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Pipe smokers on the silver screen and page

As well as Sherlock Holmes, on of the great English pulp crime fighters, Sir Denis Nayland Smith, was a pipe smoker. Nayland Smith was the creation of the novelist Sax Rohmer. If you read any of the Fu Manchu novels you'll recognize the name. If you haven't, read the first. But be aware that by today's standards the story is a bit racist and imperialist.  Nayland Smith is always described as smoking a cracked, blackened briar. Apparently he had only one pipe. Rohmer was a pipe smoker, so he may have known something about cracked briars that we don't.
Ward Clever, the father character on "Leave It To Beaver", was a pipe smoker. IN one episode Beaver, for some reason tries to smoke Ward's brand new meerschaum pipe. Ward notices the burning and the start of coloring of the thing and soon discovers that The Beav had tried to break in the pipe. Hilarity ensues.
In Raymond Chandler's Phillip Marlowe novels Marlowe is occasionally described as smoking a pipe. No word of what type or what brand of tobacco. Usually Marlowe is depicted as smoking a Camel cigarette. Chandler was a pipe smoker.
And let us not forget the favorite literary pipe smoker of the Missouri Meerschaum clan: Huck Finn. Finn smoked a corncob, as occasionally did Mark Twain. There is a photo of Twain smoking a calabash, but usually he was photographed smoking a cigar.



  • I Moby Dick the First Mate is described as always having a small black pipe in his teeth of which he had a number of.
  • You can add another Lee Van Cleef pipe siting in the movie Barquero.  I looks to be a Pete 01 or 338 or something similar.
  • oops "Pipe Sighting"...missed a couple of letters there.
  • Fred MacMurry in "My Three Sons" often pulled out his pipe.
    Charles Nelson Riley who appeared regularly on "The Match Game"
    often smoked while on air.
  • One of my favorite movies, "The Quiet Man," is full of pipe smoking. I had to watch it a few times to realize just how much. Fantastic.
  • CACooperCACooper Enthusiast
    Best pipe smoking movie (IMHO) and my personal favorite film is Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House with Cary Grant, Melvyn Douglas and Myrna Loy. Pipes are prominent throughout the film virtually from first frame to last, especially with Douglas. He puffs his briar at every opportunity, never using his own tobacco, but always pilfering from Grant. This was a subtle running gag in the movie. Truly a funny film, with all stars at their peak. The story line rings true to this day. Also, the architect Simms and the house painter both sport pipes. I saw this film when I was young and it probably sparked my interest in taking up pipe smoking later in life. It looked so warm and comforting, which it certainly is. If you haven't seen this movie, treat yourself. Fire up a pipe and and give it a watch.

    Here's a few screen shots:
    Blandings Pics 006_edited-1

    Blandings Pics 004

    House painter. Peterson perhaps?

    Blog Art - Mr_ Blandings2

    The scene below captures everything wonderful about pipe smoking. At home, a selection of pipes at hand, tobacco humidor, a warm fire on a rainy night. This scene greatly influenced my desire to explore pipes. It just looks so relaxing and comforting. Perfect.

  • piperdavepiperdave Connoisseur
    @CACooper I have seen that movie, watched it first time with my Dad when I was really little. It do remember my Dad laughed a lot all through out the movie. Will have to see if I can catch this one some time now that I am older.
  • Watched a great old movie the other day - Donovan's Reef with John Wayne & Lee Marvin. The final scene showed the island priest and one of the other characters riding towards the church in a buggy. The priest was smoking what looked to be a Meerschaum Calabash. 
  • Allied has a bar scene where the stars comment about a stinky pipe smoker who makes his exit. 
  • AnthonyAnthony Apprentice
    Remember the Night, with Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray, Fred goes to light his pipe and Barbara says oh you smoke a pipe? and she answers her own question with well of course you do. A great movie just beginning to get it's due.
  • AnthonyAnthony Apprentice
    lets not also forget Going My Way, with Bing Crosby and Barry Fitzgerald. lots of pipe shots, and 7 Academy Awards.
  • Evan Peters played the role of James Patrick March just last year, in the 5th season of American Horror Story Hotel. March is a likeable well mannered pipe smoker, who is the proprietor of the Hotel.


  • I remember the boyfriend to Haley Mills in That Darn Cat smoked a pipe. Looking up on Wikipedia, I guess he was played by Roddy McDowell. I remember he lights his pipe at a drive in, and when Haley coughs, she insists it's from the smell of the match, because she enjoys the smell of a pipe.

  • badger, the pipe smoker in the pic you posted with Hayley Mills, is actually a fellow named Tom Lowell who played the part of her boyfriend in That Darn Cat. He also played on the TV series Combat along side Vic Morrow. I've always been a fan of the movie, because another one of the actors, Dean Jones, is from my hometown in Decatur, Alabama.
  • While not on the silver screen or on the page, a creator of characters of both, William Faulkner, was a pipe smoker. In fact, in most photographs of him he has a pipe, a briar, stuck in his mug. There is even a photo of him shirtless, with patent leather hair. short pants, and loungeing on a patio chaise smoking a pipe with a typewriter on the chaise.
    And, if it has not been mentioned before, Ward Cleaver (father of Beaver Cleaver in the series Leave It to Beaver) was a piper. In one episode Beaver smokes Ward's brand new meerschaum on the sly and Ward notices that the thing has been "colored."
    Also, let us not forget Granny Clampett from the Beverley Hillbillies.
  • Thanks for the heads up @xDutchx . I'm terrible with face and names, and it's been years since I've seen it, but I remember that scene.
  • AnthonyAnthony Apprentice
    Don't forget Clark Gable, and Frank Sinatra were both pipe smokers, and I recently seen a picture of Dean Martin with a pipe. Another Christmas movie is It Happened on 5th Avenue, Charles Ruggles smokes a pipe through most of the movie. If you are old movie buffs, you will recognize Charles from many old classic's. 
  • It would be interesting to find out just how many of the aforementioned were actually pipe smokers. Although I'm sure some of them were, I suspect that most only had a pipe in their hand because the script called for it. Others may have simply been using the pipe as a prop to reinforce whatever image they wanted to project at the time.

