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  • For a number of reasons The New York Hat is among the most familiar titles of all the short films D.W. Griffith made for Biograph during his apprenticeship. It marks Griffith's last collaboration with Mary Pickford before her departure for the Famous Players Company, and it presents a youthful Lionel Barrymore in a prominent role as the pastor who takes a benevolent interest in Mary. Sharp-eyed viewers might also catch a glimpse of Lillian Gish in a brief bit outside the church. History and casting aside, the movie itself holds up quite well as entertainment.

    From the very first scene Mary has our sympathy. The death of her mother has left her in the care of a sour, miserly father who is not attentive to her needs, and when she receives a fancy hat as a gift it clearly means a great deal to her. As the story unfolds we become increasingly involved in her situation, indignant at her mean-spirited father, and irritated with the town gossips who assume the worst about the pastor's intentions towards Mary. The age of the film is forgotten when Mary's father rips her beloved hat apart and throws it to the ground. We feel for her, we want to see justice done, and we want to see that old miser brought low. In this regard, the ending is especially satisfying.

    It's interesting to find that this early work features thematic elements that would recur in films by both director and star. Several of Mary Pickford's strongest vehicles present her as a lower class girl who is painfully aware of her status, and longs for acceptance by her 'betters' -- who, as often as not, are snobs unworthy of her admiration. Griffith, meanwhile, went on to demonstrate a special contempt for busybodies in his later work, such as the "reformer ladies" in the modern story of Intolerance.

    Still, while the gossips of The New York Hat richly earn our scorn, the sympathetic pastor's actions look naive at best. Shouldn't he have expected people to wonder about the nature of his relationship with this young girl? The girl's exact age is not stated and is hard to determine (Mary Pickford was 20 years old when the film was made, but she could have passed for 16 or even younger), but in any case you'd think he would have been a little more circumspect. One question left unexplored at the end is the whether the gossips are correct in their assumption that the pastor is interested in Mary in a, shall we say, more than fatherly way. Let the viewer decide!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Mary Pickford had been toying with the idea of going back to live theatre, and after one of her quarrels with D.W Griffith, she made the decision to go back. She called up William Dean, the manager for David Belasco, and a surprised William told her they had been hunting all over for her. In a shamed voice she told him, "I've been in motion pictures". She immediately went to the theatre and Mr.Dean asked her if she could remove the hairpins from her hair, allowing her curls to fall loose, as a surprise for Belasco. Surprised and pleased he was, and told her he wanted her for the part of the blind Juliet, the leading role in "A Good Little Devil". Thrilled, she raced back to the Biograph company and broke the rule of interrupting Griffith at rehearsal time. Annoyed he told her to wait, but she blurted out she had to start rehearsals for a play on Monday. With tears in his eyes, Griffith asked if she would make one more picture for him. The story's topic is so typical of Griffith, and was a lovely send-off film for Mary, as she responded with one of her best skillfully, understated and perfectly natural performances in "The New York Hat". Lionel Barrymore gives an equally charming and sympathetic performance. The Gishes, Mae Marsh and Bobby Harron were also in the cast, but are hard to find as the spotlight focuses entirely on Pickford. The film is slickly edited and there are many extensive closeups. "The New York Hat" is a perfectly pleasurable film to watch and a must see for fans of early silent cinema.
  • This short melodrama has a somewhat offbeat story that works pretty well thanks to its efficient characterizations and its observations on human nature. And not the least of its merits is the chance to see Mary Pickford in one of her earlier roles, as the young woman at the center of the story, who longs for "The New York Hat". The story begins with Mary's dying mother leaving an unusual request with her pastor, and then goes on to show how the situation affects everyone involved. At first it doesn't seem like much to work with, but it is done efficiently, and Pickford is charming and sympathetic as always.
  • This competent Biograph short is probably best-known for being the screen writing debut of the acclaimed Anita Loos. It's also incredibly well acted and directed with confidence by DW Griffith.

    As well as being her last, this is perhaps the best performance by Mary Pickford in a Biograph short. You can see why she would later soar to superstardom by playing young girls. Here, at twenty, she plays what we would assume is a girl in her mid-teens, and looks more convincingly that age than when she first worked for Griffith at sixteen. She had a real gift for portraying innocence. Griffith makes the most of her abilities and moves the camera in close on her face at key moments.

    It's also nice to see Lionel Barrymore in a lead role. Although he was an established stage actor, on the screen he really had yet to prove himself in anything other than a series of somewhat silly character parts. In the New York Hat however he shows himself to be a fine screen player, playing the preacher with subtlety and dignity. He too gets the full benefit of Griffith's camera.

