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.
Minority Couple, 1972(?)
Judging from the attire of this couple--her head-scarf ala Rhoda Morgenstern and his turtleneck--and Maggie's age, this is probably from the early- to mid-1970s. This ad, just like the phony ads of today, stereotypically portrays blacks as everyday clean-cut, squeaky clean, smiley dorks, just like their white counterpart dorks except for skin color. In its day, this ad would have been considered socially progressive
...even if the guy's acting was more hammy than your breakfast bacon.
Sara Looks Beat, 1978(?)
Cora notices how Sara looks beat, so she offers her some instant coffee from the cleverly named space, "Cora's Coffee Counter". As you can tell, this is not one of my favorite Cora ads...I remember how fairly awful "instant" coffee tasted back in those days, and it was not nearly as dreamy and satisfying as lying Sara wants you to believe.
David Caruso, 1978
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
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 coffee, like beat Sara (also above) did...and we all know by now that Sara's word can't be trusted.
The Campers, 1972
This was my most recent Cora find
, and it's in pretty good shape. It's also one of the earliest ads in the series. Cora makes sure the campers have all the supplies they'll need (thank goodness they remembered to bring their goofy hats).
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 is one of the better preserved videos in the series.
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.
The Hikers...and Henry, 1977
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".