When Mame (Rosalind Russell) and Patrick (Jan Handzlik) first visit Beauregard Jackson Pickett Burnside (Mame’s soon-to-be husband) and his family in Georgia, drama ensues: they organise a fox hunt, but Mame has never ridden a horse before. Patrick explains horses can “smell fear.” Mame comments she hopes the horse “likes Chanel No. 5”, thus letting us know the perfume she’s wearing.
Many real perfumes make their appearance throughout the film, but the most popular (the only one that literally moves the plot) is a fictional one – Summer Rain. Its bottle is first seen on a bedside table in Mary’s bedroom.
The bottle amplifies the name of the perfume: it’s topped by a naked glass figurine holding an umbrella to protect herself from a rain shower.
When Mary (Norma Shearer) meet her friend Peggy (Joan Fontaine), they end up talking about Summer Rain, which has already become more than just a perfume. For Mary, it’s a symbol of marital love, since her husband gave it to her for her birthday.
When the first rumours about the infidelity of Mary’s husband begin to circulate, the dynamic duo of Sylvia (Rosalind Russell) and Edith (Phyllis Povah) decide to learn more by snooping around the perfume counter at Black’s Fifth Avenue: that’s the place where the alleged mistress (Crystal Allen, interpreted by Joan Crawford) works. Once at the shop, more bottles of Summer Rain welcome the two friends.
The perfume doesn’t exist in real life, but there’s an interesting story behind the bottle. As explained by Lanier Smith, the man who chose it was the film’s art director, Cedric Gibbons. He selecte a bottle by the Czech designer Curt Schlevogt, who produced Art Deco perfume bottles with his father-in-law, the glass artist Heinrich Hoffmann. Lanier comments that Gibbons “added a plastic umbrella, a label and some festive ribbon work to the nude figure on the stopper and Summer Rain was born an M.G.M. star.”
I think Xavier Dolan must have a thing for perfumes mothers wear. In his films, there’s often a moment in which the protagonist’s mother explains what perfume she’s wearing , so I guess this must have something to do with a personal obsession of the director. In this case, Grace (Susan Sarandon) is wearing Nina Ricci L’air du temps, the classic floral/spicy creation by Francis Fabron launched after WWII, in 1948.
 In Mommy, Diane says she’s wearing Christian Dior Eau Sauvage.
Has anyone ever listed the ways Dr. Lecter hates Old Spice after-shave? The popular shaving lotion is mentioned in the 1981 novel by Thomas Harris and ever since. All the Hannibals we’ve seen on tv or on the silver screen have expressed their hatred for it: the one played by Brian Cox in Manhunter (1985) by Michael Mann, Anthony Hopkins in the 2002 film and Mads Mikkelsen in the NBC tv show.
For such a refined character, Old Spice is a symbol of uncouthness and carelessness. “Something a child would select,” the doctor remarks with what I think is a pinch of envy: Will has a family; someone who loves him always selects this perfume for him, even if it’s atrocious, something that Lecter will never experience.
Deep into his identity theft intrigue, Tom Ripley (Matt Damon) writes a letter to Marge Duval (Gwyneth Paltrow), thus pretending to be Dickie Greenleaf, the girl’s fiancée.
The typewritten letter then goes into a gift package bearing a very peculiar logo – Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella, a historical Florence-based brand.
The exact perfume Tom has bought for Marge (but pretending it’s Dickie who actually bought it) is never mentioned, but it’s clear it’s her favourite perfume: she asked her boyfriend to get it for her.
The future Berlin envisioned by Duncan Jones has got an unexpected 1980s touch: a neon sign of LouLou, the famous Cacharel perfume created by Jean Guichard and launched in 1987.
Dorrie (Charlotte Rampling) appreciates Sandy’s aftershave. Like a madeleine, that scent brings back memories from her childhood. Sandy (Woody Allen) gets the reference to À la recherche du temps perdu by Marcel Proust and jokingly comments he’s wearing Proustian Rush by Chanel. The reason why the French maison has never produced a perfume with such an evocative name is beyond me.
A real Chanel perfume appears later in the film, when Sandy visits his sister (Anne De Salvo). Chanel no. 5 refillable atomisers (one small, one big) can be seen on a plastic tray on her dresser.
When Janet Leigh (Scarlett Johansson) meets Alfred Hitchcock to discuss the role of Marion Crane in his upcoming film Psycho (1960), she focuses on the double identity of the character (a Phoenix secretary who steals $40,000 from her employer’s client).
She introduces this concept through perfumes: Marion is someone who wears an inoffensive cologne like Lenthéric Tweed in the office, but turns to something completely different when she’s with her lover Sam Loomis: her reckless and seductive self wears My Sin by Lanvin.
Tweed, launched in 1933, is a woody aromatic perfume with light spicy notes. My Sin, originally called Mon Péché, was created by Madame Zed in 1924; it’s a scent with civet, musk and aldehydes as dominant notes.
Mary Price Hilton (Diana Dors) first meets Jim Lancaster (Michael Craig) at the perfume shop where she works as a shop assistant. He falls in love with her perfume, Christmas Rose. It’s a fictitious perfume, but I’ve found out some brands have launched fragrances with the same name. Thinking of Mary’s dreamy and idealistic personality, her perfume could be a floral with warm spicy notes.
What real perfume do you think could be the fictitious Christmas Rose?