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A Gallery of Cinematic Hats

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ozhat

Much is made of computer animation and other technology in movies and TV, but I think one of the best special effects goes on top of an actor’s head. It shapes our whole attitude about a character, without so much as a transposed pixel. Here, without commentary, are some of my favorites.

HARRISON FORD AS INDIANA JONES

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CHARLIE CHAPLIN AS THE LITTLE TRAMP

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THE LADIES OF “DOWNTON ABBEY”

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CLINT EASTWOOD AS THE MAN WITH NO NAME

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SALLY FIELD AS “THE FLYING NUN”

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JON HAMM AS DON DRAPER

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THE CAT IN THE HAT

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CARMEN MIRANDA

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JIMMIE WALKER AS J.J. EVANS

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ALAN HALE JR. AS THE SKIPPER

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MAURICE CHEVALIER

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JOHN WAYNE

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MARY TYLER MOORE AS MARY RICHARDS

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BASIL RATHBONE AS SHERLOCK HOLMES

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MIKE NESMITH IN “THE MONKEES”

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FESS PARKER AS DANIEL BOONE

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DANIEL DAY-LEWIS AS ABRAHAM LINCOLN

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THE SORTING HAT FROM “HARRY POTTER”

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ART CARNEY AS ED NORTON

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B.D. IN “DOONESBURY”

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MINNIE PEARL

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LARRY HAGMAN AS J.R. EWING

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JOHNNY DEPP AS THE MAD HATTER

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BUDDY EBSEN AS JED CLAMPETT

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ARETHA FRANKLIN AT THE PRESIDENTIAL INAUGURATION

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LIDSVILLE TV SERIES

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GENE HACKMAN AS POPEYE DOYLE

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ERROL FLYNN AS ROBIN HOOD

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HUMPHREY BOGART AS SAM SPADE

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MARGARET HAMILTON AS THE WICKED WITCH OF THE WEST

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That’s a LOT of hats! But even so, feel free to suggest a few more!

Guys Who Didn’t Get the Girl

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Here’s a tip of the cap to some memorable dudes in movie history who DIDN’T get the girl. Even when they’re bland or banal, they serve a necessary purpose. Without them, where would we get our plot twists and dramatic tension?

OWEN WILSON IN “MEET THE PARENTS”

Threw you a curve there, didn’t I? Wilson usually gets the girl in his films, but I thought he was equally effective in “Meet the Parents,” where he lost out to Ben Stiller. Wilson played it without diminishing his personal charm, which was the key.

RALPH BELLAMY IN “HIS GIRL FRIDAY”

Here’s one from a classic comedy. Bellamy is the earnest, gullible guy set to marry newshound Rosalind Russell. There’s just one problem, and his name is Cary Grant. No contest, obviously, but Bellamy’s timing and manner are a funny contrast to the rest of the fast-talking characters.

BILL PULLMAN IN “SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE”

Pullman’s performance is a smart updating of the Ralph Bellamy model. He’s still earnest and mild mannered, but he maintains a sense of awareness and personal dignity. The allergies were a nice touch.

HUGH GRANT IN “BRIDGET JONES’S DIARY”

Grant seemed to revel in this part, playing the selfish jerk who ends up competing with Colin Firth for Renee Zellweger’s attention. He was great at it, frankly. He had many of the best lines in the movie.

JIMMY STEWART IN “THE PHILADELPHIA STORY”

Truly, one of the very best examples of the guy who didn’t get the girl. In “The Philadelphia Story,” Stewart and Katharine Hepburn are totally incompatible (he’s a working class reporter and she’s a wealthy society woman), yet they get some of the coziest, wittiest, most flirtatious scenes you’ll find in any movie. If it weren’t for Cary Grant (him again!), the result might have been different.

ERIQ LA SALLE IN “COMING TO AMERICA”

What’s great about La Salle in “Coming to America” is that he offered himself up for scorn in every way, from his hairstyle to his arrogance to his poor treatment of Shari Headley. He made Eddie Murphy look gooooood.

TIM ROBBINS IN “HIGH FIDELITY”

Similarly, Tim Robbins is a real pantload in “High Fidelity.” So self-righteous. So condescending. The world, as presented in this movie, cannot be operating correctly as long as John Cusack is losing out to this doofus. Nicely done, Mr. Robbins.

JOHN WAYNE IN “THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE”

It’s not a misprint. John Wayne actually comes in second in “Liberty Valance” – to Jimmy Stewart, no less. The lovely Vera Miles has a choice between a rugged individualist (Wayne) and an idealist with a social conscience (Stewart). Something really interesting here is that director John Ford allows for the notion that Vera might have made the wrong choice.

