My Scrapbook: S.S. Van Dine for Hiram Walker Gin

My Scrapbook
S.S. Van Dine for Hiram Walker Gin

Here’s another example of Madison Avenue invading the Shamus Game, in this 1938 newspaper ad featuring bestselling American mystery author S.S. Van Dine for Hiram Walker Gin. It joins such classic examples as Kookie from 77 Sunset Strip shilling for for Harley-Davidson and Sam Spade playing the sap for Wildroot Cream-Oil.

Makes you wonder about what’s next. Jack Reacher for folding toothbrushes? But I digress…

By 1938, Van Dine (real name Willard Wright) was living large, thanks to the Philo Vance novels and films. He’d chucked his wife and married a young artist, Claire de Lisle, several years earlier, and now had a swank penthouse on Central Park West. He raised prize-winning terriers at a private kennel in New Jersey, and had 86 aquariums full of tropical fish. He was a regular at various casinos and racetracks, and swigged copious amounts of brandy and, it was rumoured, other less controlled substances. He signed more movie deals and wrote more Vance books, and didn’t always pay his debts, which may explain why, late in his life, he appeared in ads for both Hiram Walker Gin and General Electric Radios. In February 1939, while working on the 12th Philo Vance novel, The Winter Murder Case, he had a heart attack and died.

Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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