Sunday, January 25, 2009

aw, jeez ...

we all knew jim horne, certainly anyone in commercial design for the last half century, and most certainly anyone with an internet connection for at least the last five years, even if we never knew his name, which i learned for the first time today:

for about 15 years beginning in the late 1940s, mr. horne was ubiquitous, perhaps the most widely seen male model in the country, appearing in hundreds of advertisements in magazines and newspapers, on billboards and catalog covers, in television commercials and industrial brochures. he died on dec. 29 in manhattan, at 91. his wife of 45 years, francesca marlowe horne, said the cause was cancer, but added that he also had congestive heart failure.

i doubt many people knew he had been still alive.

mr. horne had been an actor with bit parts in hollywood movies before moving to new york city and establishing a second career. he had a chiseled jaw, a distinctively rounded hairline, a seemingly permanent pompadour, a gleaming california smile and an athlete's physique.

it was an image that photographers and advertisers found easily adaptable to a number of stereotypes of the day: the dashing ladies' man, the dapper dandy, the devoted dad, the suburban husband, the businessman commuter, the country club sophisticate and the one mr. horne, an avid fisherman, preferred: the rugged outdoorsman.


he learned the lesson of how evanescent celebrity could be without a famous name. few, if any, of his photographs still strike a familiar chord. well, maybe one does: a jokey shot taken in 1953 (whose rights he signed away), showing him with a sour, headachey expression of generic woe; it has been used dozens of times, even in the last decade, in ads for aspirin, tax services, hangover remedies and other stress relievers. his wife said it didn't bother him that this was the image that survived.

"to him it was a job you did," mrs. horne said. "and then you went fishing."

it's nice to finally get a name to the face:

i'd say goodbye, but i have a feeling he'll still be with us for a good long time ...

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