In my perspective, Hollywood has changed a lot. The glory of the big movies studios like Metro-Goldwyn-Mayers (MGM), 20th Century Fox and Paramount Pictures have lost most of their mojo. The glamorous superstars like Ava Gardner, Jane Russell, Bette Davis, Lauren Bacall, Elizabeth Taylor, Cary Grant, Humphrey Bogart and many other American icons have vanished from the silver screen.
Of this constellation of great actors and actresses, one name singles out—Humphrey Bogart. He was my hero when I was just a school boy lost in a banana plantation in Changuinola. His image is still fresh in my mind; tough, strong and at the same time with a vulnerable interest for love. Bogie, as he was called, is my undisputed cultural American icon. Movies like Casablanca, The African Queen and the High Sierra are still my favorites after all these years.
During Bogart’s generation of the Forties and Fifties, the hat was a manner to express ones personality. There were all kinds of styles of hats, and everyone wore one when he or she went out. Hats were part of the attire. A person would feel naked without wearing a hat during these Golden Days. It’s impossible to remember Humphrey Bogart without his hat and his New York accent—or his cigarette and glass of whiskey I might add.
Nowadays, hats are only worn by some farmers and folk singers in Panama; specially in the Central Provinces of Herrera, Los Santos and Coclé. In Panama City, the hat is an extinct species. I never wore a hat, and don’t recall my father wearing one either. That chic fashion was before our time.
Yesterday I found a wonderful poem about forgotten hats written by Billy Collins. The name of the poem is The Death of the Hat. This poem induced me to walk down memory lane all day long. Maybe, for some of you, these weave of words will also ring a bell inside your head. Here we go.
The Death of the Hat
by Billy Collins
Once every man wore a hat.
In the ashen newsreels,
the avenues of cities
are broad rivers flowing with hats.
The ballparks swelled
with thousands of straw hats.
Brims and bands,
rows of men smoking
and cheering in shirtsleeves.
Hats were the law.
They went without saying.
You noticed a man without a hat in a crowd.
You bought them from Adams or Dobbs
who branded your initials in gold
on the inside band.
Trolleys crisscrossed the city.
Steamships sailed in and out of the harbor.
Men with hats gathered on the docks.
There was a person to block your hat
and a hat check girl to mind it
while you had a drink
or ate a steak with peas and a baked potato.
In your office stood a hat rack.
The day war was declared
everyone in the street was wearing a hat.
And they were wearing hats
when a ship loaded with men sank in the icy sea.
My father wore one to work every day
and returned home
carrying the evening paper,
the winter chill radiating from his overcoat.
But today we go bareheaded
into the winter streets,
stand hatless on frozen platforms.
Today the mailboxes on the roadside
and the spruce trees behind the house
wear cold white hats of snow.
Mice scurry from the stone walls at night
in their thin fur hats
to eat the birdseed that has spilled.
And now my father, after a life of work,
wears a hat of earth, and on top of that,
a lighter one of cloud and sky—a hat of wind.
Before I wrap up this post, let me go ahead and leave you with a memorable Bogies’s phrase from the film Casablanca : “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” Good Day.
Source: Life at Willow Manor
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