Silent Movie Rule #35: When they say “no smoking” they mean it!

It’s a well-known fact that people in classic and silent movies smoked like trains. It was considered a perfectly acceptable pastime (unless you were a woman) and most people were unaware of the associated dangers. Pretty sure they didn’t know about the best life insurance deals, otherwise they probably would have thought twice about putting that 10th cigarette to their lips. Whether it was popular in classic movies or not, smoking is a bad habit that you should consider giving up, even if it does look cool on the big screen. If these smokers in these classic movies had the choice, it would be no surprise that a company like Grasscity, US’s greatest headshop would be their favourite place to look into for the latest smoking accessories. Who knows?

However, silent movies had some very quirky ways of handling smoke and smokers. We have the artistic smokers who remind me of the teenagers nowadays who attempt to create giant vape clouds with their e-cigarettes!


That’s Wallace Reid in The Golden Chance, a tidy little drama from Cecil B. DeMille.

prisoner-of-zenda-smokeAnd Rex Ingram once again expressed his love of grotesques with this side character in The Prisoner of Zenda.

house-in-kolomna-blowing-smokeAn extremely young Ivan Mosjoukine blows smoke rings in House in Kolomna, a sassy gender-bending comedy. (Definitely worth a look at a brisk 30 minutes.)


Carmel Myers uses an unorthodox approach to get Ramon Novarro’s attention in Ben-Hur. He seems unmoved. “Madam, I specifically asked to be seated in the non-smoking section.


And here is the concept of the smoking jacket taken to its logical conclusion in Ernst Lubitsch’s surreal comedy-fantasy, The Doll.

I don’t smoke. I’m allergic to cigarette smoke, in fact, and so here is my favorite smoking GIF, one that I wish I could deploy in real life when people smoke in a non-smoking area:


(That’s from Waxworks, which is a simply fab film that everyone should see. I have spoken.)

4 Replies to “Silent Movie Rule #35: When they say “no smoking” they mean it!”

  1. Amazing what they could do with smoke. It’s so funny how it was considered even sexy back then. I think of the films where the bars/ dinner areas were full of smoke. I would be coughing up a lung! Both my parents smoked. My mom used to have the long cigarette holders when she was still in Germany. My dad quite cold turkey in the early 80’s but my mom never did. It is a horrible thing to get hooked on and does so much damage.

    1. Absolutely agree! Interestingly enough, some executives did try to cut the amount of smoke in films, not die to health concerns but because they were afraid people would leave to smoke!

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