One thing that drives me crazy about the current crop of period films is that men usually don’t know how to wear hats.
“The Black Dahlia” (with costume design by Jenny Beavan) is a particularly excruciating lesson in unfortunate hat wear. I mean look at these guys! Stick a hat — any hat — on your head and voila! The 1940s.
There is an art to pairing the right hat to the right actor – and there’s an entire language of hats in the way they were worn in films in the 1940s.
OK, Mr. Hartnett, stick this thing on your head.
And Mr. Eckhart, here’s your retro lid. (And I’m not too crazy about that tie or that collar either, but I’ll let it go for now).
OK, I think I’ve made my point. Here are some lessons from the masters on how to wear a hat in a film noir:
Here’s lesson No. 1 from Victor Mature in the 1947 film “Kiss of Death” (wardrobe director Charles Le Maire). The hat fits the shape of his face and it’s at an angle. He looks terrific (the coat helps). And he’s playing an ex-convict so he needs to convey the idea that he’s a fast operator.
Here’s lesson No. 2 from Alan Ladd in the 1942 film “This Gun for Hire” with a good roughed-up collar on his coat.
And when Ladd wants to get tough, he wears his hat like this.
Mature and Ladd are playing men who are more or less on the wrong side of the law. Lesson No. 3, how a detective wears a hat, is from Robert Preston, also in “This Gun for Hire.”
Lesson No. 4, the 1941 film “The Maltese Falcon,” is a study in contrasts: Humphrey Bogart is the sharp-dressed Sam Spade and Ward Bond is a rumpled police detective.
Lesson No. 5: Hats as a symbol of authority in “The Maltese Falcon,” as worn by detectives played by Barton MacLane and Ward Bond.
And Lesson No. 6: In the 1946 film “The Big Sleep” (wardrobe director Leah Rhodes), Humphrey Bogart demonstrates the right and wrong way to wear a hat.
Bogart as tough guy Philip Marlowe….
… and with a flip of the brim (plus sunglasses) he becomes a rather effeminate book collector.
Got that, guys?