“Any hat that is part of a characterization becomes a part of the identity of the character and if we can take it one step further . . . the hat becomes the face.”
Dr. Deborah Nadoolman Landis
Costume Designer for Raiders of the Lost Ark
From antiquity to modern day, hats have been worn for a multitude of different reasons and have exerted such influence that some have concluded that “hats possess power” (Shepard 6). Among its most powerful roles is that of communication artifact, as hats “have signaled to the world all kinds of things about their wearers—personal style (conservative or outré?), mood (playful or serious?), morals (white hat for the good guys, black for the bad), even status in the world (king, commoner, or warrior chief)” (Kostyal 4). Ethnographers have found that hats frequently “provide a subtle yet precise social label for the wearer” (Ginsburg 9). So, to this day, “hats are still a badge of identity: They tell the world at a glance that a man’s an Orthodox Jew, or a drill sergeant, or a golfer, or a Cubs fan” (Kostyal 29). Even not wearing a hat can speak volumes. For example, J. C. Fluegel, in The Psychology of Clothes (1930), considered the removal of the hat as the removal of a trophy and the symbol of castration (Ginsburg 9). It is this ability that the hat so marvelously possesses, the ability to communicate, along with the idea that “there is just something about hats” (Kostyal 4) that this study will go on to explore.
The communicative capacity of a hat is not only a function that is relative to others, but to oneself. A hat can have a transforming effect on the wearer. As Reynolds and Rand posit in their book on the cowboy hat, “One thing is certain—whoever you are, when the hat goes on your head, something unique happens. For a brief moment, you become a part of a grand adventure; you’re transported into another time and space . . .” (7). Other hats also benefit from this transformative gift and, further, it has been demonstrated that this is not a recent phenomenon: “For men, decorating their heads has always represented something glorious and heroic, almost divine. Egyptian gods were portrayed with large, elaborate headdresses and . . . Mercury, the god of eloquence, wears a winged hat . . .” (Folledore 7). In our modern, highly mediated society, in which heroic characters are often created for audience consumption, hats have enjoyed new life.
Though worn extensively throughout history, the hat underwent its most dramatic period of change during the 20th century. The popularity of men’s hats as items of fashion waned as styles changed. This development was both reflected in and shaped by media content. Up until the 1950s, most men in America wore hats on a daily basis (see Appendix A, fig. 1). By the end of the last century however, the world had endured a major shift on this sartorial front, and most people wore no hat at all. Nevertheless, even though the hat’s place in daily fashion changed, its role and influence as an important communication tool did not. This was because the 20th century also saw the dramatic development and expansion of visual media such as television, motion pictures, and the Internet. These communication channels gave the hat an audience it had never had before. The effects that came with this exposure were significant as hats were now regularly seen by millions in news and other non-fictional media content. Costume designers and others involved in the film and television production process also deliberately incorporated hats as part of the costume worn by many fictional heroes and anti-heroes. When a television program or film and its character were highly popular, many fans would begin to wear the same type of hat as the character did. Sometimes this was fueled by marketing or merchandising efforts associated with the television program or film. Indeed, there are examples that demonstrate that the wearing of these hats became a widespread cultural phenomenon. One of the most significant was the great popularity coonskin caps enjoyed in the 1950s. This was in large part because it was worn by the central character in Walt Disney’s highly successful television presentation of Davy Crockett. In more recent times, interest in wearing fedoras was rekindled when one was worn by adventurer Indiana Jones in a series of feature films released throughout the ‘80s and returned to the silver screen in 2008.
This study will examine and compare the Davy Crockett and Indiana Jones media characters; the parts their hats played in the development and appeal of these characters; and the considerable influence these characters and the productions that contained them seemed to have on audiences and cultures during the distinctively different historical time periods in which they were most popular.
Growing Up Wearing Hats
My journey with hats began in childhood and though they were important symbols that represented different occupations, teams, or organizations, they came to mean something much more (see Appendix A, fig. 2). My collection of hats included an army helmet, a sea captain’s hat, a construction helmet, a pilot’s hat, and even an astronaut’s helmet from my grandmother. When Toronto got a Major League Baseball team I was thrilled to get a cap to identify with the new team. In each case, I felt that wearing a hat allowed me to connect with those occupations in a very real way. So whether playing in the backyard sand pit or horseback riding, a hat completed those experiences for me.
As a result of the many police shows on television, I became interested in detective work and began considering it as a future occupation. While the actual job was years away, I was able to save up my money to buy an authentic Toronto Police hat which my father had to order and pick up for me (though the store did comment on the strangely small hat size).
All of these hats were worn primarily to identify with different occupations or organizations. However, over time as I watched more television programs and films my thinking shifted. No longer did hats just represent occupations, but individual characters such as Sherlock Holmes or Gilligan from Gilligan’s Island. Even my brother replaced his Toronto Blue Jays hat with a Detroit Tiger’s one because it was the hat worn by Thomas Magnum on Magnum P.I.. For me though, one of the most symbolic hats I owned was the coonskin cap. I remember the excitement of buying a real fur coonskin cap at Walt Disney World while on a family vacation to Florida in 1973. Wearing that cap allowed me to identify very specifically with Davy Crockett. Being born in 1965 meant I was not part of the original Disney Crockett phenomenon. Nevertheless, I became familiar with Crockett and his coonskin cap through reruns of the programs on Disney’s weekly program and a LP record produced with the same cast (see Appendix A, fig. 3). Crockett represented many attributes I admired—courage, sacrifice and honesty. The cap was the embodiment of these and wearing it allowed me, if only in my imagination, to identify with Crockett.
Years later when I began to research Davy Crockett, I discovered that I was not alone in my desire to identify with my heroes through the wearing of a hat. In general discussions I had with people who grew up watching Disney’s Davy Crockett television program, I was amazed by how many of them mentioned they had a coonskin cap growing up even without being asked about it. It struck me that for these people the hat was an important identifier which they never forgot. I was also struck by a website I had found that was dedicated to costume worn by Indiana Jones. Not only did it list where the costume came from or where you could get similar items but there was a discussion forum where a community of fans regularly talked about the costume. Of the various Indiana Jones costume items, the hat was probably the most important signature costume item for fans. The fan’s passion for the Indiana Jones fedora and their attention to detail in trying to recreate the fedora they saw in the Indiana Jones films ultimately resulted in director Steven Spielberg selecting a fan made hat for the most recent Indiana Jones film.
A Brief History of the Hat
The hat, before it was anything else, was practical. It could protect the wearer from the sun, rain, snow, or cold, by giving shade, deflecting water, or providing warmth. The result was that hats found a permanent role simply because they are practical. Hats also had another role—as an item of fashion. Some of these hats were practical but many, like the popular tall cone shaped hennin hat worn by noblewomen in the 15th Century, were not.
The perfect combination of practical and fashionable is probably best summed up by beaver felt hats. These hats proved to be immensely practical. However, because of their high cost they became status symbols which were worn with pride and, in some cases, passed on to sons. The popularity of beaver felt hats fueled a seemingly unquenchable demand which resulted in a fur trade with global ramifications some of which will be discussed in chapter two.
