When Bogie sneered with a cigarette dangling from his mouth, no one was more menacing. When he held it between thumb and forefinger, took one last drag and threw it down, we ducked. It was... the stuff dreams are made of. Tough guys like Robert Mitchum, John Wayne, and Jack Nicholson; and rebels like James Dean and John Travolta, have been doing the slow burn ever since, along with incendiary dames llke Bacall, Stanwyck, Veronica Lake, Madonna, and Uma Thurman.
Cigarette smoking also exuded glamour and sophistication, particularly in the smoldering lips of exotic stars like Valentino, Ty Power and Dietrich. Often they used elegant accouterments like engraved cases, golden lighters and lengthy holders. Audrey Hepburn's Holly Golightly used a cigarette holder to declare her savoir faire, while Lucille Ball, as Mame, exuded campy chic with hers. But hard-edged or shiny sleek, the smoke signals always translated as sex. When Garbo and real-life lover John Gilbert shared one cigarette in a dark room in Love, screen censors burned over the implications, while audiences thrilled to such intimacy. But the quintessential cigarette romance has got to be in 1942's Now, Voyager, between smoke screen queen Bette Davis and the suave Paul Henreid. As he offered her a light, a lifetime breathlessly passed between them, a thousand words were uttered with just a look, and sparks flew off the screen when their hands accidentally brushed. And later, when Henreid lit two cigarettes and coolly handed one to her, well, it's lucky women in the audience were already sitting down. When men saw the effect these mannerisms had on the opposite sex, they rushed to copy them. In private, they mastered the secrets of opening a cigarette case with one hand, snapping at a lighter to make fire, or flicking cigarettes into the gutter from six feet away.