The non-smoking rancher who became the original Marlboro Man
Bob Norris, who embodied all-American machismo for the successful ads, was put off by the photoshoots
Bob Norris, who has died at the age of 90, was an American rancher who spent 14 years as the face of Marlboro cigarettes, before giving up for fear that he was setting a bad example to his children; he went on to play a key role in a lawsuit brought against Texaco, America’s third-largest oil company, after it filed for bankruptcy.
Standing more than 1.8m tall, Norris had the chiselled features, dark eyes and strong jaw needed to convey an image of all-American masculinity. From 1965 he appeared as “The Marlboro Man” in magazines, on store signs and in television adverts across the country. Photographs typically had him mounted on a horse, and set against a dramatic backdrop such as a waterfall in Oregon or a snow-laden mountain peak. The campaign – which also featured various other real-life cowboys – was wildly successful.
By 1972 Marlboro was the world’s leading cigarette brand. Though he had smoked in his youth – later insisting, in pace with Bill Clinton, that he “didn’t inhale” – the photoshoots put Norris off the habit entirely. The need to get the Marlboro name in shot and keep the cigarette lit in prairie winds could see him get through six packs a day. “You get to where your tongue’s burning,” he recalled...