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December 5, 1912 Release: The New York Hat

December 5, 2008

This was the first D.W. Griffith film I saw, The New York Hat. When I watched this silent melodrama  which seems so simple, about a hat, is such a provocative study of small town gossip and women’s role in society. For only being sixteen minutes, the movie jam packs in quite a bit of story.

In a small town a woman leaves a note to her pastor (Lionel Barrymore) asking him to take care of her daughter (the good girl, Mary Pickford) because the husband/father is horrible. The girl sees a New York hat in a window shop and the pastor, loyal to the mother’s wishes, buys the young lady the hat. Of course, gossip spreads through the town and causes great societal upset. Since they are seen alone together, the preacher finally asks her to marry him to quell the rumors.

Ha. I love it. The movie is still as entertaining to me today as it was when I first saw it 12 years ago. That was the magic of Griffith and the actors he was working with – they had a timelessness that despite the now far reaching ideas of 1912 society compared to today, you can relate to the characters 100 years later.

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