    You get the feeling that by now Griffith could do this sort of drama standing on his head. The easy movement between standard three-quarter shot and mid-shot is by now totally natural. But really, this is Pickford, Barrymore and, of course Loos' show, and for the most part Griffith just sits back and lets them get on with it.

    Loos has written a strong story, although in many ways this is very typical Biograph fare, so I assume she was deliberately trying to write something in the Biograph style. Still it makes for an entertaining little film, and fortunately it was highly regarded enough to have been given two superb and well-cast leads.
  • Excellent early film, expertly featuring "legendary" director D.W. Griffith and "legendary' actress Mary Pickford before they became "legendary". When Ms. Pickford's mother dies, she is despondent. Her mother (Kate Bruce) didn't have much, but managed to leave Pickford enough money to buy some "finery"; the money is bequeathed to the local Pastor (Lionel Barrymore).

    When Pickford admires "The New York Hat" in a downtown shop window, Minister Barrymore decides to buy it for her -- which ignites gossipers; they link Mary and the Minister in a "romantic" scandal.

    Watch Pickford act before, with, and after "The New York Hat". Her performance is great; she plays her part as a young woman, not a little girl, simply and effectively. Her emotions are extraordinarily well-conveyed, for G.W. Bitzer's camera, under Griffith's direction.

    A charmer.

    ********* The New York Hat (12/5/12) D.W. Griffith ~ Mary Pickford, Lionel Barrymore, Charles Hill Mailes, Kate Bruce
  • "The New York Hat" is a short, adorable movie that stars the legends of early film (Mary Pickford and her brother Jack, Lionel Barrymore, the Gish Sisters). The plot is fun and inventive for 1912. A great bit of storytelling that doesn't grow old.
  • rudy-461 October 2003
    A wonderful old film that is still enjoyable ninety years later. One of the better shorts from Griffith's Biograph period with fine performances from Lionel Barrymore and Mary Pickford. Miss Pickford always seems to brighten up a film. Wonderful actress!
  • I viewed this short film in my film class and I was quite impressed with it considering it's age. It is easy to understand the story although there is no voices but it's still well defined by the music. And the characters are well defined as well.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This is a short by D. W. Griffith that stars both Mary Pickford and Lionel Barrymore (though, like other Biograph shorts, there are no credits listed on the film). It's worth seeing just for these stars so early in their careers.

    A lady dies and makes the nice preacher (Barrymore) to promise to carry out her wish that he buy something nice for her daughter out of some money she has saved from her no-good husband. The nice daughter sees a really awful and gaudy hat in the window of a shop and wants it (the hat was actually "tasteful" for 1911--it looks AWFUL today and very tacky). So, to fulfill his trust, the preacher buys her the hat anonymously. However, some dried up old prunes see it and begin spreading malicious rumors. But, by the end of the film, the old biddies get theirs!! By the way, on the wall of the home is the American Biograph logo (the studio making the film). This occasionally appears on some other Biograph shorts and must be some sort of inside joke--after all, who has this "AB" logo on their walls as part of their decorating scheme?!
  • I wish they had done another film together but to my knowledge no. They would soon go their separate ways. They were adorable! No heavy message here just an early short film centering around simple town life and how gossipers haven't changed much even today! Mary is so sweet and full of expressions here. Young, handsome charming Lionel Barrymore is a joy! Despite the stereotyping he would face in later years he never lost that wonderful charm. That smile and nuances that was so him! Love the ending. The gossipers not so wrong after all perhaps.. A film made even before the First World War is hard to imagine. I marvel at these earlier fascinating movies. A simple innocent time we will never experience again. One of my go to movies that make me smile, It was a simple happy hopeful time in their lives and film careers just getting started. A treasure trove of a time capsule!
  • Mary Pickford was one of the most popular actresses in the early 1910's. She did have a habit, however, of jumping from one studio to another in pursuit of the best salary should could earn. She began her career at Biograph Studios, then signed with Carl Laemmle's IMP Company, then Majestic Film Company, before returning to Biograph for a year. Wanting to get back on to the stage, she let her movie contract expire, then signed with Adolph Zukor's Famous Players Film Company, where she acted in four-reelers and feature films (five movies in all).

    Her final movie for Biograph, and the last movie she appeared under director D. W. Griffith was December 1912's "The New York Hat" (Records show she was in another Biograph picture after that, "The Unwelcome Guest," but it was filmed prior to "The New York Hat."). Critics claim this was Pickford's best short movie in her early career and one of the finest Griffith one-reelers.

