Who can resist Betty White? The Golden Girls and Hot in Cleveland star is currently appearing in a political ad together with Wendie Malick from the later show in support of California Congressman Howard Berman who’s up for reelection. The cause? Well, White is a staunch supporter of animals rights and recognizes Berman as an ally. Charming, indeed… although some voters may feel less thrilled about the Democrat’s strong support of the much-criticized Stop Online Piracy Act. He has very strong ties with Hollywood power players.
The ad reminded me of a few other occasions where universally loved stars have lent their name and reputation to causes or companies they believed in.
In 2006, Democrat Claire McCaskill ran against Republican Jim Talent for a U.S. Senate seat in Missouri and its most talked-about ad was this one, featuring Parkinsons-stricken Michael J. Fox arguing in favor of stem-cell research, something McCaskill supported and Talent did not. Fox was attacked by people on the right, like Rush Limbaugh who ignorantly speculated that Fox might have been deliberately avoiding taking his medication for the ad. In fact, those involuntary motions are caused by the medication, not the other way around. Fox’s ad helped bury resistance against stem-cell research.
Remember when Firestone tires kept exploding a decade ago and millions of them were recalled? Well, James Stewart was dead by then and no longer appearing in commercials for the company. Back in 1980, he was however. The sound quality of the clip above is atrocious, but you get the idea. Stewart’s grandfatherly charisma helped trigger a sense of security that later vanished.
Who better to appear in an ad for American Veterans than Glenn Ford, one of Hollywood’s best examples of everyday men caught in extraordinary situations, be it in Westerns or gangster movies? Ford is the kind of guy you want to rely on when the going gets tough… and of course, this ad benefits from the fact that Ford also had a long history with the military, serving in World War II.
I had to throw Clint into this as well. The most talked-about ad of this year’s Superbowl was for Chrysler and featured Eastwood, sounding raspier than ever as he rallied the troops for America’s second half. Republicans were so furious to see Eastwood in something that could be perceived as promoting the auto bailout that they almost burned their copies of Dirty Harry (1971). Clint never saw it that way… but there’s no doubt that the Obama Administration couldn’t be happier.