Wearing a hat everyday was popular until the mid 20th century because “if the clothes make the man . . . it’s his hat that says it all. Fifty years ago, no respectable middle-class man in America would have left home without his fedora” (Kostyal 28-29). The dramatic decline in the wearing of hats had one book published in 1959 speculating on some other reasons why this was:
Hatlessness . . . appears to be passing, or at least the hatmakers hope so. There are many reasons for it . . . casual dressing and after World War II, flight travel with curtailed luggage, avoiding disarranging a freshly done, expensive hairdo, the freedom of the closed and heated automobile . . . newly designed, low cars had as much to do with hatless heads by being built too low for comfort . . . (Wilcox 329)
To the chagrin of milliners, even the popular President John F. Kennedy reinforced “men’s desire to remain bareheaded” (Snyder 90). This was despite the fact that he “was the last president to wear a tall hat to his inauguration, ending a 132-year arc that began with Andrew Jackson” (Steinberg 41). The wearing of hats by both men and women declined in the 1950s as “a pair of new developments KO’d the chapeau. . . . Hats couldn’t fight the increasingly ornate hairdos and an increasingly casual lifestyle (Shields 12)” The “hairdo became the hat’s arch rival with the introduction of hairspray. From 1954 to 1957, hairspray sales leaped 280 percent while hat sales slumped 31 percent” (Shields 12). Even the John B. Stetson Company “with steadily declining sales . . . closed the doors on its Philadelphia factory forever in 1971, licensing the Stetson name out to another American firm to continue the Stetson line” (Synder 6).
All was not bleak regarding hats because “in a grand, take-all-comers comeback, the baseball cap became a craze for men, women, and kids. Put one on, and you signaled the world that you’d slipped into a certain mood. Put it on backward, and the signal got stronger” (Kostyal 9). Even though baseball caps appealed to all ages and are unisex, the wearing of hats everyday has not regained its former popularity despite Kostyal’s use of the term “craze” although others have suggested that a “significant percentage of the world’s citizens wear baseball caps” (Steinberg 291). Synder, in his book about Stetson hats, stated, “The single most common hat of the 1990s is probably the cloth baseball cap” (91). Baseball caps offer “protection from the sun and rain, a small social boost from association with a beloved sports team, fancy product, or wry public statement” (Steinberg 291). So, while hats worn in the past were typically about style, in many cases the modern baseball cap is essentially a billboard for advertisements, branding or to show some kind of affiliation. Also, unlike handmade fur felt hats, the mass produced cloth baseball caps can be cheaply made. Consequently they are regularly given away as promotional items or can be purchased at “dollar” stores all over North America.
The wearing of baseball caps “perfectly reflects the fall and rise of the hat in the second half of the twentieth century . . . the desire to wear a hat for show is clearly as strong as the need to make a statement about one’s attitudes” (McDowell 199). The baseball cap also reflects a society that is generally more casual than it used to be. For example, many children are now on a first name basis with adults, clothing has become more casual at school and at church, and the use of manners has declined dramatically. Of course, formal hats continue to be popular fashion items at some weddings, black tie events, rowing regattas, horse races, and events that involve royalty. The fedora is still worn by some older men, and is, in varying styles, even making inroads with actors, musicians, and some sectors of the youth market.
Though the wearing of hats for reasons of fashion has declined in modern society, hats continue to be very much a part of the culture as they are used extensively in television and film productions aimed at viewers of all ages. The result is an audience that is quite educated about or at least exposed to various hats. The many ways television and films both reflect and shape cultures has been well documented and television “actually advertised itself as a ‘window on the world’” (Olson, Finnegan, and Hope xxiii). So while many people can read about hats in history books, it is the use of them in films and television programs that help bring them to life. Since hats were prominent throughout history, as chapter two will further explain, they have been used extensively in some films and television programs that are set in the past and that are trying to be historically accurate. Some examples include, Mad Men, (set in the 1950s), Pan Am (set in the 1960s), The Untouchables (set in the 1920s), and The Ten Commandments (set in ancient Egypt).
The hat has been worn throughout history to communicate status, affiliation, job, culture, and authority. So, it is not surprising that it has been widely used in films and television programs as a part of a mediated character’s costume. Since the number of people watching films and television programs grows each year, it is logical to conclude that never before in have so many people been exposed to so many different types of hats used for so many things. Prior to mediated communication people only saw the hats worn by those around them. Now hats from all times in history and from different countries or cultures can be seen. There are many people, for example, who recognize the sequined “montera” hat worn by Spanish matadors only because of its use in a film or television program. This is true of many other Spanish hats as well such as the helmet worn by the conquistadors or the flamenco hat. A certain irony exists that in a primarily hatless culture there is a high level of recognition of hats and their meaning.
The role the costume has played in mediated communication is a significant one. Richard La Motte noted, “Costume design for motion pictures is about creating mythic images, revealing character, and illustrating drama using the principles of art (especially drawing and painting, and their rules of composition, proportion, and color) and symbolism as applied to physical clothing” (71-72). This study will examine two mediated heroes, Davy Crockett and Indiana Jones whose costumes, and specifically their hats, became mythic images.
An Area of Study Unexplored
Many scholarly historical, critical and social science studies have dealt in many ways with popular dramatic television programs and feature films and their development, content, characters and effects on individuals, audiences and cultures. What has not been undertaken are studies that have specifically focused on the role of the hat in the development of dramatic film and television characters and how the use of these hats in this way has influenced viewers or the cultures in which the television programs or films were viewed. This study will show that the hat has played important roles in both history and as a communication artifact. It will examine how it has contributed to the impact dramatic productions and their characters had on cultures and audiences. Not only has this area of study been largely ignored by scholars, but even the more general area of costume design has been the subject of limited scholarly attention until recently.
In 2001, Sarah Street stated that the “study of costume and cinema is only just beginning to be recognized as a legitimate and fruitful subject area” (1). The first Ph.D. dissertation in the field of film costume design was completed in 2003 by Deborah Nadoolman Landis (her dissertation was published under the name Deborah Landis). In her introduction she affirmed that “the process of costume design has not heretofore been examined or analyzed systematically or comprehensively.” She noted that her study would investigate “the purpose, and integral role, that costume design plays in the creation of a modern film” (1). Her work provided concepts that are foundational to this and other studies on hats worn by mediated characters.
First, Nadoolman Landis established, “Since narrative film is told in close-ups . . . you have to be extremely careful with what’s around the actor’s face. . . . [C]ostume design starts with the head. If the head is wrong, the costume will be completely wrong” (296). While noting that “The cameraman never sacrifices the actor’s face,” Landis declared, “This is the face that is delivering the dialogue, this is the face the audience is there to see, and this is the face the studio is paying to guarantee a successful opening weekend at the box office” (236). Consequently, costumes created by a costume designer are done so “from the top of their heads to the tip of their toes” (297). This can be a difficult task when trying to come up with the correct hat. One of the films in her case study was the Francis Ford Coppola film Tucker which was set in the 1950s. Jeff Bridges played the lead character and according to the film’s costume designer, “The most difficult part of Jeff’s wardrobe was finding the correct hat” (277). In a personal interview, Nadoolman Landis further expounded on the special place the hat has for a mediated character. She stated that it is “more than a costume piece. It’s an extension of the character. It’s an extension of his face . . . If a hat is in the scene, it is the most important object in the scene other than the actor.” The face is an important element of both interpersonal and mediated communication and if the hat is an extension of the face then it becomes part of the communication as well.
