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July 13, 2009 2:00 PM

Beauty, Eye, Fashion

Gun Molls and Manicures on the Set of 'Public Enemies'

1931: From left to right James Cagney, Jean Harlow, Edward Woods and Joan Blondell star in the original 'Public Enemy.'Photo by: Hulton Archive/Getty Images No detail was too small to recreate in movie "Public Enemies," about the rise and...

1931: From left to right James Cagney, Jean Harlow, Edward Woods and Joan Blondell star in the original 'Public Enemy.'
Photo by: Hulton Archive/Getty Images
No detail was too small to recreate in movie "Public Enemies," about the rise and fall of Thirties bank robber John Dillinger -- and that includes the manicures.

Makeup department head Jane Galli fashioned a vintage nail look for Marion Cotillard, who plays Dillinger's main squeeze, Billie Frechette, a humble coat-check girl who still managed to pretty herself.

"Michael Mann, our director, his attention to detail is phenomenal," Galli said. "When I got the project, I read everything and anything I could about the Thirties. During the Depression, women, even if they had no money, they did their nails in red, and they also wore their lipstick."

An upside-down French manicure was popularized after nail polish derived from automobile paint hit the market, Galli explained. Nail tips were shaped in ovals and rounded tape was placed on the nails' moons to keep color off the cuticles' edges. "They didn't want to paint the moon because they believed that was the part where the nail was breathing," she said.

Recreating the nail style wasn't easy. Galli asked many manicurists if they could give Cotillard the retro French and didn't find anyone familiar with the process. Instead, she did it herself and chose MAC Shirelle nail lacquer in the spirit of the reds frequent on women of the Thirties.

Galli isn't the only makeup pro unearthing past nail decor. Versions of the moon manicure recently have been worn by models on runways, including the fall 2009 presentations of Ruffian, Thakoon, FORM, ThreeAsFour and Christian Dior, for which Pat McGrath channeled Twenties flapper girls.

Will the French nail flip go from celluloid and catwalk to the commoner?

Galli isn't sure. What about the pencil-thin eyebrows widespread at the time? Even Mann let that detail slip, so Cotillard was spared a full-scale brow shaving.
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