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Those Awful Hats (1909)

Not Rated | | Comedy, Short | 25 January 1909 (USA)
Set in an early cinema house, this comic short illustrates the problems with the gals' hats obscuring the movie patron's line of vision.



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Uncredited cast:
Linda Arvidson ...
Theatre Audience (uncredited)
John R. Cumpson ...
Theatre Audience (uncredited)
Flora Finch ...
Woman with Largest Hat (uncredited)
George Gebhardt ...
Theatre Audience (uncredited)
Theatre Audience (uncredited)
Anita Hendrie ...
Theatre Audience (uncredited)
Charles Inslee ...
Theatre Audience (uncredited)
Arthur V. Johnson ...
Theatre Audience (uncredited)
Theatre Audience (uncredited)
Gertrude Robinson ...
Theatre Audience (uncredited)
Man in Checkered Jacket and Top Hat (uncredited)
Dorothy West ...
Theatre Audience (uncredited)


A gentleman with a top hat, and a series of women with ever more ludicrous hats enter a movie theatre. They refuse to remove them, until a giant bucket forcibly removes one hat. All but one woman then remove their hats, and the bucket returns to remove the woman. Written by Jon Reeves <jreeves@imdb.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

hat blocks view | manners | See All (2) »


Comedy | Short


Not Rated




Release Date:

25 January 1909 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Those Darn Hats  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Several sources (including the BFI) credit Arthur Marvin as the cinematographer instead of G.W. Bitzer See more »

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User Reviews

A funny and amusing experiment!

While often considered as one of the most (if not "THE" most) influential filmmakers of all time, American director D.W. Griffith started his career on film in 1908 in a very humble way: as an actor in short films under the orders of Edwin S. Porter, head of Edison's Film Studio. His luck would change soon, as that very same year he was offered the chance to direct shorts for the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company, and it was there where he truly fell in love with cinema. In less than a year, Griffith learned the job, and soon became a master of the medium's many tricks and techniques. It wouldn't take him too long to start directing short films of excellent quality, a path that would culminate with the making of his first masterpiece, 1915's movie "The Birth of a Nation".

One of the movies where the young Griffith began to show that mastery he had acquired so quickly was the short film "Those Awful Hats", a 2 and a half minutes movie done with the purpose of being a theatrical public service announcement (probably the first of its kind). In "Those Awful Hats", the action takes place in a typical screening in the nickelodeons of cinema's early years. The audience is enjoying a movie when suddenly, a gentleman (Mack Sennett) with a top hat enters the room and tries to find a seat for him and her companion. Loud and impolite, the man bothers the public constantly, however, this is not the audiences' main problem, as a group of ladies takes a seat and refuses to remove their big and ludicrous hats, an action that alienates even more the audience. Fortunately, the theater has an interesting and effective device to remove such undesirable persons: a giant steel bucket.

Told by the heads of Biograph to conceive a short movie to tell the females among the audience to remove their bothersome hats when attending a screening, D.W. Griffith wrote and directed this very creative announcement that was both funny and informative at the same time. Making fun of the big hats that were fashionable in those years, as well as of the lack of courtesy that existed (and sadly still exists today) during screenings, Griffith certainly puts on film what many audiences through the history of cinema have desired to have at least once, a machine created to remove the troublesome persons among the audience. The gag is simple, but very effective, and it constituted one of the earliest examples of a public announcement devised to be shown before the feature films (a concept still used today in most theaters).

Using a mixture of special effects techniques (mainly the Dunning-Pomeroy Matte process), Griffith created a film that shows a very early use of the technique that decades later would evolve into the blue-screen technique. Not only he managed to put a film within a film, but also created an extremely good effect of a steel bucket pulling out stuff (and persons!) from the audience. While this movie was done only a year after his debut ("The Adventures of Dollie", 1908), it already shows that Griffith is comfortable at the director's seat and that he truly knows what he is doing. This is specially notorious not only in his use of special effects, but also in the very natural performances he gets from his cast (which includes many members of his stock company, including his wife, Linda Arvidson), as their reactions are believable and the use of slapstick very appropriate.

While not exactly on the level of many of his better known masterpieces, "Those Awful Hats" is a very funny and historically important short movie that can give us an idea of how was cinema in the past, and how it seems that we as audience haven't changed that much in more than a century of film-making. It is also a testament of the how Griffith was always willing to experiment as all as of the mastery he had achieved in only a year making movies. Despite its short length, "Those Awful Hats" is definitely one of the most enjoyable Griffith shorts, as it shows that the director of Biograph's many drama and adventure films was also able to laugh. 7/10

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