Second, Nadoolman Landis concluded that a costume is important to telegraphing information about a mediated character. She saw the role of the costume designer serving “two equal purposes: to support the narrative by creating truthful characters, and to provide balance within the frame of the film with color, texture and silhouette” (n. pag.). Her study examined two different costume designers from two different movies. Both “approached their craft with the same purpose: actualizing the story through costume to serve the script, while following a similar process: using the same creative steps to clothe and create fictional characters from script to screen” (Landis 167). There is then, communication intention in the costume design process. Because costumes are so critical to characters and the story being told, Nadoolman Landis points out it is the director who decides “what their film should look like. . . . Costume designers and production designers may make suggestions, but ultimately it is the director who has the authority to make every stylistic decision” (Landis 28).
What About Hats Worn by Mediated Heroes?
While Nadoolman Landis’s study focused on the whole field of costume design, the scope of this study is far narrower. It looks at the headwear of mediated heroes. More specifically, this historical research study examines the use of hats in the creation of mediated heroes in dramatic films and television programs and their resulting influences on culture. It should also be noted that while there have been female mediated heroes, traditionally the majority of hat wearing heroes in television and film productions have been men. Of course, an examination of hats worn by female mediated heroes would make an excellent study of its own.
The focus of this study, however, is on hats as they relate to two, male media-constructed heroes from two different eras. In each instance, the hat not only telegraphed character information but came to symbolize the character. The first mediated hero examined will be Davy Crockett who, in the 1950s, illustrated both the power of television and the significant role a hat played in the early days of the medium (see Appendix A, fig. 4). The second mediated hero, Indiana Jones, is a more contemporary film hero who is still popular today almost thirty years after he first appeared on screen (see Appendix A, fig. 5). Though he was depicted in a different medium and the films and their popularity emerged in a different cultural environment, there appear to be some similarities between these two characters and the influence they had on audiences and cultures. The hats worn by these men, a coonskin cap and a fedora respectively, were not only an integral part of their costume and character but ultimately became the symbols by which they are identified to this day.
Far less has been written about Indiana Jones than Crockett. Academic writing about him was limited to some references in Nadoolman Landis’s dissertation. In terms of more general material about the character, the people involved in making the Indiana Jones film have done numerous interviews about the films and the character which offer helpful insight. Several books were published about the making of the films which included behind the scenes information and drew from Lucasfilm archival material. Various documentary specials have also been produced about the Indiana Jones films which again included more behind the scenes material. Much has been written in newspapers and magazines and other stories about the character or has been developed for the mass market in various forms such as novels, comics, and even several reference guides.
Many stories have been published about Davy Crockett as well. He also has been widely studied by writers and academics. Most focus on the real person of David Crockett or his place at the Alamo. However, there are two doctoral dissertations written about Disney’s Davy Crockett that are of interest to this study.
The first dissertation, The Crockett Craze, was written by Margaret J. King in 1976 at the University of Hawaii. King argued that Crockett was a hero “recycled” by Walt Disney who then introduced him to the 20th century in a new form—“not in the oral tradition of rural nineteenth-century folktale and legend nor even in the yellow press tradition of the Almanacs and newspaper accounts, but in the new national shared experience of television” (77). King included a chapter, “The Social Context of the Crockett Craze”, which looked at the major social forces of the period which may have contributed to the great popularity of Disney’s Davy Crockett. She also argued that the overwhelming success of the Crockett television programs prompted other major Hollywood studios to become involved in television. It also set a precedent “for a new seriousness and higher budget for the television Western . . . the Davy Crockett series was the first of the television tradition of the ‘full length’ hour-long Western” (7). For King, Disney’s television series moved Crockett from a “relatively obscure position in American frontier history . . . to the level of an intense, and in many ways lasting, heroic status” (53). This brought him into competition “with Daniel Boone for the stature of archetypal frontier hero” (53). She dedicated another chapter to examine how through Disney’s presentation of Crockett “many of Boone’s best (and formerly unique) characteristics were covertly transferred to the personality of Crockett (such as the coonskin cap . . . )” (56). While it should be noted that some have suggested the real Daniel Boone never wore a coonskin cap, it was part of the modern image of him. In writing about this King highlighted the idea that the coonskin cap is a significant artifact to both of these characters and their legends.
While King’s work did not center on the coonskin cap she did spend a few pages discussing it and some of its relevance. She stated that while the Crockett “craze” was rich in symbols it was the coonskin cap, which was “wearable” and “highly visible”, that was “the essential element in the Crockett uniform.” King’s dissertation noted how the Disney Studios called it “a national symbol” (14). King, drawing from Packard’s book, quoted motivational researcher Ernst Dichter as she explained the subconscious need behind the coonskin cap: “‘Children are seeking for an opportunity to explain themselves in terms of the tradition of this country. Crockett gave them that opportunity. On a very imaginative level, the kids really felt they were Davy Crockett’” (Packard 154-155). Also mentioned was sociologist Paul Lazarsfeld’s response to the coonskin cap’s appeal. Lazarsfeld saw it “as a ‘clear-cut line of gratification’ irresistible not only to children but to their reluctant parents” (King, Crockett Craze 15). While King brought up some excellent points about the coonskin cap she did not expand on them.
Another doctoral dissertation that offers a great deal of information pertinent to this study is Coonskin Fever: Frontier Adventures in Postwar American Culture written in 1996 by Lisa Anne Fischman at the University of Minnesota. Fischman’s work explored the cultural conditions and factors in the time surrounding the Crockett phenomenon. She described a “frontier” mindset that existed at this time in America. Through its Crockett productions and other media entertainment efforts “Disney proved the depth of the postwar nation’s devotion to wilderness adventure, on the frontiers of history, technology and imagination” (Fischman 4). Fischman discussed the demand for the coonskin cap but, like King, did not focus on it.
The large amount of material written about Davy Crockett, the real and fictional character, gives credence to the important role this character played in America as a mediated figure. The lack of material written about Indiana Jones, in spite of his place as an iconic American hero, also suggests a need for a study about him. In addition, surprisingly little scholarly literature has examined how hats relate to the development of media characters.
Why Davy Crockett and Indiana Jones?
As already noted, the hat has been an important communication artifact throughout history and to this day continues to influence cultures. In the course of more recent history, with the expansion of mediated entertainment, the hat continues to serve as an important mediated artifact. This is particularly true, when it has been used in the development and portrayal of significant characters in dramatic television programs and films. In some cases, it seems that hats associated with television or film characters contributed to the commercial and critical success of those programs or films. In special instances, the particular program or film, its key character, and the hat associated with that character have had an extraordinary cultural influence. Perhaps the two most notable examples of this were Walt Disney’s 1950s television and film depiction of Davy Crockett with his coonskin cap and to a lesser degree, the Lucasfilm series of films which first appeared in the 1980s which followed the fedora-wearing Indiana Jones character.
In his book, The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America, Daniel J. Boorstin did an excellent job of examining the changing perceptions of heroes, fame, and celebrity in society, particularly in the mediated culture that evolved in the 20th century. Fame, Boorstin said, was never the same as greatness, but “until very recently, famous men and great men were pretty nearly the same group. . . . To become known to a whole people, a man usually had to be something of a hero” (46). Heroes throughout most of history, Boorstin said, were “figures as diverse as Moses, Ulysses, Aeneas, Jesus, Caesar, Mohammed, Joan of Arc, Shakespeare, Washington, Napoleon, and Lincoln” (49). He defined a hero “as a human figure—real or imaginary—or both—who has shown greatness in some achievement. He is a man or woman of great deeds” (49).