GREG KINNEAR IN “YOU’VE GOT MAIL”

Excellent work by Kinnear, playing a slightly pompous columnist who ultimately can’t compete against Tom Hanks in the Meg Ryan Sweep-Her-Off-Her-Feet-Stakes. I think Kinnear’s intelligence and humor are better suited to roles like this than when he plays the leading man.

WENDELL COREY IN “HOLIDAY AFFAIR”

This isn’t a well-known movie, but I wanted to include it because Corey is a very specific type of “guy who didn’t get the girl.” He has the thankless job of being the character the leading lady has to settle for until she meets … Robert Mitchum. Corey has no shot here. The audience knows it; even he knows it. But he gamely soldiers on until a few minutes before the closing credits.

PATRICK WILSON IN “THE SWITCH”

Wilson gives his character some interesting twists in “The Switch.” He’s honorable, vulnerable and loyal, which is just the type of guy Jennifer Aniston is looking for. At the same time, he’s an emotional basket case. Jason Bateman does him a huge favor by stepping in and taking charge of the situation.

HUMPHREY BOGART IN “CASABLANCA”

There’s only one way to close-out  this List. Bogart’s Rick is a one-of-a-kind, iconic character. He’s full of pain, anger and stoicism. He actually chooses not to get the girl, Ingrid Bergman, out of a sense of nobility. And that choice gives us one of the best movie endings ever.

So who are YOUR favorites?

The League of Miscast Actors

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There’s something almost quaint about seeing an actor miscast in a movie. First of all, it’s tangible evidence that much of life and art is simply a judgment call. Sometimes we get it right, sometimes we get it wrong. Here are some instances in cinema where someone got it really wrong.

NICOLAS CAGE

“PEGGY SUE GOT MARRIED”

Cage may be the most erratic big-name actor in recent memory. In this 1986 fantasy, he was just plain miscast. Kathleen Turner is Peggy Sue, a woman in her 40s who is somehow transported back in time to high school in 1960. Cage plays her boyfriend-and-later-husband, Charlie. He’s wayyy out of his depth as the middle-aged husband, and wayyy too peculiar as the high school boyfriend. Some of his line readings are utterly Shatnerian.

STOCKARD CHANNING

“GREASE”

No doubt I’ll catch some flak on this one, because so many people have fond memories of  the 1978 hit musical. And Channing gives it her all as Betty Rizzo. But come on – playing a teenager? She was in her 30s! She probably had shoes older than her character.

TONY CURTIS

“SON OF ALI BABA”

Ah, yes. If it weren’t for 1952’s “Son of Ali Baba,” we’d never have heard the immortal line, “This is da palace of my fadah, and yondah lies da Valley of da Sun.” Curtis, a wonderful actor in many films, just wasn’t a good fit here with his New York accent. Trivia Note: some people mistakenly think this famous line is from the 1954 British knight movie, “The Black Shield of Falworth.” They change it a little to say, “Yondah lies da castle of my fadah.”

KEVIN BACON

“X-MEN: FIRST CLASS”

It’s really two cases of bad casting in one part. This superhero extravaganza from last year asks us first to believe Bacon as an evil Nazi doctor, THEN asks us to buy him as a debonair super villain. At one point, he dons a super villain’s helmet and struts around looking like a kid about to go out trick or treating.

SOFIA COPPOLA

“GODFATHER III”

It wasn’t her fault. Coppola’s dad, the great director Francis Ford Coppola, cast her at the last minute in a pivotal part of the 1990 finale of the Godfather story. Talk about an offer you can’t refuse – but it didn’t work.

MICHAEL CAINE

“ON DEADLY GROUND”

God knows Michael Caine has played every sort of character known to man. That includes lots of quality movies and also lots of stinkers. Yet something about this one, a 1994 Steven Seagal flick in which Caine is the bad guy, seems different. Caine steers a course into over-the-top, nutjob evil territory, which isn’t his style.

JOHN WAYNE

“THE CONQUEROR”

“The Conqueror,” from 1956, is the Great White Whale of movie miscasting. It’s epic in its badness. John Wayne – John Wayne! – plays the man who would become Genghis Khan. Let me put it this way. Some actors taking on historical roles try to embody both the physical mannerisms of the era, the proper vocal characteristics, and something of the inner, psychological underpinnings of the person. The Duke went in another direction.

So there you have your starting seven. The League of Miscast Actors will now accept your suggestions for new members!