Recently Marvel Comics has been making headlines with their latest television series based on the comic book characters Wanda Maximoff aka The Scarlet Witch and Vision. Marvel’s Wanda/Scarlet was originally a villainous sorcerous created in 1964 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby but in 1965 she became part of the heroic Avengers’ team. But I’m not here to talk about Marvel’s Wanda. I want to talk about another witch named Wanda that debuted in 1965.
Wanda the Witch was the appealing brand ambassador for Procter & Gamble’s Hidden Magic Hair Spray. She was portrayed by actress Susan Brown (1932-2018) in numerous newspaper, magazine and television ads in 1965 as a cheerful witch who could help women with their hair troubles.
Procter & Gamble’s Wanda the Witch was probably inspired by the television show Bewitched (1964-72) starring Elizabeth Montgomery as a housewife with a witch pedigree. By 1965 Bewitched had become one of the most popular shows on television largely due to the fact that it humanized witches by portraying them as cute and friendly girls-next-door instead of arcane figures to be feared.
Unfortunately the appeal of Wanda the Witch and her Hidden Magic Hair Spray was short lived. According to author Mac Cato in his book Go Logo! A Handbook to the Art of Global Branding, not long after the product was released customers begin to complain that it was attracting bees and turning women’s hair green.
“Within a few months, the company started to receive complaints from beauticians and consumers about Hidden Magic’s performance. Yes, the product provided the hair control women desired, and yes, their hair remained soft and flexible. However, women were complaining about two most unfortunate end results: Women who bleached their hair with peroxide found that Hidden Magic imparted a green tinge to their hair; the others complained that, while outside, their hair attracted bees.”Mac Cato, Go Logo! A Handbook to the Art of Global Branding
The end result was that Hidden Magic ended up being a curse for Procter & Gamble who lost millions in revenue after they were forced to pull their product off the shelves. But their failed experiment did bring a little magic into Susan Brown’s life. The brunette beauty went on to have a successful acting carrer in television including recurring roles on many popular TV shows such as Return to Peyton Place, Death Valley Days, General Hospital and As the World Turns. She also appeared in one of my favorite science fiction films, Robert Wise’s The Andromeda Strain (1971), but her portrayal of Wanda the Witch became a distant memory.
The curious can find a few Hidden Magic Hair Spray commercials on YouTube featuring Susan Brown as Wanda the Witch and I’ve linked one of my favorites below.