Italian Straw Hat, The (1928)

“Madame can’t go home to her husband with a torn hat… Go and get another one, just like this!”

Italian Straw Hat Poster

Synopsis:
As Ferdinand (Albert Prejean) travels towards his wedding, he discovers that his horse has eaten the straw hat of a married woman (Olga Tschechowa) canoodling in the bushes with her lover, Lieutenant Tavernier (Geymond Vital). Tavernier demands that Ferdinand find a replacement for the hat, threatening to destroy his apartment unless he complies; meanwhile, the beleaguered Ferdinand has a wedding to get through.

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Review:
In this clever French farce, director Rene Clair successfully transfers a stage play to the silent screen, conveying the story almost entirely through visuals. In one of the first scenes of the movie, for example, Ferdinand discovers that Mme. de Beauperthuis is married (but not to Lt. Tavernier) by looking closely at their ring fingers; his facial reaction at this moment is enough to tell us precisely what he’s thinking. While the story, at nearly two hours, goes on for a tad too long — some editing would have helped — it remains enjoyable throughout; it’s hard not to laugh out loud as one situation after the other makes poor Ferdinand’s plight even stickier. Adding to the humor are a series of long-running character gags, which rarely fail to amuse: Ferdinand’s near-deaf uncle (Paul Ollivier) remaining consistently clueless about surrounding events; an uptight woman trying to get her inattentive husband to fix his neck tie; a puzzled servant catching Tschechowa swooning in the arms of a different man each time he opens the door. It’s easy to imagine audiences of the day laughing hysterically at this frothy situation comedy.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Albert Prejean as Ferdinand
  • Olga Tschechowa as Mme. de Beauperthuis
  • Many amusing sight gags
  • Effective transformation of a stage play into a silent film

Must See?
Yes, as an early classic of French cinema. Listed as a film with historical importance in the back of Peary’s book.

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