    The New York Hat's" success lies in Pickford three dimensional characterization of a poor girl who just lost her mother. She yearns for a hat made in New York just put on sale--hats were a huge status symbol back then. The local preacher, Lionel Barrymore, buys her the hat after a secret dying wish from her mother to him to spend her small inheritance on "frivolous" things for the daughter. When she's seen wearing the hat, tongues wag and the race is on to spread a scandalous romance involving the church minister.

    Unlike static characters peppering early cinema, Griffith wanted to draw out the emotional multi-layers his actors would experience in circumstances reflected in his plots' situations. The director would consult with his actors to discover what feelings could be visibly conveyed without the spoken word. In "The New York Hat," the storyline offered a plethora of sentiments, allowing Pickford to show ranges of joy, sadness, anticipation, disappointments, hurt, as well as love.

    "The New York Hat" was the first produced script for young screenwriter Anita Loos, 24 years old at the time (not the 12-year old writer some sites peg her age at). Ms. Loos, a proliferate scenario writer for silent movies, would later author the "Gentlemen Prefer Blonds" novel.
  • A picture of a few human beings. They live in a small country town and seem to center around the village church. It doesn't shut its eyes to the frailties of mortal flesh; but it is optimistic, good-natured and leaves a pleasant taste, indeed, it is a picture among pictures to entertain, encourage and amuse. It is wonderful how the Biograph producer gets his many different characters, for hardly can the players be recognized so sure are they in their assumption of the peculiarities and semblance of people not themselves. One marvels that they are; but seeing them, he is not astonished to find them acting humorously. The scenario behind this picture of the little girl (Mary Pickford), of a miserly father for whom the minister bought a new hat, because her dying mother, knowing the father's stinginess, had given him a little money to get her a "few bits of finery," isn't strong in its primary idea; but it has been mighty well worked up. Then the motivation of the characters is so clearly drawn and the humor of them so often convinces laughter that the audience gets satisfaction. Clair McDowell plays an old spinster, Mae Marsh has an unimportant part. - The Moving Picture World, December 21, 1912
  • Whenever I watch films from the silent era I do sometimes struggle to focus on the film itself rather than be lost in the fact that I am seeing something that was filmed over 100 years ago and that everyone who made it is long dead – and indeed everyone who watched it on its release is almost certainly gone the same way by now too. It is always a sobering thought and I think seeing people on the screen makes it seem more amazing than, for example, seeing a painting created hundreds of years ago. Anyway, the downside of such thoughts are that if the film isn't particularly gripping then such things tend to take over my mind and it was this case with this simple film.

    The plot sees a mother of a young girl pass away. She has a small amount of money to leave her daughter but does not trust her husband and so leaves it to a minister to make sure it is kept safe for her Mollie. Mollie is a simple girl but when she sees a beautiful hat in the local store all the way from New York, she really wants it despite not having the money. The minister sees this and decides to get it for her using a small amount of her mother's trust. It is a simple act but when the town gossips see a minister buying a hat for a young girl, well, tongues soon get to wagging.

    It is a very simple tale which takes longer to build to the crux than it does to resolve and as such it is not really the most engaging. The thing that holds the attention though is that the cast do a very good job of delivering the material silently (obviously). I was expecting the occasional title card to show their words here and there, but the only titles are setting the scene rather than specifics. Pickford and Barrymore are both expressive and (mostly) do not overact too much to compensate for the silence, but actually do well with character with just their faces – particularly Pickford. The supporting cast are fine although I did enjoy the stern faced old biddies enjoying their scandal.

    The New York Hat is now more a historical curio rather than a great film to be enjoyed on its own terms. The director and the main cast are the main headlines and, outside of this, the story really isn't enough to hold a modern viewer.
  • This time, with the New York Hat, there are things that are dated about it - a woman buying a TEN DOLLAR HAT? WELL I NEVER (I can almost hear the townspeople say) - but there are some things that remain today sadly, and in large part that's the facet of people who gossip. The women of the story cause a lot of the trouble for the main character, a woman who at the start loses her mother to some illness but the mother left a note saying that she should get a "sum" of money for something she would like and so the town Priest sees this letter (her big-chin-bearded father doesn't) and buys the hat for her, all because they likely say to themselves, "Hmm, she thinks she's cute!"

    The funny thing is, Mary Pickford was adorable (especially here, something about her is so vulnerable and light and sweet to look at), so it's a delight to watch this film even as Griffith turns the dramatic screws to such a degree that it almost becomes laughable. If people come to this today the reaction will be "so what, it's a hat, who cares?" I'm sure in this time period such an extravagance was seen as a giant WTF, especially to conformist society "B words" who couldn't see someone else being happy without it affecting them. So while the dramatics are possibly too high - but then again that's Griffith - due to what is going on and her backstory, the main core of the story works still today, and Pickford sells it every moment she's on screen.

