Throughout the history of cinema, thousands of characters have appeared smoking cigars. Directors use this resource for multiple purposes and, on some occasions, the actors and characters represented have become cinematographic icons capable of transcending their time.
Let's take a look at some of the most sought-after goals, associated with the characters and movies that best represent them:
Establish character traits: cigar smoking can help establish a character's personality and traits, because it can convey a sense of power, sophistication, or even rebellion. The act of smoking a cigar can also be associated with confidence, authority, or a certain level of nonchalant attitude. A well-known example is the character of Don Vito Corleone, behind "The Godfather", played by Marlon Brando and later by Robert De Niro, who are frequently seen smoking cigars, symbolizing power and authority in the world of organized crime.
Enhance Atmosphere and Ambience: the visual and sensory aspects of a character smoking a cigar can contribute to the overall atmosphere and ambiance of a scene or film. The aroma, the plumes of smoke, and the slow-burning cigar can create a specific mood or tone that adds to the cinematic experience. It could be the case of “Casablanca”, the iconic romantic drama where Humphrey Bogart is often seen smoking, in scenes that convey an air of mystery and charm.
Symbolize status and wealth: Cigars have historically been associated with wealth, success, and influence. When a character smokes cigars, it can be used as a visual cue to communicate its social status, wealth, or position of power. This can help create contrast between characters or highlight the character's stature within a particular setting. This is the case of "The Great Gatsby", the film adaptation of the novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, where Leonardo DiCaprio, who plays Gatsby, is often shown smoking as a sign of his wealth, mystery and social status; cigars are part of his carefully crafted image and flamboyant personality. Another interesting example is "Wall Street," the classic where Michael Douglas plays Gordon Gekko, a rich and ruthless Wall Street tycoon whose cigar smoking habit is used as a symbol of his power, greed, and status in the financial world.
Showing Character Flaws and Vices: Cigar smoking can also be used to portray character flaws or vices, which can add complexity to a character and provide an opportunity for character development or conflict within the story. A good example of this purpose is found in the character Nick Naylor, from the satirical comedy-drama, "Thanks for Smoking", who works as a lobbyist for the tobacco industry. There, smoking is used to underscore Naylor's morally dubious profession and his manipulation of public perception.
Tribute or nod to the past: In some cases, the use of cigars in the cinema can be a tribute or nod to classic movies or iconic characters from the past. There are numerous films that serve as an example, among them, Orson Welles' masterpiece, "Citizen Kane" (1941), shows the character of Charles Foster Kane, smoking cigars in a clear purpose of symbolizing the greatness and power of those who Kane's character was dressed. Another excellent example is the classic film-noir, "The Maltese Falcon" (1941), in which the character of Sam Spade, played by Humphrey Bogart, is frequently seen smoking cigars. The use of cigars in this film can be seen as a tribute to the gritty and hard-boiled detective genre of the time.