Actress Roles by James Searles
The view of women in film has shifted over its more than 100-year history. In 1905, the name of the actress was not printed on movie posters. Charlie Chaplin said that women were not important in his films. He had only met one or two actresses who were his equal, he said. The names of actresses were not even listed in early film credits. That was to change.
An early film periodical, The Motion Picture Story Magazine, got an inquiry asking who the "little lady" was whom they had mentioned in a previous issue. In the magazine's Letters Column, the answer appeared that it was the “Biograph Girl,” Florence Lawrence. Legend has it that the questioning letter was actually from the Motion Picture Story’s rival publisher, Vitograph. Nevertheless, Biograph apparently used this opportunity as a PR stunt.
Actress Mary Pickford, the Biograph Girl’s successor, dominated film from 1914 to 1924. Pickford was able to force the male company presidents to yield to her salary demands. She wanted a salary higher than, not merely equal to, that of Charlie Chaplin. With her golden curls and feminine appeal of “Little Mary,” they gave in. Pickford obviously had made the connection between the studios’ attempts to keep their female actresses virtually anonymous, and their desire to keep those same actresses’ salaries equally unremarkable.
But, Pickford obviously was an exception in the movie industry. Flash forward to Lights of Sante Fe, 1944. At the top in large bold letters, Roy Rogers and Trigger the Wonder Horse are given star billing. At the bottom of the page in letters about half the size, Gabby Hayes is given credit. Under that line in still smaller print, we find Dale Evans.
Trying to figure out where we are now is not so simple. In 2001, men worked twice as many days as women in live theater and TV productions. Men held 62 percent of roles. Women over forty years of age had 27 percent of female roles and just 10 percent of all roles. There is no cut-off age for men. You can cast a 50 year old actor with a 30 year old actress and it works. For women, the cut-off point is age 35.
Basically, it comes down to return on investment for the studios. If the actress proves to be a big draw, the studio will run with her. Erin Brockovich, 2000, featuring Julia Roberts, had a $125.6 million take. Roberts got the best actress Oscar that year. In 2001, The Princess Diaries, with Anne Hathaway and Julie Andrews; Legally Blonde, featuring Reese Witherspoon; The Others, with Nicole Kidman, and Lara Croft Tomb Raider, starring Angelina Jolie, each grossed about $100 million.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding, 2002, was shot on a budget of $5 million with a box of $241 million. It starred Nia Vardalos as Toula. The implications of the movie are important. A low budget film made a big hit. The movie told a story of the problems with cultural conflicts when a Greek marries someone outside her normal world. An unknown actress made a big splash.
2003 reflects a continued trend for expanded star status for women. Chicago is the big blockbuster of the year. The one thing that studios like better than Oscars is box office yield. The two main female roles in Chicago, Roxie and Velma, played by Renee Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones, outshine Billie, played by Richard Gere. Are we seeing a trend towards stronger parts for women? Certainly compared to the beginnings of film in the early 1900s, a limited measure of equality has evolved. Back to topics
Milwaukee International Film Festival
Across the U.S. and elsewhere, film festivals have been recognized as key cultural institutions on par with museums and performing arts organizations. As Wisconsin’s only eleven day international film festival and one of the fastest growing events of its kind in the nation, the mission of the non-profit Milwaukee International Film Festival (MIFF) is to present high quality, thought provoking films from around the world and here in the Midwest. An integral piece of MIFF’s mission is to educate the community that we are each individuals working to survive, provide for families and create positive influences for our community, despite differences in our language, skin color or religious affiliations.
The landmark fifth annual Milwaukee International Film Festival will take place Sept. 20-30, 2007 at Landmark’s Oriental and Downer Theatres, the Times Cinema, the Milwaukee Art Museum and Discovery World at Pier Wisconsin.
In 2006 MIFF opened with The Queen starring Helen Mirren, included a tribute to filmmaker Harold Ramis and closed with the Hong Kong musical Perhaps Love.
