Saturday, March 3, 2018

E. Simms Campbell: The Cigarette Trade

Original "Harem Girls" cartoon art by E. Simms Campbell from the August 1945 issue of Esquire was sold in December on eBay for an undisclosed Best Offer less than $825. Ten years earlier, it had been sold with a frame for $480, including the iGavel 20% buyer's premium. The cartoon depicts an enterprising GI with several cases of cigarettes hoping to strike a deal with the sultan. Readers of Esquire knew just what sort of a deal that might be.

Esquire is twelve years old now in 1945 and so are the "Harem Girls" who were there from the start. Campbell's series is versatile enough to incorporate major events like the second World War, but the women remain alluring and passive, the sultan continues to react to situations beyond his control, and the jokes don't really vary all that much. Why mess with the formula or the fantasy?

If the "Harem Girls" seem interchangeable, it's because they are. All five could be drawn from the same model. The women's hands are largely hidden from view, but the men's hands are expressive and, in the case of the soldier, somewhat rude and pushy. The hand holding the cigarette cases, though, is very crudely drawn, but so what? If that's what we're looking at, we've missed the point of the cartoon.

The exotic locale is hinted at economically by the costumes, the cushions, and the arched doorway. Some geometric patterns might have enhanced the atmosphere. The cat, of course, is Persian.

The caption leaves room for improvement. Chum is meant to be informal, but it doesn't strike quite the right note. Chief, perhaps? The caption seems to end a word too soon. Adding got just before the ellipsis might help...

E. Simms Campbell
"Now look, chum, I've got more cigarettes than I need and you've..."

Detail of original art
Esquire, August 1945

E. Simms Campbell
"Now look, chum, I've got more cigarettes than I need and you've..."
Original art
Esquire, August 1945

E. Simms Campbell's signature

E. Simms Campbell
"Now look, chum, I've got more cigarettes than I need and you've..."
Original art
Esquire, August 1945

E. Simms Campbell
"Now look, chum, I've got more cigarettes than I need and you've..."
Original art
Esquire, August 1945

Detail with cigarette boxes

Caption

Detail with cat

Detail with rude hand gesture

Verso

E. Simms Campbell
eBay Listing Ended December 5, 2017






Here's how the cartoon looked published in Esquire:
E. Simms Campbell
"Now look, chum, I've got more cigarettes than I need and you've..."
Esquire, August 1945


Ten years earlier, the piece was sold on iGavel Auctions back when it still had a frame for $480:
E. Simms Campbell
"Now look, chum, I've got more cigarettes than I need and you've..."Original art
Esquire, August 1945


E. Simms Campbell
"Now look, chum, I've got more cigarettes than I need and you've..."Original art
Esquire, August 1945

E. Simms Campbell's signature

Caption

Detail

Detail

Detail of cat

Detail

Detail

Verso

Verso

E. Simms Campbell
iGavel Auctions, January 31, 2008



Note:  Attempted Bloggery is taking a good long look at the work of cartoonist E. Simms Campbell (1906-1971). Readers can help by providing scans or photos of original Campbell art or of obscure published works.

According to the official blog rules, the publication history for this cartoon remains incomplete without a page number. Can you provide one?
02477

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