Though it may be hard to imagine today, advertisers once sold products using Broadway musical razzle dazzle: animated hot dogs and cigarette packs danced for us; Ann Miller chaine-turned into our living rooms for Campbell’s soup; and Bobby Short gave us his Carlyle Hotel-smooth song stylings for Charlie perfume. We paid attention. The Broadway musical was formerly so much closer to the actual pop culture mainstream that these musical treats and theatrical touchstones were easily appropriated by advertisers and understood by consumers; it seems so long ago.
Speaking of hotels, two of my favorite commercials of the 1970s borrowed liberally from the Broadway repertoire. The Milford Plaza, still located in the heart of Times Square, set new lyrics to The Lullaby of Broadway (written by Harry Warren and Al Dubin in 1935 for the film Golddiggers of Broadway). This campaign literally ran for years and it may not surprise you to know I still enjoy watching this commercial regularly.
Across town and down a few keys budget-wise, was the Hotel Seville (now the Carlton Hotel), whose commercial featured new lyrics to Bill Bailey (written by Hughie Cannon and originally published in 1902). With a much smaller budget but the best of intentions, the good folks at the Hotel Seville attempted to emulate the glitz and glitter of the Milford Plaza campaign and came up short (but not, alas, Bobby Short—though I must confess I am somewhat fixated on the lounge singer in the Carlton commercial and his one measly line). The results were memorably cheesy and I am so pleased to rescue these clips from the great housekeeping dustbin in the sky!