Short directed by D. W. Griffith, written by Anita Loos, starring Mary Pickford (in her final role for Biograph Studios) and Lionel Barrymore, with an appearance by Lillian Gish.
The New York Hat is one of the most notable of the Biograph Studios short films and is perhaps the best known example of Pickford’s early work, and an example of Anita Loos‘s witty writing. The film was made by Biograph when it and many other early U.S. movie studios were based in Fort Lee, New Jersey at the beginning of the 20th century.
Mollie Goodhue leads a cheerless, impoverished life, largely because of her stern, miserly father. Mrs. Goodhue is mortally ill, but before dying, she gives the minister, Preacher Bolton, some money with which to buy her daughter the “finery” her father always forbade her.
Mollie is delighted when the minister presents her with a fashionable New York hat she has been longing for, but village gossips misinterpret the minister’s intentions and spread malicious rumors. Mollie becomes a social pariah, and her father tears up the beloved hat in a rage.
All ends well, however, after the minister produces a letter from Mollie’s mother about the money she left the minister to spend on Mollie. Soon afterwards, he proposes to Mollie, who accepts his offer of marriage.
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I teach several classes for the Stephens College Low-Residency MFA in Screenwriting, including History of Screenwriting. In fact, I created the curriculum for that course from scratch and customized it to this particular MFA in that it covers ‘Screenwriting’ (not directors) and even more specifically, the class has a female-centric focus. As part History of Screenwriting I, the first course in the four-class series, we focus on the early women screenwriters of the silent film era who male historians have, for the most part, quietly forgotten in their books. In this series, I share with you some of the screenwriters and films that should be part of any screenwriters education. I believe that in order to become a great screenwriter, you need to understand the deep history of screenwriting and the amazing people who created the career. — Dr. Rosanne Welch