Margaret Hamilton

Cora ads

Cora Television Ads

A New Lease on Career

Years after Hamilton's 1939 success as the Wicked Witch of the West, her career took another leap when she became spokeswoman for Maxwell House coffee in the 1970s. Her character's name was "Cora", a sharp, plain-speaking New England market keeper who was never at a loss for words...or coffee recommendations. Maxwell House was the only coffee she stocked in her store.

Just how many "Cora" commercials were broadcast is not known, but there were probably dozens. Thankfully, many if not most of them have survived in one form or another, mostly on studio tapes of vintage TV shows.

After the success of the Cora ads, Lucy's sidekick, Vivian Vance, also got into the act being the down-to-earth spokeswoman for Instant Maxwell House coffee. Cora's popularity, however, was the favorite when it came to selling coffee.

All of the videos on this page have been gathered from various sources, some having much better video/audio quality than others. They have been digitally enhanced, especially to remove noise and hiss from the audio tracks.

Maxwell House Electra-Perk, 1975

What an expansive store old Cora had a bakery, a coffee bar, a hardware section, a grocery, and now we see it had a post office, too.

Maxwell House covered all the marketing bases with "Electra-Perk", a coffee grind made exclusively for electric coffee pots. I remember those things...they worked exactly the same as old-fashioned pots for a burner or stove...same parts except for the electric heating element in the base.

Cora's Cousin Helen, 1978

It's 1978, and all of a sudden, Cora has a cousin Helen...and she's put her to work in the store.

Cora seemed a little put off with Helen's complaint that Cora only had one kind of coffee. By then, we all knew that Cora's little country store had enough Maxwell House on hand to supply all of New York City and beyond.

ADC for GE, 1976

Probably the poorest quality video on the site, least a copy of it has survived after all these years.

This time it's the ADC coffee grind for GE pots. Note at the end how the blurry coffee can suddenly transforms into a vibrant, readable can...the magic of video editing.

Class Play, 1976(?) (upgraded February 2024)

Badly needed fake "restoration" of the previous video of this ad...featuring much better audio and much clearer video. The colors were so bad on this version, that it was better to toss them and have AI colorize the clip. It turned out pretty good except for the annoying flicker of anything tinted red. The scene with Maggie sitting at her desk is exceptionally colored.

This ad appears to be an earlier Cora ad; Maggie was more direct and "down home" in the first ads, like she was in the newly restored ad of the black couple in the opposite column. In this one, Cora needs to supply refreshments for two students who are in a panic. Miss Kerby's Pies with some Maxwell House Coffee are the perfect solutions to the girls' problem.

Sarah Looks Beat, 1978 (upgraded February 2024)

Once again, a much needed fake "restoration" of the previous version...better audio and much better video, though still blurry in spots.

Cora notices how Sara looks beat, so she offers her some instant coffee from the cleverly named space, "Cora's Coffee Counter". This is not one of my favorite Cora ads...I remember how fairly awful "instant" coffee tasted back in those days; it was not nearly as satisfying as Sara wanted you to believe.

Maxine (Vivian Vance), 12 Coffees and The Other Woman

As Margaret's run as spokesperson for Maxwell House was coming to an end, concurrently, Vivian Vance posed as "Maxine" with her office coffee cart.

The odd thing about Maxine was that she served instant coffee instead of freshly brewed...and back then, instant just wasn't a great replacement for brewed. But OK, we played along with the charade.

Vance nicely complemented Maggie at the time: Both had a genuine "down home" warmth, and Vance of course was really Ethel Mertz to TV audiences, the neighbor everybody loved.

UPDATE: Here is a second Maxine ad, released about the same time as the one above. There is a question of who came first, Cora or Maxine? Reliable documentation is hard to find, but Cora had a much longer run, and at least one of my sources (an original airing that was preserved on tape with commercials) indicated the year 1972. Maxine's earliest (that I can find) was in 1976, and Vance died in 1979. It's open to debate, and if I ever find conclusive proof, I'll share it here. For now, I'm inclined to believe that Cora was first, Maxine came along several years later.

Playing Checkers, 1976

(Upgraded July 2023) While everybody is distracted with talk about how super-markets have so many coffee-brand varieties, Cora secretly sets up a checkers massacre for unsuspecting Percy.

David Caruso, 1978

(Upgraded July 2023) Cora gets impatient with future detective (NYPD Blue) David Caruso in his dapper bib overalls, who must have been all of 21 years old in this ad.

The ads featuring Cora in her little country store with fellow New England types as customers were among my favorites.

Audrey Landers, 1978

(Upgraded July 2023) We're back in the inspiring "Cora's Coffee Counter" area of the store, this time with Audrey Landers before she became a regular on Dallas and many other TV shows.

