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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
The name of D.W Griffith holds a special significance in cinema. Some
of the greatest motion picture legends have paid tribute to his
pioneering film-making, including John Ford and Orson Welles. Notably,
Charles Chaplin once described Griffith as "The Teacher Of Us All." The
director's unending praise is certainly not undeserved, his most
revered films including the controversial 'The Birth of a Nation
(1915),' 'Intolerance (1916),' 'Broken Blossoms (1919),' 'Way Down East
(1920)' and 'Orphans of the Storm (1921),' many of which I have yet to
have the pleasure of seeing. Surprisingly, Griffith didn't start his
movie career in directing at all. After he failed in his bid to become
a playwright, the young man became an actor, finally discovering his
niche in film directing.
However, before he started producing his spectacular feature-length epics, Griffith was a very prolific director of short films. Between 1908 and 1913, Griffith worked for the Biograph Company, producing a mammoth 450 films in the space of only six years, sometimes averaging a rate of two or three in a week. These Biographs allowed the young director to polish his film-making skills, experimenting with revolutionary techniques such as cross-cutting, camera movement and close-ups that would later become commonplace in practically every movie that followed. As we move through Griffith's early works, we watch as his short films slowly become more and more elaborate and ambitious. 'Those Awful Hats (1909)' is one of early shorts, and was really meant as nothing more than an amusing three-minute comedic skit to precede a film screening and remind the women in the audience to remove their head-wear.
The film is basically played out in a single take, with an audience of attentive cinema-goers seated comfortably in a movie theatre. Using a process known as the Dunning-Pomeroy Matte process, Griffith was able to split the frame into two sections, splicing the film-within-a-film onto the same screen. With the audience members seated peacefully, their film enjoyment is suddenly disrupted when a lady wearing an elaborate hat seats herself in the front row, blocking everybody else's view of the screen. There are gestures of protest, but the women is evidently completely oblivious, and the male audience members become further exasperated as several more women take their places at the front of the theatre, each wearing a more sophisticated piece of head-wear than the last. The scene turns into an enjoyable farce when a large steel contraption lowers from the ceiling to confiscate the troublesome hats, the machine inadvertently taking one of the women to the ceiling with it.
Aside from the historical significance of its being an early Griffith Biograph, there is nothing particularly phenomenal about 'Those Awful Hats.' However, it does effectively display the director's unique creative vision, proving if his later films left you in any doubt that the genius' mind does house a healthy sense of humour.
This three-minute farce is one of the most unique and unusual Biograph
shorts. Those Awful Hats sees DW Griffith, father of film narrative,
doing what is virtually a non-narrative film. A one-liner, basically,
giving a message to the audience in a fresh, entertaining form that
they would take notice of.
This is also Griffith's only special effects film in the mode of Georges Melies. Melies' trick shot shorts had been widely imitated throughout the 1900s, although by 1909 they were dying out as cinema became less of a magic show and more of a storytelling medium. Griffith not only makes smooth use of a few Melies techniques (superimposition and stop motion) but has also absorbed some of the older pioneer's extreme and absurd comedy style, with the huge grabbing machine. Griffith was just making passing use of the style though he was rather more subtle (for the era) in his regular shorts.
What is more interesting today is that this is one of the earliest films in which cinema references itself. You have a screen audience being watched by a real audience, and a film within a film. Nothing really symbolic here this isn't Fritz Lang but it does show you how much of an institution cinema was becoming, as well as being a rare glimpse into what a movie theatre of the time would look like (minus the grabby thing of course).
Although his point-and-shoot approach has been denounced as theatrical (although it is no more so than that that of his contemporaries), at this point Griffith was really starting to experiment with the infinite possibilities of depth within the frame. The screen was a stage for Griffith, but it was the biggest and most versatile stage imaginable, into which a street, a beach or even another theatre could be placed. The idea of a "show-within-a-show" may date back to Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew, or perhaps even earlier, but at this stage in the game Griffith's introduction of theatrical and literary devices was moving the medium forward, not holding it back.
When you recall that it was made as a public service announcement, in the same vein as those "turn off your phone" things you get in cinemas today, Those Awful Hats is simple yet effective. It doesn't show you Griffith the master of film technique, just a functional short by a practical filmmaker.
I wonder if this was a major problem a long time ago. I'll bet it was.
I am referring to the subject matter of this early and very short D.W.
Griffith film: rude people wearing big hats to the theater and blocking
the view of those in back of them.