Using Boorstin’s definition, both Davy Crockett and Indiana Jones could possibly qualify as heroes. Crockett was a real life character whose heroic exploits have been well documented. Yet, he and his exploits often have been distorted or exaggerated through various fictional and non-fictional accounts and media portrayals. He is a historic figure made particularly heroic through mediated fare. Jones is a fictional character whose greatness is confined to the mediated stories that have been created about him and reactions people have had to them.
Mediated communication, Boorstin went on to say, brought with it an important shift as “we seem to have discovered the processes by which fame is manufactured. Now, at least in the United States, a man’s name can become a household word overnight” (47). Crockett, who lived from 1786-1836, benefited from earlier manifestations of this process. William C. Davis concluded that since newspapers and almanacs “were publishing stories of these fantastic adventures by David Crockett, riding a streak of lightning, taming alligators and all of the rest” that “David Crockett really is America’s first media celebrity” (n. pag.). One thing that seems quite certain is that David Crockett “became a myth even in his own lifetime. Other spurious autobiographies were offered as his own; he was made the hero of a hundred popular tales repeated by word of mouth and circulated in newspapers and almanacs” (Rourke 56). Crockett’s fame was certainly not without its detractors like James I. Robertson Jr. who, in the June 1958 Tennessee Historical Quarterly, wrote, “The most accomplished liar in frontier Tennessee was Davy Crockett. Exaggerating his own abilities, Crockett gave rise to legends which even surpassed his ostensibly unlimited repertoire of personal achievements” (99). Regardless of what the real David Crockett did or did not do, his place in American history was forever secured with his death at the Alamo.
While stories of Davy Crockett appeared in newspapers, books, almanacs, plays, and films, it was the 1950s television portrayal by Fess Parker which had the biggest impact on the largest audience with effects still felt today. These were the early days of the medium and Walt Disney created Davy Crockett: Indian Fighter for his popular weekly television program, Disneyland. After the Crockett episode of the program aired on December 15, 1954, the demand created for Crockett merchandise, and specifically the coonskin cap, was unprecedented (see Appendix A, fig. 6). This “Crockett Craze”, showed that the television medium could have a powerful effect on a viewing audience. The coonskin cap became such an icon that it eventually became a museum piece and joined “the ranks of other entertainment icons—such as Fonzie’s leather jacket and a Star Trek phaser—at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History” (Friedman, n. pag.). Dwight Blocker Bowers, curator of the museum’s Culture and the Arts division, was a baby boomer who said he “remembers angling for a coonskin cap of his own” (Friedman, n. pag.). However, Bowers also stated that the importance of this artifact went beyond just its place in popular culture: “It isn’t about Fess Parker or Davy Crockett. It’s about the images we grew up with on television that continue to inform our own lives as adults” (Friedman, n. pag.). These powerful, idealized images of Crockett presented by Walt Disney had a tremendous effect on audiences, and for many, the coonskin was and still is the ultimate embodiment of Crockett’s legend as played by Parker. Friedman concluded: “Generations have learned about a mythic version of American history by watching television and if ever there was a figure who is immediately conjured by seeing an artifact, it is Fess Parker” (n. pag.). While many books and articles have been written about different aspects of Davy Crockett, the communication role of this hat, which can be one of the most powerful symbols of a mediated hero, has not. The study of Disney’s Davy Crockett illustrates the role of the hero’s hat as a powerful identification tool for the audience—some of whom wore it as a way of connecting with the hero and the myth attached to him.
The second mediated character to be examined is a more recent film character, Indiana Jones, who has been called the “American culture’s ultimate action hero” (Droganes, n. pag.). Frank Marshall, producer of many action films including the Jason Bourne trilogy, said that Indiana Jones is the archetype for action heroes: “He’s the touchstone. He’s the holy grail of these kinds of characters. . . . Bond is a different kind of character. Indy is fallible and human; he’s a scholar and a rogue, but also able to take care of himself . . .” (qtd. in Perenson 29). In the feature films, Indiana Jones was played by actor Harrison Ford, who also played Han Solo in the original Star Wars trilogy. These two roles “have come to represent, for a vast international audience, a kind of mythic American hero who belongs to all time and space” (Collins H21). The American Film Institute listed Indiana Jones as the number two film hero of all time (Atticus Finch was number one). A poll by U.K. magazine, Total Film, put Jones at number one and called him “the greatest movie hero of all time, handily beating out expected victor James Bond” (Ryan 5).
Indiana Jones first appeared in movie theatres in 1981. His popularity was enhanced in part because of modern technology such as videotapes, DVDs and the internet. Interest in the character remained steady so that even after an almost twenty year hiatus, a new Indiana Jones movie, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, was released in 2008. Over the years, Indiana Jones had become known as “the man in the hat” which was a concept used in promotional material for several of the films (see Appendix A, fig. 7). When the fourth film was released on DVD in the fall of 2008, one version came sealed in fedora covered wrapping paper designed for Christmas gift giving (see Appendix A, fig. 8). As with Davy Crockett’s coonskin cap, the iconic status of this hat was also recognized by its placement in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History (see Appendix A, fig. 9). The museum, which displays the artifacts most reflective of American culture, requested the original whip and fedora he utilized as Indiana Jones. Ford personally made the donation . . . saying, “‘I’m flattered to be here and have these artifacts on display here’” (qtd. in Pfeiffer and Lewis 26). Perhaps more significantly, “the National Film Registry, a branch of the U.S. Library of Congress that seeks to preserve twenty films a year that it deems ‘culturally, historically, or aesthetically important,’ named Raiders of the Lost Ark one of 1999’s selections” (Ryan 16). For curator Dwight Blocker Bowers, Indiana Jones “embodies the heroic figure in pop culture” (qtd. in Droganes, n. pag.) which is something reflected in his costume:
We took these items into the collection because they have a lot to do with the nature of the action hero . . . They define “Indiana Jones” and what that character stands for to the public. It’s his costume of indomitability. . . . People stand before that hat and jacket with curious reverence. . . . But it doesn’t matter if it’s a flag or a fedora. These movie items fill in a part of the American dream for people. (qtd. in Droganes, n. pag.)
Together Crockett and Jones represent two mediated characters whose hats had a profound impact on their character and on the audience that watched them. Both bring important similarities and differences to this study. Davy Crockett’s coonskin cap has played a role in the development of and perceptions of this mediated character since the early 19th century. But its greatest influence was a special phenomenon associated with the airing of the Disney Crockett series in the early days of television. Indiana Jones and his hat, a more recent phenomenon, emerged in an era of many new technological, marketing and other culture trends that have further heightened the impact of media celebrities and artifacts associated with them.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this historical study, then, is to further examine the use of hats as communication artifacts and the role they play in the creation of mediated heroes and the resulting influence on audiences or cultures. The study will focus on hats as they relate to two different heroic characters from two different media productions, and the hats associated with these characters. Each was highly popular but in different historical eras: Davy Crockett, a hero of the 1950s and Indiana Jones, a heroic character in more recent times. This study will compare these two media heroes, the eras in which they emerged, the influence they had on audiences and the culture of their time, and the relative significance of the media hero’s hats in this respect.