This popular programming track offers essential films from around the world, inlcluding award-winning films and films with famous actors such as Judi Dench, Heath Ledger, Forest Whitaker and Penelope Cruz.
A series spotlighting the work of emerging visionaries from around the world. Past films include 13 Tzameti and Wristcutters-A love story.
Midwest Filmmaker Competition
The first competition of its kind for films made by Midwest filmmakers featuring cash awards, the Midwest Filmmaker Competition is a celebratory gathering point for the Midwest film community featuring screenings, panels and parties. The main initiative of the Midwest Filmmaker Competition is to promote and develop Milwaukee as the independent filmmaking center of the Midwest. Past films include Reeseville and American Blackout.
The festival features more than film from around the world, such as discussions and talk backs with filmmakers and panelists covering significant film subject matter, currently at the top of public discussion. MIFF’s Reel Flix educational program offers students a fun way to screen MIFF films, discuss educational curriculum and explore the possibilities of the independent art and film industry at the Milwaukee Art Museum. The Student Screenwriting Competition is an opportunity for aspiring writers and filmmakers attending Milwaukee area high schools to explore film and the arts as a career opportunity, gaining insight and guidance from professionals involved and experienced in the industry.
MIFF’S Significance for Milwaukee
With the new state legislation that provides the best tax incentives in the country for film producers to make their movies in Wisconsin, the film festival highlights Milwaukee’s film industry, showcasing the city as a prime location for shooting with a thriving community of skilled professionals. These generous tax credits put the city of Milwaukee, our lakeshore and wonderful architecture on the map for the film industry, creating a new economic impact and industry for the city and state. An international film festival in Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s largest metropolitan area, is a significant magnet for attracting and retaining film production and future industry professionals in Milwaukee and Wisconsin. Back to topics
BEST LOCAL FESTIVAL! Wednesday, February 1, 2006
Milwaukee Short Film Festival
Location: Milwaukee, WI
Wednesday, February 1, 2006. When one thinks of great moviemaking hotspots, Milwaukee may not be the first city that springs to mind. But thanks to a growing moviemaking community and a hunger for creative art, Beer City is making its mark in the cinematic world (see MM issue #58, Vol 12.) The Milwaukee Short Film Festival is taking advantage of that thirst, proving that there is an audience eager for short films.
spaceThe festival started 10 years ago as a program on public access television. "The festival began as a showcase for local experimental filmmakers and students from the local film department to have their work shown in the city," says fest founder Ross Bigley. Since its inception, the festival has grown exponentially. In its fourth year it moved from public access to a coffee shop and doubled its attendance over the next two years. The one-night event is now held at Times Cinema and is known worldwide. According to Bigley, 80 percent of the films are out-of-state or foreign-made, but he says there is still an advantage for local filmmakers who enter: A separate competition, wherein the Best Milwaukee-made movie is shown to a wide audience at the Milwaukee International Film Festival.
spaceCheck out Moviemaker magazine at: www.moviemaker.comce Back to topics
Va Va Voom… Remember Those Girls? by Peter Fraser
Back before the pornography industry took the wrappings and bow off the old tease and turned sexuality into carnality and corruption for the masses, bawdiness still had some humor attached to it. Burlesque offered Americans and Brits a thumb-to-the-nose challenge of those highbrow notions of respectability that we now clump together under the term “Victorian”--the wine and cheese elitism that likes religion without blood and romance without kisses.
Burlesque started in the 1840s in England among the lower and middle classes, and quickly came to America, pleasing the same demographic group, and particularly the men, those hard-working stiffs who couldn’t afford the opera and theater and ballet (and who wouldn’t care to go even if they could).
