An Italian Straw Hat (1928) – Rene Clair

 

The Great Movies – 100 Years of Film brings me the next recommendation from The General. This time, it’s a light-hearted affair with running gags, a gentle sense of humor, and a happy ending for almost all involved.

Fadinard (Albert Prejean) is on his way to meet his bride, Helene (Marise Maia), when, while recovering his dropped buggy whip, his horse eats half of Mme. Beauperthuis’ (Olga Tschechowa) prized hat, while she is having an intimate moment with a soldier Lt. Tavernier (Geymond Vital), a man who is not her husband.

Taverneir threatens Fadinard with physical violence, and the trashing of the newlyweds new home, should Fadinard not find a suitable replacement hat for Mme. B. She obviously can’t go out in public without a hat, let alone face her husband, he’ll suspect something!

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When Mme. B. comes over faint in Fadinard’s apartment, the Lt. and his mistress take over the place, much to the chagrin of Fadinard and his much put-upon valet, Felix (Alex Allin).

All the bridegroom wants to do is get through the day and celebrate his new marriage, but he’s constantly forced to dip out of the ceremonies and celebrations as he prowls a hat shop for a replacement, even hunting down the customer who bought the most recent italian straw hat in an attempt to buy it, only to learn who that customer was…

There are running gags with uncomfortable shoes, askew ties, misunderstandings, missing gloves, a deaf uncle’s (Paul Ollivier) tin horn, and an angry husband.

It’s light fare at best, based on the play by Eugene Labiche and Marc Michel, but its gentle humor and touch actually allows it to be rather engaging.

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You can’t help but feel bad for Fadinard, all he wants to do is enjoy the day, get married but he can’t seem to get a break as he seems to tumble from one incident to another, all in an attempt to preserve a woman’s honor, allow the Lieutenant to get away clean, and put one over on a cuckolded husband.

All of the humor comes from every-day characters put in recognizable scenarios – trying to catch someone’s attention to let them know to fix their tie, or the pain of an uncomfortable pair of shoes…

This, being a silent movie, isn’t one you can wander in and out of the room while it’s on, you have to pay attention to it, and it pays off, because something is always happening on-screen, little gags, and just nice little character moments.

It’s a fun little film, that has a happy ending for everyone, gloves are found, shoes are comfy, a replacement hat is attained, a husband is fooled, and the wedding night is finally reached…

Do you have a favorite silent film?

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