There have been many portrayals of Davy Crockett in mediated communication but this study will focus on Walt Disney’s Davy Crockett television productions that began in the mid-1950s in which actor Fess Parker portrayed Davy Crockett. These were the early days of television which meant fewer channels to watch but also fewer homes with televisions. It was common at this time in history for entire families, or even several families, to gather together and watch popular programs. This was the environment from which was born the incredible response to the television portrayal of Davy Crockett. Crockett’s coonskin cap quickly created one of the great fads of the 20th Century and its demand was unparalleled by any other hat-wearing mediated character in history. The demand for the cap resulted from a broadcast of three television programs in an age. There were no home video recorders, personal computers, the internet, or other characteristics of the media and entertainment environment experienced in more contemporary times to feed this phenomenon. This meant that Crockett fans waited for reruns or paid to see them when they were later released as feature films.
The Indiana Jones character and the hat that uniquely identified him first appeared on screen in a series of popular films. With personal entertainment technology, computers, and the internet still several years from the mass market, Raiders of the Lost Ark was introduced to audiences through movie theatres. However, since the Indiana Jones series was released over a period of year, the introduction of various new communication technologies played a part in boosting the film’s popularity. There were increasingly a wider variety of outlets and means for viewing or promoting the films or encouraging audience or fan involvement with them or their characters and the actors that played them. While historical study of the role and influence of the mediated hat in the case of either Davy Crockett or Indiana Jones phenomena could be a valuable contribution to media history, comparing and contrasting the two in light of these two different time periods is particularly illuminating.
The Disney Davy Crockett phenomenon was like nothing else before or after it—millions of children across America scrambling to be like their hero by wearing a coonskin cap. It was the mid-1950s and at the height of the craze more than five thousand coonskin caps a day was sold which pushed the cost of raccoon fur “from 25 cents a pound to $8. Before it was over, Crockettmania accounted for $300 million in sales . . .” (Johnson, n. pag.). Fess Parker said, “I will immodestly tell you it was bigger than anything, ever, including The Beatles and Elvis . . .” (qtd. in Johnson, n. pag.). While there had been other fads before it, the Crockett fad was one of the first created by a mediated hero with effects of the programs clearly seen on a generation of children.
One of those children impacted was Steven Spielberg who, years later, remembered that wearing or not wearing a coonskin cap was an important way of identifying with the characters in Disney’s Davy Crockett:
I was in third grade at the time. Suddenly the next day, everybody in my class but me was Davy Crockett. And because I didn’t have my coonskin cap and my powder horn, or Old Betsy, my rifle, and the chaps, I was deemed the Mexican leader, Santa Anna. And they chased me home from school until I got my parents to buy me a coonskin cap. (qtd. in Jones, Great Expectations 44)
It is not clear from this quote if Spielberg actually saw any of the Crockett programs on television but according to an interview in People magazine, he said that as a child he did see the theatrical release of Davy Crockett. He was eight years old when he was taken (presumably wearing his coonskin cap) to see the theatrical release of the Davy Crockett film. Spielberg spoke of the deep impact the film made on his life:
[I]n the magical darkness of a movie theater, Steven Spielberg found the credo of his career in a coon-skin cap. “I saw Davy Crockett,” he recalls, and he said something I’ve never forgotten: “Be sure you’re right, and then go ahead.” That was the Davy Crockett motto, and I’ve lived by it all my life. (qtd. in Reed, n. pag.)
Decades later this same Steven Spielberg would be involved in the creation of his own hat wearing hero, Indiana Jones. One has to wonder what influence these early lessons about identification through headgear had on him, since, as Spielberg told Time magazine in 1985, “I dream for a living. I use my childhood and go back there for inspiration” (qtd. in Clarke 15).
The history of the Jones character is much different since, unlike Crockett, he was fictional and not based on a real person. Also, since he was created almost two hundred years after Crockett was born, much less has been written about him and about the effect this hat wearing hero had on the audience. Both Crockett and Jones are American heroes, however. One is a real man who became a legend through the media and the other was a character who was solely the creation of the media.
This historical study of the hat as it relates to mediated characters, particularly Davy Crockett and Indiana Jones, could be further informed by drawing from what scholars have discovered about visual rhetoric. As Sonja Foss has observed, the term visual rhetoric is “used to describe the study of visual imagery within the discipline of rhetoric. As a branch of knowledge, rhetoric dates back to classical Greece and is concerned with the study of the use of symbols to communicate” (“Theory of Visual Rhetoric” 141). Even though visual images are important and possess rhetorical qualities, these images have only really been taken seriously by rhetorical scholars comparatively recently. Olson, Finnegan and Hope, concluded that “in every historical period, images have been an influential presence in the public sphere. Public images often work in ways that are rhetorical; that is, they function to persuade” (1).
The importance of visual rhetoric has grown in recent years as the number of images to which people are exposed to have increased. According to Gierstberg and Oosterbaan, “It is beyond question that the number of images in circulation is greater than 100, 50, or even 10 years ago. The production, distribution and availability of images has increased radically, thanks to technological developments” (14). Sonja Foss noted that the study of visual images is flourishing in rhetorical studies because of “the pervasiveness of the visual image and its impact on contemporary culture. . . . As much as rhetorical scholars may feel nostalgia for a culture in which public speeches were the symbols that had primary impact, that culture is gone” (“Theory of Visual Rhetoric” 142). Visual rhetoric is an important aspect of communication studies because “scholars of visual rhetoric know that while visual images, artifacts, and performances have considerable power to shape the world, viewers and spectators are hardly passive; rather they co-create meaning along with the artifacts themselves” (Olson, Finnegan and Hope 3).
While the importance of visual rhetoric may be clear, how to define it is not because as Finnegan noted, an “increased use of a term does not necessarily constitute a universally accepted meaning” (198). Charles A. Hill and Marguerite Helmers are editors of the book, Defining Visual Rhetoric. This book is significant because even the very title of the book highlights that visual rhetoric lacks a coherent and widely accepted definition. They noted in their introductory chapter that they:
. . . noticed a major shift in the field of rhetoric, one in which an increasing amount of the discipline’s attention was becoming focused on visual objects and on the visual nature of the rhetorical process. The phrase visual rhetoric was being used more frequently in journal articles, in textbooks, and especially in conference presentations. (ix)
But they went on to note that “it seemed equally obvious that the phrase was being used in many different ways by different scholars. There seemed little agreement on what exactly scholars intended when they used the term . . .” (ix).
Foss presented a helpful chapter in this same publication. She concluded that based on the material written by others in the book, visual rhetoric has two meanings—either it is referring to “a product individuals create as they use visual symbols for the purpose of communicating” or “it is a perspective scholars apply that focuses on the symbolic processes by which visual artifacts perform communication” (“Framing the Study of Visual Rhetoric” 304). Foss went on to state that there are three areas that rhetorical scholars focus on: The first is nature, which “deals with components, qualities, and characteristics of visual artifacts”; the second is function, which is concerned with “the communicative effects of visual rhetoric on audiences”; and the third is evaluation which “is the process of assessing visual artifacts” (“Framing the Study of Visual Rhetoric” 307). She also said that essential to any visual rhetoric study is the “explication of the distinguishing features of the visual artifact” because this “requires an understanding of the substantive and stylistic nature of the artifacts being explored” (“Framing the Study of Visual Rhetoric” 307). For Foss the “description of the nature of the visual rhetoric” has two main parts—“presented elements”, which involves “naming its major physical features” and “suggested elements” which are “the concepts, ideas, themes, and allusions that a viewer is likely to infer from the presented elements” (“Framing the Study of Visual Rhetoric” 307).