It didn’t begin as a bump and grind show, although sex, the kind decent people laugh about, was always a subtext. Burlesque usually meant a show that parodied the social habits and performances of the upper classes. The burlesque show of the 1880s, when the art form was in its maturity, might feature an ensemble performance of interwoven songs and gags, followed by a series of self-contained comedy acts, concluded by a longer musical number (a “burletto”) that would spoof a famous play (Much Ado about the Merchant of Venice or The Mick Hair-Do). Watch an old Busby Berkeley musical like 42nd Street and you get some hint of what the old burlesque shows came to be. Many of the most-beloved comedians of the past century learned their craft through burlesque training – Jackie Gleason, Fanny Brice, Bert Lahr, W.C. Fields, Mae West, Red Skelton, Bob Hope and others.
As for the chorus girls and striptease, yes, that was half the fun, of course, especially in an era of long dresses and dour suffragettes. But the audience laughed and went home to tuck up their children’s covers and kiss them one more time. Back to topics
Bare Breasts, Heavy Breathing and Hollywood Filmmaking by Peter Fraser
The reason Adam and Eve felt the need to cover themselves after the Fall had to do with what was going on in their minds; the problem was not human nakedness, nor sexuality.
The problem with the display of sexuality in film likewise has to do with the mind. Nudity in a film is wrong when it displays a corrupt mind with a corrupt purpose.
After all, filmmakers and performers may just have “dirty” minds and so make “dirty” films designed to appeal to other “dirty-minded” people, or designed to corrupt innocent-minded people into accepting or becoming “dirty-minded” people. And, I’m not sure we can document this by appealing to how many times a breast is revealed, or how much heavy-breathing steams the camera lens. I am dead sure that no Hollywood or government-regulated rating system has been able to get at this.
Take two examples.
First, the dreadful first sequel to The Matrix which featured Keanu Reaves and Carrie-Anne Moss making love in some egg-shaped cave while a large group of revelers dance to a primitive beat outside. As a follow-up to a film about the discovery of the messianic “One,” who comes to redeem his imprisoned people, this scene in this film was about as base as any “one” can get. “Ah, so my suspicions were true! The Matrix was not about some spiritual quest to save humankind – it was really about how “hot” Keanu Reaves and Carrie-Anne Moss look in black leather.” Yes, indeed, that is what that one scene made abundantly clear. It kyboshed the whole venture; it pulled the curtain aside and showed how little was going on in the head of the great Oz. The problem, of course, is that relatively little flesh was shown in that silly “egg” relative to the stink coming from the mental dirt at Warner Brothers.
Second, take one of the best religious films ever made, Bruce Beresford’s Black Robe (1991). Beresford adapts the film from a Brian Moore novel documenting the spiritual struggles of a genuine saint, the 17th-century Jesuit missionary to Canadian Indians, Noel Chabanel. Three times in the film, the heroic priest, “the black robe,” is tempted by the sexual act. Once, it is at night across a smoky tent, an encounter he watches between the chief and his wife, then its his glimpse of lovemaking between a fallen novice and the chief’s daughter, then its when the daughter drops her wrap to seduce a guard to allow the rescue of her friends. Each incident is absolutely necessary to convey both plot and theme. Each is handled with visual discretion. All together, the three scenes become part of the priest’s pilgrimage toward holiness, his eventual embrace of the Indian people, as they are, and his offer of love and baptism to them.
No rule or regulation can discriminate between the display of sexuality in those two films. If rules would be applied, Black Robe would undoubtedly be censored ahead of Matrix Reloaded.
Thus the problem. All regulation can do is highlight the display of sexuality in a film. After that, we need such old-fashioned ideas as discretion, prudence, sensibility, and taste to carry us to the higher ground. Back to topics
Now Really – a Moth Man? by Peter Fraser
Sometimes films are more interesting for what they represent than for what they are. Such was the case with Penny Marshall’s Riding In Cars with Boys, a film I reviewed in November, and such is the case now with Mark Pellington’s The Mothman Prophecies.
I had fun searching the web for background material on this film, going from paranormal sites documenting all kinds of weird phenomena, to a draft of a book about government secret operations employing “men in black,” to a discussion of the integrity of the Shroud of Turin. My search brought back fond memories of Larry the Legend Johnson’s graveyard-shift radio program in Chicago in the late sixties and early seventies. Back in those days when my life had all the luster of an AMC Pacer, the appeal of the weird held my attention even more than Professional Wrestling and Roller Derby.
