Hypnotique” by Max Factor

For the women born to enchant men. Max Factor’s Hypnotique … the new fragrance that’s captured the very essence of woman’s power over men. Coolly and with great elegance Hypnotique attracts … holds … persuades … and then! Anything can happen! (Advertising copy from the first magazine ad.)

Description: All cosmetics, including fragrances, are designed in part to attract and focus attention on the wearer. Some fragrances are just a little more blatant about it. Fragrances with names like “Spellbound”, “Hypnose”, “Mesmerize” or “Hypnotic Poison”  blatantly suggest the power of commanding and controlling men (although Avon’s “Mesmerize”, which was originally a woman’s fragrance, is now being more directly marketed toward men, strangely enough.) Even fragrances not so named are frequently advertised using hypnotic terminology and imagery.

But one of the earliest and certainly one of the most blatant of the hypnotic cosmetics was “Hypnotique” by Max Factor. Released in the late 1950’s, the hypnotic imagery was very noticeable in the magazine ads:

He’ll concentrate … concentrate … concentrate on you … when you wear Hypnotique.

Add the image of a lovely and almost naked (the straps around the neck are barely visible) woman holding the bottle of perfume on a chain like a hypnotic pendant, smiling slyly in invitation as she gazes directly at the viewer and the hypnotic imagery is complete. Further magazine ads maintained the hypnotic or vamp motif, setting the perfume bottle swinging hypnotically, behind which a pair of entrancing, staring eyes seem to trap the viewer’s gaze, or mysteriously.

History: Max Factor (neé Maximilian Faktorowicz) was a well-known makeup artist of the early days of Hollywood: he created his own makeup because the heavy theatrical greasepaint makeup at the time was too heavy for the hot lights and the cameras. He created a variety of makeup for the film and television industry, some of which are still in standard use today. He was also the personal makeup artist for a number of top Hollywood stars, including Claudette Colbert, Betty Davis, Joan Crawford and Judy Garland, going so far as creating special makeup for them alone. His work was so famous that his beauty salon near Hollywood Boulevard was extremely popular. Max, Senior, died in 1938 but his son Max, Junior carried on the family business through the time of the release of “Hypnotique”. The label was sold after the second generation of owners and is now owned by Proctor & Gamble.

I have been able to track down three magazine ads specifically for “Hypnotique”. As can be seen, the hypnotic imagery in the magazine ads would evolve over time. Unfortunately I have not been able to ascertain a date for the last two ads.

In the first magazine ad above, in use from the initial release in 1958 through at least 1961, the woman is almost daring the viewer to be hypnotized. Also note that the predominant golden color of the ad that matches the golden orange color of the contents of the bottle and the golden hair and jewelry of the model. The tone is more seductive than hypnotic. The model, I been told but have not been able to confirm, is actress Lana Turner.

In the second (1959) magazine ad, the tone is definitely more hypnotic; the swinging bottle, the direct gaze of the model, the phantom hypnotic gaze hovering above the rest. The dark background only emphasizes the mystery involved.  It also changes the original text, placing it behind the swinging bottle and making it more forceful than before:

Make him concentrate … concentrate … concentrate on you … when you wear “Hypnotique”.

Note the description “A magnetic new fragrance by Max Factor” at the bottom, invoking thoughts of ‘personal magnetism’ or ‘animal magnetism’ from the time of Mesmer.

In the third (1961) ad, the sense of mystery is deepened and the ‘vamp’ motif is played up while the hypnotic motif is downplayed. The ‘induction’ text is now missing, along with any hypnotic imagery, replaced with a larger and more sultry image of a cool and dispassionate woman: note that she isn’t even looking toward the viewer. The only remnant of the hypnotic motif is the tag line: “The perfume for the woman who was born to enchant men.”

Commentary: Coming as it did during the “Bridey Murphy” heyday, “Hypnotique” definitely seems both a reaction to and an attempt to take advantage of the interest in hypnosis at the time. In doing so, it also plays in to a number of stereotypes about feminine power at the very beginning of the Women’s Movement of the 60’s. Women were being encouraged to act outside the 50’s-era stereotypes, exploring new ones and validating old ones as well. One of those old stereotypes was the hypnotic vamp, cool and mysterious, possessing the ability to dominate men as opposed and in revenge to being dominated for so long.

Trivia: “Hypnotique” was apparently quite popular, judging from the range of ways it was packaged. The fragrance was distributed in a number of ways, not just in the traditional bottles but also non-traditional ways including lockets but the most interesting was a ring containing a solid perfume sample, a rather interesting take on the poison ring trope.

Recomendation: Not really much to recommend: the fragrance hasn’t been produced in over 30 years, although it still can be found for resale on eBay and other online resellers / retailers.


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