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) meets 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 selected 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.”