The Mothman Prophecies is a reasonably well-made film telling an utterly absurd story supposedly about phenomena that took hold of the tiny town of Point Pleasant, West Virginia, in 1966-67. It is “based on” an utterly absurd book by a UFO hunter named John A. Keel who claimed objectivity in documenting this real-life episode of The X-Files about strange sightings and prophesies that climax with the collapse of a bridge over the Ohio River.
Why either UFO’s or “powers and principalities” should care a shred about a bridge in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, is the first good question to ask. The more interesting question, however, is why the old legend of the “black dog” – remember the legend evoked in The Hound of the Baskervilles – should revisit American cinema in 2002 with the dog being a giant moth creature. You would think either the scientists on the planet Zircon or the Prince of Darkness, himself, would have more self-respect.
What we seem to have here is another case of people groping for something more sublime than the Taco Bell wrapper on the passenger seat of their car – a friend of mine would say the car is colored either burgundy or a metallic gray. Nobody wants to tell or hear stories anymore about farmers struggling against the elements and cruel mortgage holders. We want stories about sadomasochistic serial killers or rape victims or teenagers making love as luxury vessels sink or hobbits pursued by wraiths or mothmen terrorizing Richard Gere.
By the way, Richard Gere stars in this film, although just about anyone could have been cast in his role since the camera spends most of its energy mapping out the pores on his face while he holds a telephone, drives a car, or bends over a bathroom sink. Like a television soap opera, The Mothman Prophecies seems more concerned with what people think they see and hear than what they do see and hear. This is to keep you from reasoning through the plot as an intelligent human being.
Just as the paranoia in the 1950s over nuclear testing and the space program fed escapist genres like the musical and the Biblical spectacular, and nightmare genres like science fiction/horror and film noir, so the new millenium has begun already to show people’s uneasiness with the prospects of a shifting American culture in a techno-age.
The world is out of control for the average cheesehead.
In this, the present American indulgence in the weird bears some resemblance to childish enjoyment of fairy tales. Hansel and Gretal cooked that old witch, spited their rotten stepmother, and lived happily ever after. How pleasing a tale that is for a little boy or girl with a rotten home life and depressing future--isn’t that the Harry Potter phenomenon, after all? Don’t all little people in bland, computer-animated modern homes with little in the way of genuine affection coming from “their primary caretakers” wish they could ride off to Hogwart’s school where the lines between good and evil are clearly drawn, and where battles are, indeed, scheduled and resolved?
If you don’t mind a B-grade thriller, full of holes but atmospheric, then go see this film. (Try not to sit in front of people who must offer a running commentary, however, like I did. The film isn’t worth that, nor is your $8.50.) And, if you go, do realize before floating away on this cloud of intellectual suicide that many folks want stories like this to be true. Then, after all, their lives may mean more than fast-food wrappers and old Starbuck’s coffee cardboards.
Peter Fraser is Professor of English and Chair of the Department of English and Foreign Language at Wisconsin Lutheran College in Milwaukee. He has authored two books on film and culture. Back to topics
Production Notes on DISEMBODIED
In 2004, after a series of false starts on other projects, filmmaker Ross Bigley began production on the first feature length film from Dirty Job Films, DISEMBODIED. During February of that year Ross worked on the main story with fellow filmmaker Mariko Ujihisa who was locked in as the lead. Shooting began three weeks later with the film's main purpose being to keep everything in small manageable sizes, the crew was just Ross and his Director of Photography, P. Ryan Nelsen, and there were no more than three actors being used in any given scene. It was treated as a short film, except that it had far more scenes and more shooting days scheduled. Just shooting on weekends and replacing actors and locations as those scenes checked off.