    Her character has our sympathy from the start, and there's even a nice comment on small-town small-mindedness that I think holds up best of all. The title itself suggests city vs rural life, that such an extravagant hat is too far beyond what a person like young Mary can have, or at least that's what society implicit;y or overtly demands (including her father, who gets the most over the top moment of cruelty when he destroys the hat). So I liked it for its strengths and tried to look past its weaknesses.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This film has historical value but it's very short and isn't a particularly fascinating film in and of itself. The print I saw (on the "Before Hollywood....." DVD) didn't have any title credits so I wasn't sure who the actors were but I recognized Mary Pickford and I also recognized D.W. Griffith's style. Coming as early as 1912 that's saying something for Griffith, but it's not a particularly interesting film other than as a study in early film and an example of Pickford towards the very beginning. Lionel Barrymore is also in the film as a minister who's been given the task in the dead mother's will of helping little Mary's character buy things from time to time without her father knowing it because he's a puritan type who wouldn't approve. He buys her a $10 hat, but the dad tears it up in a rage. From that point on there's not much plot and I won't "spoil" the ending per se but I didn't think it was a particularly interesting story.
  • Young minister Lionel Barrymore's gift of an expensive hat to Mary Pickford sets tongues wagging in their small town, but there is an innocent explanation behind it all. D. W. Griffith delivers an indictment of small-town prejudice and discrimination with a clear eye and a growing confidence towards the technical aspects of film-making.
  • It's always interesting once in a while to see an old short film, especially one from over a century ago when film was still in relative infancy. It's even more interesting when it has a young Mary Pickford in her final Biograph film, Lionel Barrymore in an early role far removed from his villain and cantankerous roles and direction by DW Griffith at a relatively early stage of his extensive career in quite a prolific year for him. Which is the case for 1912's 'The New York Hat'.

    'The New York Hat' is a lovely and highly recommended short film, though not quite a classic. It is vintage Pickford though, if you are somebody who likes Pickford (to me she did a lot of great work) you will be in heaven, and it is very recognisable as a Griffith film thematically and in content. Will admit to needing to see a lot more of Griffith's work, with him being a director of so many films over a long period of time, but what has been seen is worth seeing.

    Story-wise, 'The New York Hat' is very simple, very slight and not really all that special with surprises also being very few.

    Having said that, there is really not an awful lot to criticise 'The New York Hat' for. Or that is the case to me. It's very lovingly shot and doesn't look primitive, only the hat doesn't look particularly attractive.

    None of the 16 minute length feels dull and throughout it was hard for me not to feel charmed and touched. It's lovely to watch and really cheers you up when needed, something that has been necessary frequently with me being myself autistic, disabled and with severe anxiety. 'The New York Hat's' 16 minutes made me forget all of that, regardless of any minor faults it has it is so easy to like and invest in. What it says about human nature is very insightful and doesn't preach.

    Pickford is endearing and epitomises charm, playing a character that is so easy to empathise with. And it was great to see Barrymore in the earlier stages of his career and so subtle (am in no way criticising him as an actor, actually like him, but am comparing this to his more "theatrical" later work). The whole cast are all solid, but it's Pickford and Barrymore that stand out as the most interesting characters. Griffith directs expertly and as said his style is recognisable, coming from somebody who needs to see more of his work and is more than willing to.

    All in all, lovely. 8/10
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "The New York Hat" is an American 16-minute black-and-white silent short film from 1912 and one of the more known efforts by D.W. Griffith who is considered perhaps the number 1 filmmaker worldwide from his era when it comes to drama movies. As Chaplin, Keaton, Lloyd, Arbuckle and others were thriving in the comedy genre, Griffith made an uncountable amount of dramatic short films on sometimes inconvenient subjects like the role of women or the role priests as in this one here. Still sadly I must say despite the inclusion of actors like Pickford, Barrymore and Gish, this film never lives up to its premise. Maybe technical filmmaking aspects weren't on the level yet where they could match Griffith's vision and turn into something wonderful or maybe it's the moments of overacting or maybe it's the lack of sufficient intertitles quantity-wise or maybe a bit of all that and some other aspects that eventually resulted in me finding this one forgettable, but it's somewhere in-between there I guess. The consequence unfortunately was that story and characters in this tale never made as much of an impact on me as I hoped they could. Still there are good moments and it is definitely not a failure, but it's also a bit of a missed opportunity. I am sure the plot was far better than they eventually had the means to show us. But we need to rate what we were given and not what could have been, so this one gets a thumbs-down from me. Not recommended.