THE MANHATTAN MAD HATTER ~ “Summer Rain” perfume 1939



By Dolly Dupuyster

Summer is here darlings and the heat has hit our island like a Sirocco sandstorm blowing over a camel’s back on the Sahara. Where to go to get relief? Well there is always cocktails at “21” or a matinee in the air-conditioned cool deco comfort of Radio City Music hall or if you really want to, a weekend escape to Newport.

Tempo of the City 21, Fifth Avenue and 42thStreet, New York, 1938


  But for me, the high priestess of pulp reportage on the high and low of Manhattan High Society there is really only one place to go on a hot afternoon in New York. (And after all I can’t leave our island, I might miss something delicious.)  So off I go to that bastion of high fashion and fabulous frivolity, Black’s Fifth Avenue.



   I get all my duds at Black’s as well as my scoops and scopes on the darlings of the Upper East Side. The very upper Upper if you know what I mean and I know you do!  Well my dear readers this very morning I walked into Black’s, and deposited my angel Chow, Mr. Choo Choo Chow Chow with the doggie check (like the coat check at El Morocco, but for dogs) and wound my way over to my favorite counter girl in all of Black’s, Miss Crystal Allen in the perfume department. This honey is no wet firecracker and has a reputation for being one of the top sellers to the male clientele of the establishment. Men in the perfume department you say? Well, And no wonder! She is a stunner. And the boys have to buy there wives and Chorines perfume from time to time so off they go to see darling Crystal.



   Olga at Black’s who is a rather chatty manicurist told me just last week that Crystal may be seeing the husband of one of our most beloved socialites on the sly. She referred to Crystal as a “Terrible man trap” and said. “She has the kind of eyes that go up and down a man like a search light.”   Well a certain Mrs. S.H. should pay a visit to Olga if she knows what’s good for a marriage.



   But back to the perfume counter. The charming Crystal and I chatted a bit before I told her I was on the look out for something new in perfume. I mean I have been wearing last season’s “Oomph!” so much of late that even Mr. Choo Choo Chow Chow is turning his nose up at me in shear boredom not to mention the doorman at the Stork Club. He no longer tips his hat to me but gives me the stink eye and the high hat in one fell swoop. Something had to be done!   Crystal said she had just the thing, brand new and just in from Pairs, “Summer Rain”. My dears to begin with the bottle is divine! A little crystal naked lady sporting an umbrella is the stopper! Magnificent madness must have possessed the bottle makers when they came up with this one!  Crystal pumped the air around me full of the fabulous fragrance and it was Midtown madness magic time for your Dolly! I have never smelled anything so heady, lovely, exotic, spicy, and sweet and sour! Like Dim Sum in Chinatown in the middle of a fragrant garden in Versailles while riding on the back side of a spice caravan from India. Crystal told me that it is an Aromatic Oriental Woody Chypre Floral Fougere eau de Cologne. She said it has EVERYTHING in it. And you know I believe her. It just goes on forever opening bright and citrusy aldahyde cocktail with mid-notes of every flower in creation and then drying down a dark amber oak mossy vetiver musky lushness. I was sold on the spot and bought ten bottles!  They say the Depression will be over soon anyway and did my share to boost the economy. Well the economy of France anyway. So darlings I have found my new signature scent. Forget Chanel No.5, Joy, and Tabu. This is the one for me.

And darlings on the way home in the limousine Mr. Choo Choo Chow Chow agreed that Summer Rain is the perfume for the summer of 1939.




Perfume in the movies is always a fun moment for those of us who are fumeheads. Be it in the wonderful “Perfume, The Story of A Murder” or Addie Loggins dousing herself with Evening In Paris in “Paper Moon”.  Perfume plays a key roll in so many “reel” lives just as it does in our real lives.

One of my favorite movies where perfume makes a very important appearance is “The Women” from M.G.M. released in 1939. The film boasts all the top female stars of that studio from Joan Crawford to Norma Shearer right down to Hedda Hopper as gossip maven Dolly Dupuyster. (Exactly the same profession ex-silent film actress Hedda had at this point in real life as a Hollywood tongue wagger for the Los Angeles Times.)