Shooting most Saturdays the production breezed through winter, but problems arose when Mariko had scheduling conflicts as she was trying to finish her film studies. We finally got the last of her scenes completed in September of that year, just before she moved back to her home in Japan. With shooting finally done Ross began editing the film, but changes and challenges, both personal and film related, were just around the corner.
Ross's mother was diagnosed as having a terminal form of cancer and was told that she had only a 2% chance of making it through the holidays.
This while the film wasn't working out. The scenes between the two leads were not as good as he had hoped.
Ross's mother went through her chemo treatments, Christmas and New Years came and her doctors told her that the cancer was in remission.
Ross finished his cut of the film and screened it just after New Years, his opinions were confirmed. It did not work as well as he had hoped. Mariko's scenes without John were good, as were John's without Mariko's but together there was little chemistry. And those were the last things shot with them. Too late to correct with Mariko back home in Japan. It was decided then that Ross would recast Mariko's role, rewrite those pages and hopefully shoot before winter was over so coverage could match what was shot a year prior. But not only had he have to recast this film, he had to recast another as well.
Last summer as Ross was waiting on Mariko to conclude her commitment he began work on his second feature, SORE LOSERS. Everything was shot but for two scenes by August of that year. The lead actress of that film got sick, and then she dropped out in order to save money for a European trip. So Ross had two films shot at the same time and he had to replace both lead actresses. He thought that the best thing to do was find one actress to do both. Months passed and he could not find an ideal actress to do both, so he settled on finishing SORE LOSERS because he was going to lose a location if he didn't shoot by April of 2005. With that out of the way he focused on finding the new lead for DISEMBODIED.
Unfortunately his mother's health took another bad turn, the cancer moved to her brain. Doctors found a tumor. Because the chemo treatments were given via a port in her neck, the only place the cancer had to go was up. They found it early and operated, but because of all her body went through in such a short time it was a hard recovery.
In June he found his actress in the extraordinary Mary E. Morales. Production resumed. Ross got Michael T. Vollmann, another local filmmaker to assist him in getting everything done.
But by July his mother was back in the hospital. She contacted a virus and was told that she wouldn't live through the night. His brother and sister came and they stayed with her, through that night and longer. She held on for a week. After her funeral Ross wanted to get back into the film to keep busy, he planned out that the whole reshoot might be done in one weekend.
David Overbeck offered his services as a cameraman to replace Ryan who left Milwaukee to attend film school in Boston. And in that first weekend of August they shot a total of 50 pages out of the 60 needed to complete the film. Due to some scheduling conflicts not all of it could get done, they did another few hours in September, but production was halted yet again.
On October 2nd of 2005 as Ross was crossing Brady Street he was struck by a car. It was a hit and run. He was confined to a bed the rest of the month. In November they managed to get another few hours when actor Robert W.C. Kennedy was free and with that Ross began editing this new version of DISEMBODIED. He worked on it through the holidays and produced a rough cut in February of 2006. It was much improved but still needed work, some scenes needed punching up and it was decided that there needed to be pick ups. Mary became free for a short time, so Michael T. Vollmann shot for a few hours one day while David Overbeck was vacationing in Japan. The film was pretty much set and Mary began work on the musical score through the summer of 2006. Back to topics
Early Black Film History by James Searles
The history of blacks in film can be defined by the evolution of the characters. In 1903, blacks were played by whites in black face. By the roaring 20’s, the movie industry had shifted allowing blacks to appear in movies – but only as comic relief. In the 30’s, black actors appeared as field hands or servants. The 1940s found still another shift – the black entertainer. Finally in 1950, we saw real character development.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin or Slavery Days, 13 min., 1903, was made by the Thomas Edison Company, Edwin Porter, director. A full length movie was about 14 minutes in 1903. The movie was shot in a studio relying heavily on a set from a typical “Tom show.” White actors in black face had the major “black” parts – with blacks acting only as extras. Even at the depiction of a slave auction, the blacks couldn’t help dancing. The action suggests that both the studio and the viewers believed this to be historically accurate. Other movies had black-faced white actors with overdone make-up playing the parts of ‘good’ Negro, a black buffoon, a mammy or a large black aggressive male not knowing his rank in society.
