When it comes to identifying beauty products on screen, one of the most challenging scenes ever is from the seminal film by Brian De Palma and features Elvira (Michelle Pfeiffer), the glamourous trophy wife of the protagonist. Over the years I have tried many times to give a name to the products on her vanity, with no real results. The screenshot above is from the famous Jacuzzi scene set in the Montanas’ baroque bathroom : Elvira is doing her manicure while snorting cocaine.
In the set photo above we can see there are two bottles of nail polish in front of her. Both are easy to identify.
The pale pink nail polish is by Lancôme, and dates back to the late 1970s.
The pale champagne bottle is unmistakable: it’s Chanel Le Vernis nail colour, which in the 1980s had the same squared packaging with shiny black stopper it has today.
 In 2020 I wrote about the same scene by identifying the perfumes sitting by the Jacuzzi.
I have lost count of the people who have submitted this picture to my attention, so sorry if I can’t credit everybody. Among them there are certainly my friend Rocco and LadiesofthePast.
I’ve been curating this project for more than 10 years now. I’ve covered hundreds of films, thousands of products, but believe me when I say that I still get excited when unexpected gems hide in films that are part of our collective imagery. Take Scarface, for example: the epic crime tale of the rise and fall of Tony Montana has been analysed in all its tiniest details by virtually anybody who loves or studies cinema. But there’s still more to be revealed. Have you ever noticed the two perfume bottles in this specific moment?It’s the famous Jacuzzi scene and it’s a couple of minutes; then the camera moves on and the bottles are gone.
The first bottle has a metal cap with a peculiar ring: it’s Lagerfeld Classic by Karl Lagerfeld, a woody fragrance created by Ron Winnegrad and launched in 1978. Can you imagine Montana wearing a Karl Lagerfeld perfume? I personally don’t but I guess this bottle was probably chosen for its decorative value.
The second bottle is Eau de Calandre by Paco Rabanne, a flanker of Calandre, the Michel Hy fragrance launched in 1969. This is an unusual choice. Eau de Calandre was marketed as a women’s fragrance, so the question is: did Montana wear it, thus showing an expectedly modern taste in perfumes? Or did Elvira wear it? The answer could obviously be simpler, if we assume that this one too was chosen only as a decoration.