Finnegan, on the other hand, travels a quite different research path from Foss. Finnegan suggested that rather that defining visual rhetoric as “merely a genre category or product,” it could be conceptualized “as a mode of inquiry, defined as a critical and theoretical orientation that makes issues of visuality relevant to rhetorical theory” (198). Finnegan offers a three pronged sequential methodology for “doing rhetorical history of the visual . . . that accounts for both the history of images as rhetorical events and the rhetoric of images as historical events” (211). She begins with David Zarefsky’s four senses of rhetorical history. Zarefsky saw “four different kinds of inquiry embraced by the term ‘rhetorical history” and felt that “Although they are distinct, they clearly cross-fertilize” (26). His first two are the “history of rhetoric” and the “rhetoric of history” but it is his third and fourth points that are of specific interest to Finnegan. Zarefsky’s third division is the “historical study of rhetorical events.” He said that “Rhetorical discourse could be studied as a force in history”, “as an index or mirror of history”, or “historical study could be undertaken of key arguments or even terms”, “more microscopic studies of the inventional history of particular discourses could be undertaken”, “or patterns can be found in groups of discourses that suggest a rhetorical trajectory” (29). Zarefsky said, “Of all the branches of rhetorical history, this one has undergone the most change to the literature of one or two generations ago. Gone is the assumption that a single all-purpose method will work” (29).
Zarefsky’s fourth sense is “the study of historical events from a rhetorical perspective” which he said, “is the most elusive but possibly also the most rewarding” (30). It first assumes “that the rhetorical historian has the same subject matter as any other historian: ‘human life in all its totality and multiplicity’” but has a distinctive perspective which is “how messages are created and used by people to influence and relate to one another” (30). The rhetorical historian “views history as a series of rhetorical problems, situations that call for public persuasion to advance a cause or overcome an impasse. The focus of the study would be on how, and how well, people invented and deployed messages in response to the situation” (30). These studies may answer “the ‘so what?’ question” and “By studying important historical events from a rhetorical perspective, one can see significant aspects about those events that other perspectives miss” (30).
Finnegan says Zarefsky’s last two points are useful in her arguments because when taken together they “enable the rhetorical historian to pay attention to each of three distinct but equally important moments . . . production, reproduction, and circulation” (200). Production, she says, examines where the artifact came from and why it appears where it does. Reproduction deals with what an artifact is made to do in the context in which it is used. It “acknowledges that images are hybrid entities, that we do not encounter them in isolation, and that their arrangement . . . is always the result of particular editorial choices and framing of ideas” (200). Finally, circulation has to do with the way an artifact fits into a broader social, political, and institutional discourse and this according to Finnegan, it “allows us to tap into the ‘elusive’ yet vital realm of Zarefsky’s fourth sense of rhetorical history: the rhetorical study of historical events” (208).
While Finnegan applied and illustrated her model in the context of her analysis of archival photographs, her model is easily adapted to moving images. It is also a helpful perspective through which to examine the role of the hat in the development, dissemination and influence of both the Davy Crockett and Indiana Jones mediated characters.
In light of the purpose of this study, a number of key research questions will be
1. What role did the hat play in the development of the Walt Disney Productions television character of Davy Crockett?
2. What role did the hat play in the development of the film character of Indiana Jones?
3. What influence did the Davy Crockett television program, character and hat have on culture during the historical time period (1950s) in which they emerged?
4. What influence did the Indiana Jones films, character and hat have on culture during the historical time period (1980s and later) in which they emerged?
5. What are the similarities and differences in the uses and effects of the hat associated with the Davy Crockett character in the 1950s and the hat associated with the Indiana Jones character in the 1980s and beyond?
Significance of Study
As will be discussed in chapter two, hats have played a very significant cultural role throughout history. They have reflected and influenced fashion trends, served as communication artifacts, reflected and symbolized cultures and their norms, identified occupational roles, and represented values. The 20th Century brought an explosion of film and television and hats were used to develop a wide variety of media characters, especially fictional ones. Some of these hats were so important they became an intrinsic part of the character which had significant effects on the audiences and cultures in which they were shown.
Even with this long history of hats being used in films and television in this way there have been no studies that focused on the relative importance of the hat to the success of dramatic media characters, the films or programs they are in, and their effects on audiences and cultures. In addition, studies dealing with the process of film and television character development, costuming, etc. have not dealt directly with the hat and its importance in this respect.
Crockett and Jones are excellent examples of hat wearing media heroes because of their widespread popularity and while other factors besides the hat contributed to their success this study will show through the examination of these characters, how relatively important hats can be to mediated character’s development and the influence these characters and the films/television programs they are in can have.
While enough material exists to examine each mediated character and their hat and circumstances surrounding the development and influence of each production on their own, this study, after examining them individually, will compare and contrast the two and the different eras they represent. This should help reveal the impact modern technology and the more current media environment have on the development of and influence of a hat and the media character associated with it.
While Finnegan’s visual rhetoric model will be applied to this study of hats as it relates to the Davy Crockett and Indiana Jones mediated characters, it is an investigation guided by standards of historiography. Historiography “is a method for discovering, from records and accounts, what happened during some past period” (Berg 233). It “attempts to fashion a descriptive written account of the past. Such a narrative account is flowing, revealing, vibrant, and alive!” (Berg 233) In providing this narrative, the idea that “history is a discourse about, but different from, the past” must be kept in mind (Munslow 142). It is an examination of a past event or a series of events that relies on “discovering, from records and accounts, what happened during some past period” (Berg 233). Sources considered legitimate when using a historical approach include “confidential reports, public records, government documents, newspaper editorials and stories, essays, songs, poetry, folklore, films, photos, artifacts, and even interviews or questionnaires” (Berg 235).
History has been called “one of the great literary and academic disciplines” (Barzun and Graff 5) and as such is one that is useful to communication scholars. Many scholars agree that historical research goes beyond the collection of facts and dates. It is instead “the study of the relationships among issues that have influenced the past, continue to influence the present, and will certainly affect the future” (Berg 234). Others suggest that the “inclusion of historical perspectives and methodologies as part of successful social science is not merely a matter of arbitrary choice; it is demanded by the rational acknowledgement that contemporary forms of human behavior all have, by definition, a history” (Williamson, Dalphin and Gray 240).
The historical study of television and filmmaking and its influences is important because such studies often examine the antecedents of or even mirror some of the same phenomena that may be apparent today. This would seem to be particularly true as it relates to the development and influence of mediated characters or heroes, although the nature and uses of media themselves also have changed dramatically over time. In a historical study, “understanding the historical nature of phenomena, events, people, agencies, and even institutions is important. . . . One cannot fully evaluate or appreciate advances made in knowledge, science, or technology without some understanding of the circumstances within which these developments occurred” (Salkind as qtd. in Berg 235). This idea is foundational to this study as the basic assumption underlying all historical research is:
Society requires a usable past. . . . Can we, in short, learn from history? Generations of historians and their readers have believed that we can. They have turned—and still turn—to history for two kinds of guidance: for lessons on how to act in situations which have occurred before, and for a broader intimation of where they stand in the flow of time and thus of what may lie in the future. (Tosh 10)
As this chapter discussed, the hat and its influences have played a highly significant role throughout history, but its role as a communication artifact appears to have been understudied. The use of the hat in television, film and other media and particularly its role in the development of and influence of television and film characters has been even less often the focus of scholarly study. An examination and comparison of the use and effects of the hat in association with Disney’s Davy Crockett character in the 1950s and the Indiana Jones character in the 1980s and beyond should allow for “a broader understanding of human behavior and thoughts than would be possible if we were trapped in the static isolation of our own time” (Hamilton as qtd. in Berg 234). As noted in Barzun and Graff’s book, “We live and are moved by historical ideas and images, and our national existence goes on by reproducing them” (10). However, such investigation requires avoiding the “imposition of modern thoughts or understanding when considering information about the past” (Marshall and Rossman as qtd. in Berg 235).
