Original Marlboro Man

Born: April 10, 1929;

Died:November 3 2019

ROBERT Norris, who has died aged 90, was a rancher known for his role as an original Marlboro Man, the rugged American outdoorsman used to advertise the cigarette brand all over the world.

Norris was one of the men featured in Marlboro commercials in the U.S. and Europe.

Born in Chicago in 1929, Norris's father was a banker, but the world of finance never held any interest for Norris who always preferred the family's farms. He went on to study animal husbandry at university and later established a ranch in Colorado, which grew to 63,000 acres.

He never intended to become a Marlboro Man, or even an actor, but fell into the role.

"He was the first Marlboro Man on television," Norris' son, Bobby Norris. "Phillip Morris decided they needed to get into the television market in the very early 60s. They went out and they got all these good looking, square-jaw models."

The directors even dirtied the models' clothing to make it look as though they had been working on a ranch. The problem was, none of the hired models could ride a horse, he said.

The agency had been using Norris' ranch to shoot, and there he was in the background, holding a herd of horses. Norris fitted the role better than the models they had hired. "They said, 'let's use Norris, he's already dirty,'" his son said.

That kicked off more than a decade-long stint for Norris in the Marlboro commercials.

As for smoking, the Marlboro Man himself was not for it. He was never a smoker and abandoned the campaign after feeling that he was setting a bad example for his own children.

"He always told us kids, 'I don't ever want to see you smoking,' so one of us finally asked, 'If you don't want us smoking, why are you doing cigarette commercials?'" Norris' son said. "He called up Phillip Morris and quit that day."

Marlboro had him lighting 10 to 20 packs per shoot to get the cigarettes to burn right, Wing explained.

"If there was ever any chance of him smoking, those commercials turned him off of it," Wing said. "After the first 50 (cigarettes), he decided he hated those things."

A ban on cigarette adverts on television and radio was eventually introduced in the early 1970s and by the late 1990s Marlboro had withdrawn its billboard campaign entirely.

"He was a great man," Wing said, adding that Norris gave him a shot training horses at just 19 years old. "He was a great cowboy himself and always wanting to help the next guy coming up."

His son said he always had time to help or offer counsel, no matter the request. "He touched so many lives," his son said. "I’ve probably had over 300 texts, personally, from people that he had interacted with or touched through the years. He was really one of a kind."

Bob Norris was married to Jane Wright in the 1960s; she predeceased him in 2016. He is survived by their four children.