Like David Caruso above, "Sharon's" the same age, about 21, in this ad. And she adores that instant she's about to get hitched.

Mom Sent Us

Mom sent the young'uns to shop for coffee, and they ended up at Cora's store, buying the only brand that Cora sold, with the boy saying that his mom didn't use THAT kind. This begged the question of where mom usually shopped for her inferior certainly couldn't have been Cora's store. Did Folgers' Mrs. Olson have a store, too? We'll never know.

Actually, Cora's store was in reality "John Saunder's General Store," in North Stamford, Connecticut. Several of these ads were filmed there.

ADC Taste Testing, 1976

The entire country store is abuzz with a coffee tasting event, promoting "ADC" coffee, a marketing fad in the late 1970s, when there was an ADC (automatic drip coffee) grind for just about every coffee brand on the market.

"Percy", longtime checker-playing buddy of Cora's, makes another appearance in this clip.

The Auction, 1976

Cora has set up a refreshment stand at the auction, and it looks like she's also selling jams and jellies, along with cans of coffee...right next to her very retro station wagon.

This ad was already one of the better preserved videos in the series; AI software cleaned it up even more.

Henry the Hiker, 1977 (upgraded October 2023)

Uh-oh, something is different in this ad, broadcast in 1977... it's for instant coffee, the variety that Vivian Vance—instead of Maggie—later promoted. As you can see, Maggie has expanded her operation to now include "Cora's Coffee Counter" in her country store. And while the kids are standing by outside, waiting for Henry to have his coffee moment, one wonders why it wasn't "Cora's Soda Fountain", so that the kids could have their moments, too.

The source for this clip was already in very poor condition; even AI couldn't perform the usual magic on it, so the "upgrade" is quite's still blobby and blurry, and distant scenes are cartoonish.

Supply Day

A very young Judd Hirsch co-stars in this one. Up to about 1974, Hirsch's previous screen appearances were uncredited, so I'm guessing that this ad may have aired that year. His first credited role on TV was in the made-for-TV movie, The Law (1974).

The way Cora is eyeballing Judd in that photo, she apparently likes what she sees...either that, or she's eminently pleased with his reaction to her coffee.

Something New, Something Old, 1970s

Groovy-ish couple decides to try something new, but settles for something old. This looks to be an early-70s airing (turtlenecks and head scarfs were still a thing then). Ad has been completely remastered and is truly a "fictional restoration" due to the many fixes/modifications. Because of this, it should not be considered historically accurate.

"No Trout, Cora", 1972

(Upgraded August 2023) One of the earliest ads in the series, Cora makes sure the campers have all the supplies they'll need for a successful fishing trip: coffee, goofy hats, but no trout, which even they couldn't provide. This ad was newly upgraded using AI to remove blips and scratches and to enlarge/sharpen the video. For now, it is the best preserved version on the web.

After Hours, 1974

Cora is closing up shop for the evening, after letting in the dog. She explains that there is only so much room in a country store, and one has to stock what's best: fruit in season, home-baked pies, and a certain brand of coffee.

We need to know: Who is pictured in the two Wanted posters on the the one on the left Margaret herself?

The Party

Cora helps the young couple with their party food supplies, but husband is worried about Jane's icky coffee ruining everything. You know, after watching a few of these ads, one wonders how the American public could buy into this lopsided sentiment, especially in the '70s when there was a strong awareness of changing roles.

Great Store, Versions 1 and 2

This was a real all my years of collecting these television commercials, I never noticed that there were two versions of this one. I've had both copies all along, and only noticed the variation prior to the launch of this site. The difference takes place right at the beginning. In the first version, the little woman shows disappointment and concern that her man doesn't like her coffee.

However, in version 2, we see a playfully defiant, even impudent reaction from the woman as she belts her man after he had the nerve to say something negative about her coffee. With the clanging of the mobile hanging in the foreground, there is a cartoonish wife-hits-husband-with-frying-pan audio effect. Remember: It was the 1970s, and Helen Reddy was singing, I Am Woman on the radio. Not all women bought into the equality thing at the time. I suspect version 1 was shown in commonly conservative areas, and version 2 was shown out west. Just a guess, but it sure does provide a historical perspective of the times back then.

The Perfect Dinner Includes ADC Coffee, 1978

I'm not sure when Cora's commercials ended, but this one seems like one of the last, broadcast in 1978. Cora is helping with the perfect dinner that includes sirloin, Idahos, and Emma's pie.

The Newlyweds

Looks like the honeymoon might be over before it begins for these newlyweds. He does not like whole-wheat bread. Then again, maybe the "just married" part was between him and his inflated ego. Even in the 1970s, this sentiment was not widely embraced...not the best written script for the day, that's for sure.