Though the focus will be on Indiana Jones and the Walt Disney Production’s version of Davy Crockett, a variety of resources were particularly helpful in providing context for and helping to and to help develop the framework of this study. Material relating to costume design, hats, television and film technology, and fan communities will be used as well, this study will draw from a great deal of historical material. Since the Disney Davy Crockett phenomenon was an event that happened in the 1950s, material from that era is of special interest. This includes interviews, newspaper and magazine articles, books, publicity material, Crockett merchandise, and of course, the television programs. Material that predates Disney’s Crockett will also be examined. This includes material such as plays, newspaper articles, books, and autobiographical material about the real Davy Crockett. Academic dissertations written by Deborah Nadoolman Landis, Margaret J. King, and also Lisa Anne Fischman that provide a good context of the 1950s Disney Crockett craze will be referenced.
Since the first Indiana Jones film was produced in the 1980s and the last was released in 2008, most people involved in the creation of these films are still alive. This is not so for the original Disney Davy Crockett productions presented to the public in the 1950s. Also, because of greater media coverage of the films and the fame of those involved in the production of them, interviews with these various principals have been more plentiful and more accessible than those involved with the Crockett productions. However, the original Indiana Jones film came out nearly 30 years ago, so this study examined newspaper and magazines, books, promotional material, and television specials from the era that dealt with the character. Of course, the original Indiana Jones films also are referenced.
Primary resources are critical to the success of historical investigations. They also must be evaluated for both their internal and external validity. External validity involves “the question of veracity or genuineness of the source involved” (Berg 242). Internal validity is concerned with assessing the meaning contained within those primary sources. The proper “evaluations of the external and internal value of the data ensure valid and reliable information and viable historical analysis” (Berg 240).
A number of primary sources and secondary sources were particularly helpful in the study of Walt Disney Studio’s Davy Crockett series and the phenomenon associated with the television character and his coonskin cap. These include the original productions themselves: Davy Crockett Indian Fighter, Davy Crockett Goes to Congress, Davy Crockett at the Alamo, Davy Crockett’s Keelboat Race, and Davy Crockett and the River Pirates. These were originally shown as one hour television episodes on Walt Disney’s weekly television program but were subsequently edited into two feature length films that were released in movie theatres. These films were foundational to this study since it was from these that the great interest in Davy Crockett sprung. They enabled close examination of how the coonskin cap was integrated with the Crockett character in the films and in some instances into the storyline. The 1950s portrayal of Crockett also was contrasted with the most recent Disney Crockett presentation, the 2004 film, The Alamo. The script of this film is contained in the book The Alamo: The Illustrated Story of the Epic Film.
Printed material from the time of the Crockett Craze provided further understanding of the extent to which it impacted America in the 1950s. This included features on the Crockett phenomenon published July 26, 1955, in Look magazine and in LIFE from April 1955. Walt Disney’s The Ballad of Davy Crockett and the Songs of the Period is a music book published in 1955. It was the primary source used to examine the lyrics of the many Crockett songs.
To understand the Disney Crockett and the role of the hat requires study of the real life of David Crockett. Much has been written about this historical character. Two different Davy Crockett’s autobiographies yielded a good understanding of the real Crockett and his view of his own life. The first, A Narrative on the Life of Davy Crockett of the State of Tennessee, is a book originally written in 1834 and which has been republished numerous times including, not surprisingly, in 1955 at the height of the craze. It has been annotated by Crockett scholars James A. Shackford and Stanley J. Folmsbee. According to scholars, this work was most likely written by Crockett himself. What he wrote about his own life contributed greatly to his legend. Disney Studios later used material from Crockett’s story. However, they further exaggerated the story and created new, fictionalized stories about him. A second autobiography is The Adventures of Davy Crockett: Told Mostly by Himself, which offers more exploits of Crockett. Another publication examined, one that also added to the Crockett myth during his lifetime, was The Davy Crockett Almanacs. This was published as a mass market newspaper from 1835-1856.
To gain insights about Disney’s Crockett character and the role and effects of the coonskin cap relative to this, many interviews and recordings of both Fess Parker and Walt Disney were available for study. This included three interviews with Parker (in April 2003, Jan. 2005, and Feb. 2007) conducted by the author (see Appendix A, fig. 10). Other pertinent interviews were conducted by L. Wayne Hicks for the website TVParty.com, an interview by Michael Barrier which was posted on his website on Dec. 20, 2004, an interview by Lisa Anne Fischman for her 1996 dissertation, an interview produced by the American Film Institute and an interview in The “E” Ticket in Spring 2000 which focused on Davy Crockett and Disneyland and offered insight about how Disney incorporated Davy Crockett in to his theme park. Since Walt Disney was a celebrity in his own right, there are many hours of him introducing or promoting films and television programs such as he did for the Crockett television series. Some of this material was re-released on the Walt Disney Treasures series of DVDs, most notably extra material that was included on the Davy Crockett—The Complete Televised Series release. This material includes Disney and Parker both talking about the series. It was very useful in trying to understand the development of the character and the way Disney saw Crockett and the Crockett legend. Also included in this DVD set is an interview with author Paul Anderson (who wrote a comprehensive book on the Crockett Craze) who discussed the fad. Dateline Disneyland is another DVD set in the Walt Disney Treasures series which showed the role that Fess Parker and Buddy Ebsen, as Davy Crockett and Georgie Russell respectively, played in the opening of Walt Disney’s theme park. This illustrates the fame that was created by the television series.
There are also key secondary sources that were helpful in understanding David Crockett and his legend. First, there are a number of story books about Crockett that have been published since his death. American Pioneers and Patriots—David Crockett: His Life and Adventures by John S. C. Abbott. This book, published in 1874, illustrated that, even up to fifty years after his death, Crockett was still an American hero. The portrayal of Crockett’s death in this book was particularly helpful in highlighting his role as a hero at the Alamo. Several other pre-Disney Crockett story books include The Star of the Alamo by Willis Vernon-Cole and published in 1927; Davy Crockett by Frank Beals published in 1941; The Story of Davy Crockett by Enid LaMonte published in 1952; and Davy Crockett by Constance Rourke which was originally published in 1934. These books are interesting to compare and contrast with the 1955 storybook, Walt Disney Legends of Davy Crockett. All of these stories blend myth and reality and along with other writings, such as the Crockett Almanacs, helped to create his legend.
Still other helpful Crockett books include Crockett: A Bio-Biography by Richard Boyd Hauck. He looked at how Crockett’s style created the Crockett legend. Crockett autobiographies, plays, almanacs historical novels, and the films and TV programs are referred to by the author.
David Crockett, The Man and the Legend by James Atkins Shackford is considered by some to be the definitive serious work about Davy Crockett. Though originally published at the height of the television-inspired Crockett craze in 1956, Shackford had finished his manuscript before this. Consequently, he, for the most part, ignored the mythical Crockett while trying to rediscover the nearly unknown real David Crockett.
