It's Monday, again, somehow! These truncated every-other-weekends of mine always make Monday a startling work day to wake up to-- I was just at work Sunday afternoon! Luckily, the phone reference shift yesterday was calm-seas-to-doldrums, as far as weird questions, and I was able to while away an hour or two trawling Google books for goodies. I've got a couple more set up for you this week, but let's start with the delicious dish-and-take of Stetson hat ads in the early 1940's.
Take a look:
I have an unnatural soft spot for thirties' and forties' breakfast scenes like this. If you were a young chorine or man about town with a yen for stardom in that era of Hollywood, I'm telling you, prepare a "drinking coffee, buttering toast, and verbally sparring" routine for your studio audition, because if there's one thing in every drama or romance or comedy movie of that time, it's a cutesy of-the-morning scene. This is where plotlines are hatched, misunderstanding that fuel the storyline are begun, and incidents of the night past are hashed out...not to mention, the latest in china and kitchen finery are paraded in front of hungry depression and wartime era audiences. The most famous instance I can think of is actually in a gangster flick...the infamous Mae Murray/James Cagney grapefruit scene from The Public Enemy.There's a scene in Woman of the Year where Hepburn tries to cook Tracy breakfast (this does not go well, but is adorable)...her character speaks five languages but can't percolate a decent cup of coffee! Trust me, next time you're watching TCM and it's not a period picture or a western (and sometimes even in those genres!), you're going to see some folks eating breakfast and either bitterly or blithely bickering. It's sweet.
In this breakfast scene, the pretty newlywed in her pink satin dress gown (that quilted embroidered collar! Those snappy princess sleeves!) harangues her husband with reference to the state of his hat wear. "Now what have you been up to, you cute little nit wit?" asks the man (don't get upset, it's perfectly cute he's called her a nitwit, and if Clark Gable wanted to say the same to me across a bowl of cornflakes in 1940, believe me, I would not be put out). "Dear, I've just been wondering whether a five-hat woman and a one-hat man can ever be happy together," the brunette responds, holding said unique wardrobe item in her right hand.
What follows? A frank discussion of the state of the mister's hat. Take a look.
Are you ever bowled over by how much reading old time ads expected the average magazine flipper to go through? While the color photo at top would have had my attention, to fully receive the message of this Stetson ad, you've got about a page of dialogue to get through. And that's assuming you aren't too absorbed in the feature you were reading on Kikuyu tribes in Kenya or latest debutante fashions or a dog that walk on its hind legs to stop and actually read the ad! Outside of pharmaceutical spreads with their 1,000,000 side effects and legally mandated disclosures, can you think of a modern ad that would be so wordy? I can't off the top of my (hatless) head.
Here's another from the "married man and wife having a conversation about hats" ad set. I love how unrealistic the shadow of the pretty new secretary behing the door is. Um, does she type like that? Is she waving her wet nails from a just applied coat of polish? Is she throwing her hands up in disgust at being beguiled by the complicated interoffice phone system? I really don't know! Reminds me of some kind of Asian shadow puppetry horror. DON'T GO OUT INTO RECEPTION, HUBBY. STAY IN YOUR OFFICE! She's got knives for teeth!
Again, the dialogue is absolutely worth noting. Scene 4: Wife: A Stetson! Got a raise and didn't tell? Hubby: Aw shucks, that glamour lid only set me back five bucks. (please, PLEASE let's endeavor to talk more like this). $5 in 1940 money is $80.76 in today's money. I know that's hard to believe, but that's what the inflation calculator says! That glamour lid is expensive, son!
The colors in this watercolor illustration are actually taking my human life. I LOVE THEM, I LOVE THEM. That puce colored dressing gown on the longnecked Sue, the French décor, Ann on the left's pink gloves, envelope clutch, AMAZING HAT, and fur wrap...people, this is everywhere I want to be. Sue, in all generosity, offers that if she spends less money on clothes, her husband Jim can spend more. As a hat on man in the street in 1940 was de rigeur, an absolute fashion must-have, I can see where it would be important to have a halfway decent one to cover your head! From a distance of eighty years, it's hard to wrap my mind around the social contract of public dress-- the "you absolutely can't go out in the street without x, y, z"-- but I secretly wish we could go back to a slightly more uniform time. So shoot me.
Do you see Ann's brown gloves and hat, her green with fur collar jacket? I told you, I want to BE in this ad.
Below, Tom, Sue, and Andy (Sue was a popular name that year!) discuss the merits of not throwing ones hat in the air at the end of a particularly stirring football game. And now that I know they cost $80 a piece, I don't blame them! True sports fans should wear a throwaway hat to the game, just to make sure they're not seen as gauche by not participating in this post-game ritual. Do you see the hint of what Sue is wearing? I think she even has a leopard print hand muff to carry, and that makes me very jealous indeed.
Just the same as today, "carefully studied casualness" was a concern for men of the 1940's. You want to look amazing, but not like you spent two hours trying to figure out how to look amazing (I struggle with this daily). I think the guy in the upper right hand corner looks ridiculous, but the other gents are definitely sporting an Errol Flynn or David Niven like quality of being effortlessly debonair. "The nonchalance is blocked in" is a hilarious line.
Last but not least, the type of men who wear Stetson's "Ten Million Dollar Hat":
So what do you think? Are you ready to run out and insist that your husband or significant other buy a Fedora? Which style would suit either you or the man in your life the best? Can you believe a good quality hat cost eighty dollars back in the day? I'm still a little sticker shocked over that one. Had any run ins with gorgeous or handsome headwear lately? Let's talk!
That's all for today; more vintage clips tomorrow! See you then.