By the roaring 20’s, the movies headed towards a feeling of greater authenticity. Blacks began to get roles. Mathew Beard had the role of Stymie in the “Our Gang” series. He got that name because the director, Robert McGowan, claimed that Beard always “stymied” (unintentionally frustrated) him on every take. Mathew Beard said about his “Our Gang” portrayal: “We knew even then that ‘Stymie’ was an insult to our race, but it was the depression and I had seven sisters and six brothers at home.”
By 1930, the roles for blacks had shifted to servants, field hands or mammies. In Old Kentucky, 1935, Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson shows some breathtaking footwork. In a great scene he teaches Will Rogers how to tap dance. There is more than a little racism in the story, typical of Hollywood films of the era. It was the last film that Will Rogers was in – he died shortly thereafter in a plane crash. Again we find ‘Bojangles’ in Little Colonel, 1935, playing the part of Shirley Temple’s trusted servant. In Gone with the Wind, 1939, we see Hattie McDaniel play the part of Mammy, a pivotal part in the movie. In Showboat, 1935, we see Paul Robeson as Joe, the field hand, loading cotton.
Feel the rhythm of the 30’s. Stepin Fetchit (Lincoln Perry) was born in 1902, 1896 or 1998 depending on which source you read. He took his stage name from his favorite race horse. In the movies he was a subservient, bug-eyed, slow shuffling, dim-witted black. With a vaudeville background, he had superb timing and comic talent. His name became synonymous with degrading portrayals of blacks. At the start of his career, the civil rights groups complained about the stereotyped image. Later he received accolades for his part in opening doors for black actors. He was awarded the Special Image Award by the NAACP. And elected to the Black Filmmaker’s Hall of Fame in 1978. He was the first black actor to become a millionaire, a star in his own right. He was signed by Fox films - featured alongside other stars such as Will Rogers. At the height of his career, he had 12 cars and 16 servants, but was bankrupt by 1947… fortune squandered. His work is rarely seen today, often edited out of TV prints - hardly fair. Get past the “historic baggage” and find a highly competent actor with great comic timing and talent. He cared about his work, suing CBS in 1970 after the network showed clips of his films out of context. History has been twisted. He was slammed for taking the only roles open.
The 1940s saw another shift with black entertainers appearing in films. Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, etc. appeared in white movies mostly to entertain. The jazz was hot. The pre-war comedy (Going Places, 1938) of manners at the race track had Louis Armstrong singing “Jeepers Creepers.” The casual acceptance of denigration of blacks is reflected by two race track gamblers addressing Armstrong as Uncle Tom when they meet him.
In The Cabin in the Sky, 1949, Armstrong played the part of the trumpeter. The speaking parts were small. The women were slender, fair skinned and usually singing scat tunes or love ballads. A scat tune was a song without lyrics – doo doo doo waw! Blacks were allowed to have a family onscreen that resembled mainstream America. They were close but not quite equal to their white counterparts.
Pinky, 1949, was a revolution with a screenplay that told a story of racial conflicts and treatment. Pinky was a light skinned black. She passed for a white in a Northern nursing school. Returning to the South, she fell in love with a white doctor who knew nothing about her black heritage. Ironically, Pinky was played by a white starlet, Jeanne Crain. Evelyn gets special mention as a vicious Southern matron. The director, Elia Kazan, is out of style because he named names in the McCarthy witch-hunts. His brilliant talents as a director show in this film. He had the courage to tackle racial prejudice head-on. In Gentleman’s Agreement, he directed a movie showing a deeply prejudiced South where black girls were attacked on the streets. Shops refuse them service – strong language.
