The 1968 Exhibit: "What becomes a Legend most?" ad campaign

One of the most famous advertising campaigns of the 20th century began in 1968:  the series of full-page, black-and-white print ads for "Blackglama" furs, with the memorable, never-changing question: "What becomes a Legend most?"  (The "legend" was always capitalized.)  


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The story (as retold in the 1979 book, What Becomes a Legend Most? The Blackglama Story, by advertising exec Peter Rogers) goes that, in 1968, the Great Lakes Mink Association (GLMA), a group of about 400 mink ranchers, were looking around for an advertising firm that would help them "remodel public opinion," though the notorious red-paint attacks on fur-wearing women were still a few years off.   New York ad executive Jane Trahey conceived the campaign and it was executed by her associate, Peter Rogers, who later bought out the firm and continued with the campaign.  The "Blackglama" brand name was invented by Trahey, who also came up with the "legend" tagline, and the idea of spotlighting high-profile celebrities, mostly from the movies and Broadway, swathed in a Blackglama mink garment (which they were allowed to take home after the shoot).  


For the first five years (1968-72), the photographer was Richard Avedon, already one of the most sought-after fashion photographers in New York.  Five ads appeared in 1968.  The first was the sultry 1940s movie "legend" Lauren Bacall, followed by Greek movie star Melina Mercouri, and two other certifiably "legendary" Hollywood icons, Bette Davis and Judy Garland.  The one newcomer in the 1968 lineup was Barbra Streisand.   This was certainly Streisand's year:  the movie version of Broadway starring vehicle Funny Girl debuted and would go on to become the biggest box office hit of 1968 (eclipsing even 2001: A Space Odyssey), and would win her an Oscar in 1969.  The youthful (she was 26) Streisand, however, remained the exception for years in the "Legends" campaign, which generally featured "women of a certain age," actresses and performers who were, to some extent, worshipped as icons:  Maria Callas, Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Crawford, Marlene Dietrich, Pearl Bailey, Lena Horne, Ethel Merman, Carol Channing, Leontyne Price.  Eventually, a few men slipped in-- Rudolph Nureyev, Ray Charles, Luciano Pavarotti.  In recent years, there has typically been just one "star" annually (e.g., Janet Jackson, Gisele Bundchen), and the "legendary" quotient has dropped considerably. 


You can see a YouTube rundown of most of the ads into the 1980s below