Lucky Products and notes, "The ... statements appear in an advertisement which also includes pictures of nineteen automobiles shown in various positions so that they appear to be three-dimensional and equipped with tires, wheels, chrome, headlights, radiator trim, license plate frames and other sundry features.)"

But the "truth" and "fact" of what kids received in the mail was this: "The '147 Famous Automobiles' are not three-dimensional nor are they models of their full-size counterparts."

The Federal Trade Commission's decision ordered Lucky Products to cease and desist from misrepresenting, via illustration or written description, the toys it was advertising. And, specifically, to cease and desist from using the word "model" in its advertising. 

This was an era, it seems, in which comic book advertisements gave the FTCs investigators plenty of regular work.

Lucky Products, by the way, also produced and sold one of the most famous comic book advertisements of this era: The "footlocker" with "100 toy soldiers." Glenn Waters of the website Hobby Lark wrote an interesting piece about that set in 2019.

And, as promised...

Here's a panel featuring Peter Lorre (as Dr. Adolphus Bedlo) and Boris Karloff (as Dr. Scarabus) from this Dell comic adaptation of The Raven.   

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