February 19, 1909 [Those Awful Hats]

I continue to hope we patrons of the cinema will one day form a happy band, united in love of the moving picture. In the meantime, though, our jostling, chatting, restless selves continue to divert my attention from the world on the screen to the one around me—frustrating, for of course one enters the cinema to escape the real.

Perhaps not: Those Awful Hats forces both worlds into collision, as we watch patrons very much like ourselves barge into the theater, loud and distracting. First a lone woman, who wanders about, turning a head or two—then a top-hatted man escorting a lady, drawing ire from the audience, the man off-handed in his intrusion on their line-of-sight—and then more ladies, five or so of them, with outlandish millinery blocking the picture-audience's view. (And here we are at last: watching a flicker of an audience watching—or trying to watch—a flicker.) As the scene progressed, an amused groan of recognition rose from the actual audience. And on the picture-screen of the picture-audience, vaguely similar upheavals occur: A man is expelled from the scene, a woman causes some sort of disturbance. The cinematic equivalent of a matryoshka, the Russian nesting doll. Those of us in the actual audience, then, form merely the outer "matron."

And then the picture realized our fondest dream: An improbable, gigantic steam shovel bucket appears, plucking off hats, even carting away the wearer. We exploded in cheering, the machine ex machina solving our problem for us—and then the message from the management: "Ladies Will Please Remove Their Hats." I should say so, considering the on-screen solution! And the audience in the picture cheered as well, all of us for a moment of one mind--including, as I noticed, a woman near me sporting her own awful hat. I expected someone to play the role of hat-plucking bucket in our world and complete the circle, life imitating art. It's bound to happen some day, the cinema inciting a riot in the name of an unobstructed view.


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