Watch Laurence Olivier, Liv Ullmann and Christopher Plummer’s Classic Polaroid Ads

Before Urban Out­fit­ters and Project Impos­si­ble, before the adorable bick­er­ing ubiq­ui­ty of spokes­peo­ple James Gar­ner and Mari­ette Hart­ley, Polaroid kept things classy by entrust­ing its rep­u­ta­tion to the most seri­ous of seri­ous actors.

Take Lau­rence Olivi­er. Who else could have made the phrase “Polaroid SX-70 Land Cam­era” sound like Shake­speare? Seri­ous­ly. He could’ve tacked the string of superla­tives he unleash­es against a black back­ground above onto the end of Hen­ry V’s St. Crispin’s Day speech and I would have been none the wis­er.

(And gen­tle­men in Eng­land now a‑bed

Shall think them­selves accursed they were not here,

And hold their man­hoods cheap whiles any speaks

That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day -

Pock­et sized, fold­ing, elec­tron­i­cal­ly con­trolled, motor dri­ven…)

Accord­ing to the late Peter Wens­berg, a for­mer Polaroid exec and author of Land’s Polaroid, A Com­pa­ny and the Man Who Invent­ed It, Sir Lau­rence agreed to the 1972 spot on the con­di­tion that it would­n’t be shown in Eng­land. (YouTube would­n’t be found­ed for anoth­er thir­ty years.)

Sir Lar­ry was fol­lowed in 1979 by actress Liv Ull­mann, solemn­ly prais­ing the  SX70 Sonar OneStep’s moment-cap­tur­ing abil­i­ties. Is there a Polaroid some­where in the Ing­mar Bergman Archive of his and Ull­man­n’s 12-year-old daugh­ter Linn, stand­ing at the sink, wash­ing dish­es? Or has YouTube become the sole reli­quary for these pre­cious moments?

Christo­pher Plum­mer’s 1980 spot seems down­right loose by con­trast, as he kicks back on a beach, aim­ing his SX70 Sonar OneStep at a Gold­en Retriev­er and a canoe’s worth of kids. (Sir Lar­ry’s sub­ject was a rather fussy porce­lain clock.)

Giv­en their his­to­ry, it’s easy to think of Polaroid’s instant cam­eras as a gim­mick or a fad, but such not­ed pho­tog­ra­phers as Ansel Adams, Andy Warhol, Hel­mut New­ton, and Walk­er Evans were fans of the SX-70.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Mas­ter­ful Polaroid Pic­tures Tak­en by Film­mak­er Andrei Tarkovsky

Amer­i­can Film­mak­ers in Japan­ese Ads: Quentin Taran­ti­no Sells Cell Phones, Orson Welles Hawks Whisky

Ing­mar Bergman’s Soap Com­mer­cials Wash Away the Exis­ten­tial Despair

Ayun Hal­l­i­day has the sort of vision that screams out for an unlim­it­ed sup­ply of free dig­i­tal shots. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday

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