The 1950s changed the black character in ways never before possible. Black actors emerged as stars. The roles became more sympathetic to the black race. Hollywood shifts with the color green. There was profit to be made. With more money spent on black film, stars such as Sidney Poitier, Dorothy Dandridge and Nat King Cole emerged. The movies shifted towards drama with anything possible for black roles in this era. The new films shouted for social change and hit new comedic direction. Take a look at No Way Out, 1950, or Cry Beloved Country, 1951, to see Sidney Poitier in action, climaxing with him being the first male black actor to get an Oscar for Lillies in the Field, 1963.
If Stepin Fetchit had tried to be the hero, kiss the girl, ride off into the sunset, the studio would have laughed at him – tossed him out the door. He took the part of the bug-eyed black comic, instead – and made a million dollars…real money in the 1930’s. Stymie acted in Our Gang because they needed the money – depression days. Hattie McDaniel used the side door at the studios – got the parts. The early actors opened windows for the next – not a bad legacy.
Editors note: The original print of Uncle Tom's Cabin is in the Library of Congress. Back to topics
Ladies in Hats by Rev. Catherine B. Balistrieri-Busateri
Hats, hats, and more hats! Well-dressed women always wore hats and gloves. It was the proper attire for any occasion. From going grocery shopping to going out on the town, hats were in fashion. Nobody seems to wear hats these days unless it is a baseball cap or a hat to block the sun.
I love hats. I like the statement that they make. I actually look good in most hats. Too bad I can never find any that fit me because my head is too small. Even baseball caps don't fit. I know what you're going to say, “you can adjust the band." Wrong! Sure, I can adjust the band so it won't fly off my head; but then I end up with more hat then head. The result is looking like a jiffy pop! Not very attractive.
Take Hollywood, for instance. Think of all the big movie stars. Stars like Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Katherine Hepburn and Audrey Hepburn. They were often seen in hats on-screen and off. In addition, who can forget what Jackie Kennedy did for the “pill box” hat? The women of the royal family in England are obliged to wear hats to certain events. American women wear hats to the Kentucky Derby. Otherwise, you rarely see hats.
Of course to go with the hats, one had to wear gloves. Gloves of various lengths were quite popular. Today women wear gloves, but not as a fashion statement, it’s to keep warm. There are still several formal affairs where long white gloves are requisite. Like the debutante ball. I wore long white gloves in 1969 when I graduated from Holy Angels Academy. It was an old tradition and mandatory. I remember them being bothersome; however, they looked rather cool.
I can remember ladies hat shops, they were called millinery stores. Department stores had large areas for hats. My mother used to make hats, I still have one of hers, and it’s called a birdcage. There were many different types of hats, and just as many adornments for them. Some were with veils, others with feathers, ribbons and fake flowers. Even imitation fruit was used, like cherries and grapes (Carmen Miranda wore bananas on her head).
In many churches, hats were compulsory. You would see all kinds of hats on Sunday. Ladies wore them proudly. They weren't just wearing a hat they were wearing an attitude, putting on airs, making a statement that said “look at me I'm special I'm wearing a hat.”
You can also hide in a hat. If you have to run a quick errand and don't feel like getting made up and doing your hair, you can wear a hat and dark glasses and hope you don’t run into anyone. Hats are perfect for bad hair days, or if you're spying on someone, and you don't want to be recognized. Borsalino hats are from Italy and are sold in a tube. With so many categories of hats, the list is endless, I could go on forever, but I won't.
Think of the role hats played in films. What would the final scene of Casablanca be like if Ingrid Bergman was not wearing a hat? Humphrey Bogart too, for that matter. Hats added an extra dimension to the character; they played a part in the drama. Women could look mysterious, playful, seductive, or flirtatious. Remember when Scarlet O’Hara put her hat on backwards to flirt with Rhett Butler? Without the hat, there would be no scene. Hats in cinema have set the trends for women. A woman could look like her favorite movie star if only she had the same hat.
I cannot imagine hats coming back in style like they once were. Today a woman’s hair is her crowning glory. If you are not blessed with great hair, then you're out of luck. Because ladies don't were hats anymore. Back to topics