Considering that people have probably been inconsiderate for as long as humans have inhabited the planet, this might have been a problem. Since people haven't word big hats in a generation or two, a lot of people don't remember "big hat days." Whatever, it makes for an amusing little film with a unique suggestion to dealing with the problem! If people were slow to get the message, the director put in print at the end.
The special-effects aren't exactly state-of-the-art for today's audiences but I bet they shocked the film-goers 99 years ago, when this was seen.
those awful hats has a surprisingly funny and witty plot, despite it's
short lenght and real purpose. the film serves as an experiment for
griffith, who tries out new and interesting things, succeeding
brilliantly, i think. the early trick with 'film on film', what we call
the blue screen technique today, works well for it's time. i'm curious
about the restoring process, and overall about griffith, i have no
sufficient info to give an in depth analysis, i just have to count on
what i see on the screen. the bucket works nicely. i would be certainly
interested to learn more about the making of this short.
surprisingly good, really. i don't know anything about film technology, so this from a guy who just likes films; 7/10
the first griffith film i saw, more to be seen in the weeks to come.
Early film short directed by D.W. Griffith; it might be more accurately
called a "short short" at barely three minutes. It is entertaining,
though. The director is saying, "Ladies, please remove your hats!" Why?
Because you can't match a movie when some woman parks herself in front
of your seat, and leaves her HUGE hat on.
There are some early silent film stars in attendance - obviously Flora Finch, Linda Arvidson, and Florence Laurence. Mack Sennett is the man with the finny nose and the checkered suit. The men are not easy to identify, with their backs turned; but, that must be Robert Harron in the lower right of your screen, going crazy over "Those Awful Hats".
The film really MOVES all the time, there is movement ALL OVER the screen. Ms. Arvidson recalled, in her autobiography, "How many times that scene was rehearsed and taken! It grew so late and we were all so sleepy that we stopped counting. But pay for overtime evolved from this picture."
***** Those Awful Hats (1/25/09) D.W. Griffith ~ Flora Finch, Mack Sennett, Robert Harron, Linda Arvidson
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A very amusing D. W. Griffith short featuring an appearance by future producer/director Mack Sennett. The entire 3-minute short, Those Awful Hats, takes place in a nickelodeon as we see an audience watching a movie up on the screen (one of the earliest depictions of a film-within-a-film scene). Most of the action concerns ladies who won't take off their hats. There is one particular lady who gets so obnoxious about it a steel bucket takes it from her! After the other ladies take theirs off, another lady keeps making a scene by keeping hers on, so that bucket then takes her up! The end. Well worth seeing for fans of Griffith, Sennett, and anyone interested in early movie history. I managed to see this one on YouTube.
This ultra-short film from movie pioneer D. W. Griffith isn't so much a
film as a public service announcement. In the early years of cinema
there were no restrictions on women wearing hats in a theatre (although
men had to remove theirs) a situation that led to some heated moments
due to the size of some ladies' bonnets.
The film takes place in a tiny cinema, and Griffith makes use of a split-screen technique to show the second film taking place on the cinema's screen. It looks fairly primitive today, but was probably quite effective in its day. As the film unfolds, more and more ladies wearing increasingly outlandish hats take their seats at the front of the cinema, blocking the view of those sitting behind. Mass pandemonium almost breaks out until the kind of bucket contraption used by diggers descends from the ceiling to remove one lady's hat before accidentally picking up a second lady who is still attached to hers.
It's a fairly amusing picture, and Griffith, who also wrote the piece, displays a sense of humour that he is not normally noted for, but at two-and-a-half minutes it's definitely as long as it needs to be.
This ultra-short film (only 2 minutes long) uses very rudimentary techniques, but it's rather interesting. It's about a theater full of people watching a movie, so there are two different screens combined into one image, and while the 'special effect' is not very good by the standards of later eras, it was probably a clever idea for its time. The light-hearted nature of this feature is an interesting contrast to the ultra-serious films that Griffith usually made.
I, personally, believe in common human decency, and in order to be a
human of decency I believe that you shouldn't start a whole fuss when
going to a film in the theater. However, right in front of me while I
was watching this film, there was a woman in the theater wearing a
ridiculously large hat! My complaint about this caused a whole string
of events that kept me from properly viewing the film!
What I DID see of the film, however, was quite interesting and experimental. Definitely impressive for such an old film! The film actually included some wildly creative special effects and can be used as an early example of more satirical cinema.
8/10 for the film...1/10 for the time I had watching the film.
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