I bought the above page of cigarette cards of Irene Dunne a long time ago. Someone must have put them together from different sets.

Collectible cards were issued by cigarette manufacturers to stiffen packaging and advertise brands, The cards featured many different subjects, starting in 1875 and carrying on through the 1940s.

Hundreds of film star sets were issued in the UK in the 1930s, but I was surprised to read they were virtually non-existent in America. ( American companies concentrated on sports stars.)

Presumably with the cooperation of the various film companies, these little cards became  very collectible, especially full sets. And there could be as many as 54 cards in a set – so that’s 54 packs of cigarettes!

Albums to store the cards in were available from tobacconists – for a penny !

Jean Harlow

Each set had a title – “Film Partners”; “Portraits of Famous Stars”; “Stars of Screen and Stage”; “Champions of Screen and Stage”: “Shots from Famous Films” etc

In 1939, one set was called “My Favourite Part”, all of which I’m sure were written by the studio publicity dept.

Myrna Loy said, “It’s a real joy to be reunited with Clark Gable In “Too Hot To Handle” after the fun we had in ‘Test Pilot’.

In this new film I play a modern woman aviator,self reliant and with a subtle sense of humour.”    

Myrna Loy.


A young Judy Garland was quoted on her favourite part:

”I’ve always liked unusual things and that’s why my part in “Wizard of Oz” is my favourite so far……I have an opportunity for singing too and the picture is in Technicolor. But I’m quite young yet, so I’ve time to have plenty more favourite parts.”



By 1940, with Britain at war, the UK government banned the cards as a waste of valuable paper.



Robert Donat


Claudette Colbert, Henry Wilcoxon


William Powell




When this card was issued, Loretta Young was 22 and lived with her mother and sisters. Her real name was Gretchen Belzer.


The “Turf” set look a bit odd with the large heads.




The two pages below are the only other cigarette cards I have:

(I see there are two of the same card of Paul Muni here.)


Katharine Hepburn’s card says she is shortly to star in JOAN OF ARC.

Still collectible, full sets can be found for sale on the net and elsewhere.



4 responses »

  1. Originally blank pieces of card were inserted into cigarette packs in order to stiffen the packaging and protect the cigarettes. This then developed into pictorial cards.

    There was no way of knowing which card was inside a particular pack, so you’d have to buy a lot more than 54 packs to get a set (unless you swapped them).
    It’s possible that there were differing amounts of each card issued, making some harder to collect than oters.

    Panini football stickers are today’s closest equivalent.
    See here
    to find out about what’s involved in order for children to get a complete set.

  2. I believe that you are mistaken about the man with Colbert in “Cleopatra” being Fredric March. I think that it is Henry Wilcoxon.

    • You’re absolutely right – Mr. March wasn’t even in the film. I appreciate the correction and will change it.

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