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Max's Hat (1913)

Le chapeau de Max (original title)

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Max has been invited to meet with his in-laws and must dress formally, but each hat he attempts to wear for the occasion gets destroyed.

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Max has been invited to meet with his in-laws and must dress formally, but each hat he attempts to wear for the occasion gets destroyed.

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Short | Comedy

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25 October 1913 (France)  »

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Max's Hat  »

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1.33 : 1
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Cinema pioneer Max Linder invents the gross-out gag
5 March 2003 | by See all my reviews

As a silent comedy star Max Linder predated even Charlie Chaplin, who is known to have admired his predecessor. It's too bad that Linder's films are so rarely revived, for although the humor is generally fairly mild Max himself is quite charming, and distinctly different from any of his successors in American silent comedy. Unlike the early Chaplin or Lloyd, he is seldom if ever the aggressor in any situation; unlike Laurel & Hardy or Harry Langdon, he usually acts like an adult (though a far from competent one), unlike Buster Keaton, he has a jaunty grin. Raymond Griffith, who was briefly popular in the '20s, resembles Linder somewhat in appearance, but Griffith's approach to comedy was more distanced and satirical. Max is often the butt of the humor in his comedies, and he tends to be a sympathetic protagonist.

At any rate, "Le Chapeau de Max" is a smoothly constructed little film with an easy to follow plot: Max has been invited to meet with his prospective in-laws, presumably to be judged on his suitability to marry their daughter, but every hat he attempts to wear to the meeting is destroyed one way or another. Great premise! Each time he goes back to the milliner's shop to buy another hat, we wonder what's going to happen to THIS one. The hat destruction gags are well conceived and well executed (although the poor quality of the surviving print obscures the action at one crucial point), and the build-up of suspense works nicely in Max's favor; we really want to see him get to his fiancée's house without another mishap.

Eventually Max does arrive with hat intact, and while waiting alone in the sitting room he places his hat carefully on the floor, at which point the family dog immediately enters, lifts his leg and urinates in it. That's right, gross-out gags are not so new as you might believe! And it gets worse: when Max's fiancée and her parents enter he attempts to hide the hat, but her father politely insists on taking it-- and unfortunately, he admires the new hat so much, he tries it on!

This may not sound like your, um, cup of tea, and perhaps it isn't, but however these events may sound when described here, Max Linder manages to make this material engaging and funny. Not to mention surprising!


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