    It's not that there's anything wrong with this, it's just that it may be misleading. Posing for a picture of oneself with a pipe is not the same thing as being a pipe smoker.
  • @topaz75 - I would guess that most of the older stars were pipe smokers. It's been well documented that Robinson, Crosby, Sinatra, Hope and Grant were all pipe smokers. So it would seem plausible that others from that era were also smokers. On the other hand I would be surprised if any of the current "stars" are pipe smokers... unless they are putting something other than tobacco in the pipes.
  • Benedict Cumberbatch, the new Sherlock:

    Cumberbatch-animated copy
  • Have you ever noticed that whenever you go on a diet every commercial on TV seems to be advertising pizza, fast food, or snacks.

    And a similar mind game occurs when you've recently purchased a new car ... you seem to spot dozens of the same make, model, or color when you're on the road as if they magically appeared the moment you bought your car.

    Now we all know that's not the case. It's just some sort of tunnel vision we develop that makes it stand out and become more noticeable. Well a similar thing occurred to me during a month long marathon of Classic Horror flicks this past Halloween season.

    Due to my wife's recent sensitivity to pipe smoke after a respiratory illness I no longer smoke in the house during the day when she's present; putting it off until late in the evening when she's asleep at the other end of the house. This may have put a bit of a damper on my pipe puffing during these day long couch potato horror marathons, but with nearly 50 years of marriage under our belt she's clearly more precious to me that my pipe smoking hobby. So it's not an issue. But during those periods of abstinence I found myself bombarded by a plethora of pipe smoking characters throughout the films.

    And just as it appears to a dieter that every commercial is about food, and the driver thinks the road has become undulated with cars exactly the same as his ... I noticed an over-abundance of pipe smokers in these classic 30s', 40s' & 50s' horror flicks. So much so that they seemed to mock me! The films were awash with scientists, archeologists, scholars, explorers, newspaper reporters, bar keepers, Burgermeisters, constables, gypsies, heroes and villains alike, all happily puffing on a pipe, while I was denied mine.

    The first three films I watched set the tone. In "The Mark Of The Vampire" two main characters sit across from one another at a desk when one character Sir Karell Borotyn (Holmes Herbert) pulls out a stack of new pipes from the drawer and offers his friend Baron Otto (Jean Hersholt) any three from the pile. The next film "Son Of Dracula" featured a scene with two characters Doctor Brewster (Frank Craven) and Professor Lazlo (J Edward Bromberg) both puffing away while discussing the existence of Count Dracula. Then wouldn't you know it ... Dracula himself appears in a cloud of smoke. Even Dracula was mocking me! But the movie that really took the cake was "The Wolf Man". No less than five main characters are seem smoking a pipe at any given time. Bela the gypsy (Bela Lugosi) can be seen early in the film smoking a long stemmed German pipe; Colonel Paul Montford (Ralph Bellamy) the town police official is seen constantly with pipe firmly clenched between his teeth; Dr. Lloyd (Warren William) the Talbott family doctor puffs blissfully away while discussing the concept of Lycanthropy; Frank Andrews (Patric Knowles) the game keeper of the Talbott estate walks into an antique store with a dog on a leash and pipe in his mouth. And the owner of the antique store is also a pipe smoker. Then once we get to the carnival scene and gypsy camp there are assorted extras puffing away as well.

    Holy Smoke!

    As the month long film festival continued there was no shortage of pipe smoking characters. Pipe smoking archeologists were a staple in the Universal Classic Mummy series. The Frankenstein Legacy was likewise populated by it's share of pipe smoking victims and town officials. And scientist explorers boating through the backwaters of The Black Lagoon had the comfort of a pipe to get them through their harrowing adventures.

    Yes, we pipe smokers were well represented in the old horror and sci-fi films of the 30s', 40s' & 50s'. Whereas today, you could probably watch 100 movies in a row made within the last ten years and not see a single pipe smoking character in any. Much like real life today. But judging by those old movies, pipe smoking and torch wielding crowds were once a pretty popular pastime. 

  • Looks like I'm going to have to correct my comment about the possibility of watching 100 movies in a row made within the past 10 years and not seeing a single pipe smoking character - I just finished watching the latest Tim Burton movie "Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children" and to my surprise the lead character Miss Peregrine (played by Eva Green) is a pipe smoker!
  • I just stumbled across "Part 2" of a visual essay on the pipes of Sherlock Holmes. I recommend it to your attention. What I have not yet figured out is how to get to Parts 1 and 3, and I'm usually good at this kind of stuff.

  • Roger Moore doing Sherlock

  • Here's part 1. It was in the box labeled "archives" 

    The link at the bottom of part II for Part III should work.

  • PappyJoe, thank you. Have a happy and healthy New Year.....
  • motie2motie2 Master
    edited December 2016
    Pipe and tobacco maven Russ Ouellette has a nice article at http://www.talkingtobacco.com/2015/12/sherlock-holmes-as-a-pipe-smoker-book-review/ and there's an excellent monograph on Holme's analysis of 140 varieties of tobacco by John Hall at http://www.pipes.org/wp-content/uploads/Articles/140_Different_Varieties.text
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