When it came time to cast the bottle for the pivotal roll of “Summer Rain” art director Cedric Gibbons found the perfect “actress” in Czechoslovakia. The bottle was created by the son-in-law of glass designer Heinrich Hoffmann, Curt Schlevogt who along with his father-in-law created beautiful Art Deco bottles for perfume houses throughout Europe. This particular bottle was from the “Ingrid” collection of bottles. 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.



At the time of the film’s release M.G.M. gave as gifts bottles of the perfume. No one today knows what the perfume smelled like but I would like to think that Dolly Dupuyster’s description is pretty accurate. There were two known forms of this giveaway, one clear crystal square and the other with a clear stopper and dark obelisk shape bottle.

This bottle design created in 1937 was one of the last Schlevogt bottles to come out of Czechoslovakia from before the out break of World War II. With the Russian Occupation of Czechoslovakia the factory was confiscated.  Curt Schlevogt ended up in Paris on the rue de Paradis dealing in quality glass by other designers.




  1. Here you go darlings the trailer for The Women!

  2. Hilarious trailer!

  3. Oh Mr Lanier…
    … but I want some…. “Aromatic Oriental Woody Chypre Floral Fougere eau de Cologne”… don’t they do any these days!?!
    Hilarious, informative and exciting all at once.
    Now I wonder where I can dig out that little gem on DVD.
    Thank you.
    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

    • You have never seen The Women? I am sure you can find the DVD. It is everywhere over here. I am so happy you enjoyed the show.

      • Fear not Mr L I shall find it… and what a splendid new word ‘chorine’ is… one to store away fro future use!
        Yours ever
        The Perfumed Dandy

      • Yes I love that old word too!

  4. I vote for ladies wearing hats again, and the return of Summer Rain, in all her glory!

  5. Loved this! What is going on in your brain is aromatic indeed!

    Norma Charles (Joan showed me how to do her eye brows…) LOL


  6. Dear Lanier, as usual wonderful reading. But I do like the first photo: every single man wearing a suit and most of them a hat. Back then that was ordinary life. I know the robe doesn’t make the freyer but with proper cloths on one thinks twice before put himself in a less dignified fashion. I know we have to roll with the times … Have a nice Sunday.

    • Thanks Jose! I am with you on the dress to impress idea. And not in a snooty snobby way… dress to impress yourself to be a pleasant sight for others. And fragrance is the crowning touch to your presentation to the world.

  7. What a divine story about “Summer Rain” and the gorgeous B/W photos from Manhattan. Lovely ladies…

    • Speaking of lovely ladies you and Hilary and I need to have another lunch. “With hats on.” Always a thrill when Mary stops by the old blog stand.

  8. I have both versions of this movie, the black and white is so much more barbed. Joan is excellent isn’t she? And all the girls are exactly what we tried to be as young Queens. So arch!
    Do the kids still think this is fun?
    I’m so glad you are here to remind us and instruct them, we should make you compulsory in schools Lanier.
    Portia x

    • Yes the kids around here still think it is fun!
      Now for our first lesson from Mr. Lanier …Math. and today’s lesson is Subtraction.
      “You meet a man with a hundred dollars, You leave him with two. Honey, that is subtraction.”
      Mae West

  9. Dolly Dupuyster! FASCINATING.

  10. One of my all time favorite movies…can I have some Jungle Red nail polish to go with that bottle of Summer Rain??! 🙂

    • Nars cosmetics sells Jungle Red lipstick and Jungle Red nail polish. They sell it at Sephora stores and
      I’m so happy to have found others that love the film and the era just as I do.

  11. It’s a wonderful movie and I ‘ve always loved it, my hands down favorite Norma Shearer role and this is a very clever tribute. Do you know Norma once flummoxed Carol Lombard by turning up in red at black and white ball the latter was throwing? She was a bad girl.

  12. SCREAM! This is screening next week at the Bryant Park Summerscreen!

    • Oh Patti you must go see it!!!! I hope you can. Seeing it with an audience is a real treat.

  13. This article made my day , thank you.
    I just rewatched the film which is a favorite and I love perfumes so thought I would look and see if “ summer rain “ actually existed:)

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