Jules Montenier

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Dr. Jules Bernard Montenier (23 March 1895 - 20 August 1962), of Chicago, Illinois, was an inventor and a cosmetic chemist. He was also the founder of Jules Montenier, Inc., a cosmetics company. He was famous for inventing Stopette, an antiperspirant that was a longtime sponsor of What's My Line?.[1] Stopette's slogan, repeated at the beginning of the episodes Dr. Montenier's company sponsored, was "Poof! there goes perspiration". Dr. Montenier was described in the introduction segment of What's My Line? as the "famous cosmetic chemist".

Dr. Jules Montenier as seen on his Stopette commercial

Patents and innovations[edit]

Dr. Montenier holds a number of patents. Arguably, his primary patent is US Patent No. 2,230,084,[2] which is a January 28, 1941 patent for Astringent Preparation. This patent dealt with solving the problem of the excessive acidity of aluminum chloride, then and now the best working antiperspirant, by adding a soluble nitrile or a similar compound. This innovation found its way into "Stopette" deodorant spray, which Time Magazine called "the best-selling deodorant of the early 1950s".[3] A virtually identical patent was granted in the United Kingdom as GB0527439.

Dr. Montenier also holds US Design Patent D168,109 for the ornamental design of his "Stoppette" bottle,[4] the shape of which was on the scorecards of What's My Line? when "Stopette" sponsored the show. In addition, Dr. Montenier also holds US Patent No. 2,642,313 for the "Unitary container and atomizer for liquids".[5] This was developed in 1947 when Dr. Montenier, working with engineers from the Plax Corporation, invented a commercial use for the plastic bottle. His innovation was for “Stopette”, an underarm deodorant dispensed by squeezing the bottle. This one bottle created an explosion in the industry for the plastic bottle. For the first time, plastic was competing with glass for this type of packaging.[6][7]

Furthermore, Dr. Montenier holds US Design Patent D143,437 which is for a fanciful design for a shaving bowl.[8]

What's My Line?[edit]

In the opening segment that featured Stopette, Jules Montenier, Inc. also advertised "Poof! Deodorant body powder" and "Finesse, the flowing cream shampoo" in the same segment. In mid-1953, Dr. Montenier himself was pictured in the opening segment after the products were mentioned.

Sponsorship of the Show[edit]

During the first two episodes of What's My Line?, the production value was horrible. While everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong on the first show, the second show was arguably as bad. If anything, the camera work was worse. CBS liked many elements of the show, but the production value had to be improved. CBS knew that a potential sponsor could potentially be watching the third show, so it issued an ultimatum. Either a sponsor would pick up the show, or the show would be history.[9]

Franklin M. Heller, one of television's pioneering directors, essentially saved What's My Line?. He felt that the biggest problems with the show was too much camera movement and lens changing. Heller said, "I figured once I could get those cameramen and their flowered shirts controlled and fairly immobile, we might be able to let this show emerge."[10]

In order to fix the problem, Heller changed the format of the set so that the cameras would remain stationary. He also placed John Daly and the panel in different places so that the entrances and exits would not look as awkward. In addition, before the third show, Heller requested an hour rehearsal for the camera crew with mock panelists and contestants. With the rehearsal, the camera operators had a better feel for how the show should go.[10]

At the end of the third show, Dr. Montenier called CBS and, according to Heller, said, "I don't know what you did to it, but I'll buy it." For the next eight years, either as the sole or alternating sponsor, Stopette was the advertising face of What's My Line?[10]

Bennett Cerf explained of Dr. Montenier, that What's My Line? "ruined the poor man".[11] Cerf said that when What's My Line? first started, none of the big companies wanted to sponsor the program. He said that everyone thought the program would last for a few months and die out, but the program caught fire.[12] Cerf said that as the program spread from city to city, the costs went up and up. Dr. Montenier was very proud of the program, but refused to have a co-sponsor. According to Cerf, Dr. Montenier stuck with What's My Line? until the program ruined him. At its peak, What's My Line? was running in nearly every city across the country. Cerf said that the advertising costs became so enormous that Dr. Montenier couldn't sell enough Stoppette to make up for it. Eventually, Dr. Montenier had to sell out, and according to Cerf, it broke Dr. Montenier's heart.[12]

Mystery Guest Appearance[edit]

Interestingly, Dr. Montenier himself appeared on the February 12, 1956 episode of What's My Line? as a Mystery Guest. As he signed in, he was identified on screen as "Dr. Jules Montenier, Creator & Manufacturer of Stopette; his "line" was "Our Sponsor (For Past Six Years)". Prior to their guesses, the panel was given the hint that Dr. Montenier was self-employed. The panel failed to correctly guess Dr. Montenier's line. It turned out that the purpose for Dr. Montenier's visit was to give his belated congratulations to the show for its six years on television. Mr. Daly said that Dr. Montenier was a good sponsor because he didn't interfere in the production of the show. Dr. Montenier in return said that he loved the show and watched it each Sunday.

Montenier remained seated during his entire appearance, after which the program went directly to a commercial; guests on the program customarily walked in and sat next to the host and walked to greet the panelists after their appearance. The audience was not given any explanation for this change, but some viewers would have read in the newspapers that Montenier had had his left leg amputated as the result of a car crash at the end of May 1954. His wife Helen was killed in this accident.[13]

Impact on Time Slot and Broadcast Markets[edit]

What's My Line? did not begin its life on Sunday nights. After Dr. Montenier's Stopette deodorant became the show's primary sponsor in March 1950, CBS moved the show from Thursdays at 8 to an alternating week basis on Wednesdays at 9.[14] Eventually, due largely to pressure to get higher caliber guests on the show, the show was moved back to 10:30 p.m. on Sunday nights. Since most Broadway plays closed at 10:00 p.m. at the time, this gave those actors plenty of time to get there. Dr. Montenier and his ad agency agreed with the move, and CBS agreed to reimburse the sponsor for viewers lost due to the move.[14]

Jules Montenier, Inc's sponsorship of What's My Line? caused nearly a third of the United States not to see the show until 1958. The reasoning was that the company's ad agency controlled the time slot and would not buy the slot in markets where Jules Montenier's products were not sold. Notable markets that were missing the show until the late 1950s included Columbus, Georgia, Tallahassee, Florida, Savannah, Georgia, Spartanburg, South Carolina, Jackson, Mississippi, Memphis, Tennessee, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Meridian, Mississippi, and Lexington, Kentucky.[14] In 1958, Jules Montenier, Inc. was sold to Helene Curtis.[15] Since the products now had a national market, What's My Line? was then shown nationwide.

Popular culture[edit]

The Harvard Lampoon once had a picture once of Dr. Montenier shooting through the top of a building, with the caption “Poof; There goes Dr. Montenier.” Of this, Bennett Cerf said of Dr. Montenier, "He was a sweet man but a bit of a fraud, you know."[16]

Company legacy[edit]

In 1958, Jules Montenier, Inc. was sold to Helene Curtis.[15] In 1996, Helene Curtis in turn was sold to Unilever, a large British-Dutch corporation.[17] Ten years later, on February 5, 2006, Unilever announced that it had sold its Finesse hair care brand in the US and Canada, along with its Aqua Net brand in the US, to Lornamead Brands Inc.[18] According to Lornamead, Finesse is currently ranked by all consumers as one of their five most popular hair care brands.[19]

References[edit]