The Frontiersman: The Real Life and Many Legends of Davy Crockett is a biography by Mark Derr that sifted through surviving historical documents to discover who David Crockett really was. Derr examined the 1955 Disney Crockett films and discussed the works of revisionists who saw Crockett as a liar and a drunk. Derr believed that no one played a more important role in distorting the truth than Crockett himself, who loaned his credibility and his byline to anyone promising money. His death at the Alamo was just an ironically appropriate end for a hero previously obscured by myth.
A Line in the Sand: The Alamo in Blood and Memory by Randy Roberts and James S. Olson is a book that looked at the history of the Alamo and also looks at Crockett’s death. It also looked at movies made about Crockett and the Alamo including a section on Disney’s version. Another book also looks at the battle of the Alamo, Texian Iliad: A Military History of the Texas Revolution by Stephen L. Hardin. Hardin was one of the historians who worked with the producers of the 2004 film The Alamo and many of his ideas are in the film. The book on which the movie was based, however, is Stephen Harrigan’s The Gates of the Alamo.
The Davy Crockett Almanac and Book of Lists by William R. Chemerka is a great resource as it listed many books, films, and TV shows in which Davy Crockett can be found.
Secondary sources that relate to Walt Disney and Davy Crockett include:
The Davy Crockett Craze: A Look at the 1950’s Phenomenon and Davy Crockett Collectibles by Paul F. Anderson. It is one of the most detailed publications examining the merchandise associated with the Crockett Craze of the 1950s. He looked at the production of the program as well as the artifacts associated with it. Items mentioned in this book include the 1955 comic book adaptation of one of the films, Walt Disney’s Davy Crockett at the Alamo, the 1955 Walt Disney’s Davy Crockett and the River Pirates coloring book, and the 1955 Disney storybook adaptation by Irwin Shapiro of the same film. This material is typical of the many Disney publications designed for children that portrayed Davy Crockett as a larger than life hero with much of it completely fabricated by the Disney writers.
“Davy Crockett: An Exposition on Hero Worship” by Paul Andrew Hutton is a chapter in the book Crockett at Two Hundred. He discussed how Walt Disney and Fess Parker turned what was once a regional delusion into a national obsession. Hutton concluded that the unwillingness of the public to accept the true story of Crockett’s death has only become an issue since the Disney Crockett series and John Wayne’s Alamo film. This showed the power of the media to impact people’s view of history. Another chapter in the same book, “Davy Crockett and the Tradition of the Westerner in American Cinema” by William Eric Jamborsky examined the portrayal of Davy Crockett in motion pictures and looked at how Crockett’s legend grew. The transformation, which was the result of the myth created around him both during his life and after his death is a key point when studying any mediated Crockett characters.
“Disneyland’s Davy Crockett” is an article in The “E” Ticket magazine published in spring 2000. It provided interesting historical information using primary source material. This article expounded on how Crockett was incorporated in the park after the television series met with success. It illustrates the way Walt Disney was surprised by the success of these programs.
“‘Be Sure You’re Right, Then Go Ahead’: The Early Disney Westerns” is an article by J.G. O’Boyle published in the Journal of Popular Film and Television in 1996. This article examined the development of American values and the promotion of them through television programs. It looked as how the success of Disney’s Davy Crockett proved the value of children as an economic force. It was a significant marker in television merchandising history. The article also described how Disney altered public heroes and promoted ones whose values reflected his own.
A number of primary sources were valuable in this investigation of the hat as it relates to the development of the Indiana Jones’s films, the creation of the Jones character, the marketing of these productions, and the influence these had on viewers and cultures during the time period in which they were released. Since Indiana Jones is a fictional character, one primary source document is a transcript of the original story conference from 1978 where Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and Lawrence Kasdan met for the first time and discussed the character and the story for Raiders of the Lost Ark. In addition the original three feature length films—Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade—were analyzed. This was contrasted with the 2008 Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Also helpful in this investigation was the Raiders of the Lost Ark Illustrated Screenplay, which is the film’s script and The Lost Journal of Indiana Jones which was put out by Lucasfilm and contains many letters, drawings, and documents that were supposed to have been written by Indiana Jones over the course of his lifetime. Another good resource was J. W. Rinzler’s book, The Complete Making of Indiana Jones: The Definitive Story Behind All Four Films. Though Lucasfilm denies access to their archives to most researchers, Rinzler was one of the few exceptions. Along with his own research material, he includes pictures and excerpts of actual documents or artifacts.
Interviews with actor Harrison Ford, director Steven Spielberg, and executive producer George Lucas were used and were drawn from various sources. These interviews show the high value these men place on costumes. Interviews with others involved in the production of the films also used, including ones published in Empire magazine’s special thirty five page supplement The Indiana Jones Diaries. All of this material provided first hand accounts from people responsible for creating the character of Indiana Jones and who were very particular about what he wore on his head.
The primary resources used in this study regarding costuming were interviews with Dr. Deborah Nadoolman Landis. This included personal interviews as well as several she did for Indiana Jones fan sites. She is the most qualified to deal with the topic of costume design, especially as it relates to a mediated character like Indiana Jones because she was the costume designer for Raiders of the Lost Ark, is a past President of the Costume Guild of America, and wrote her dissertation on the importance of costume design. Nadoolman Landis is also the author of several books including Dressed, Costume Design and 50 Designers 50 Costumes. These books are excellent resources in helping to understand the process and the many conscious decisions that go into creating a costume. Other films that were Nadoolman Landis’s inspiration for the Indiana Jones costume were looked at including China, Treasure of Sierra Madre and Secret of the Incas. The role of the hat for these characters in each of these films was of particular importance.
Interview material from Bernie Pollack, costume designer for the latest Indiana Jones film also aided the understanding of the costume design process. Material also was drawn from the May 2008 L. A. Times, and from interviews released by the studio to promote the release of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Another key interview was with Steve Delk who, as creator and maker of the Indiana Jones Hat for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, clearly understands the development process for the creation of a hat for a mediated character. The author interviewed Delk on two occasions and supplementary interview material came from magazines he is quoted in such as Vogue Men magazine and the February 2009 issue of Today in Mississippi.
Primary and secondary source material on hats and popular culture and in history provided many contextual benefits in this study. To this end, information and photographs of hats used to communicate throughout history and that are now on display in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto were used as primary sources. Still images from various films and television programs also were used to illustrate other hats used by other mediated heroes. Helpful secondary sources on the role of the hat throughout history and in different cultures included The Hat: Trends and Traditions by Madeline Ginsburg, Hats by K. M. Kostyal, and Hatless Jack by Neil Steinberg which outlines the hats place in the 20th century and possible reasons for its declining use.
Primary source material concerned with the impact on audiences and culture included fan community websites such as Indygear.com. This is a premiere site for those interested in Indiana Jones’s costume. Many of the original costumers, including Steve Delk, post information and first hand stories about the development of the costume item they worked on.
Secondary sources that relate to the impact on the culture by Crockett and Jones include The Book of Golden Discs which was compiled by Joseph Murrells. It discussed Bill Hayes and Fess Parker’s hit recordings of “The Ballad of Davy Crockett” and the sales of these songs in the 1950s. Also the websites boxofficemojo.com and imdb.com, both of which are owned by Amazon, provided detailed box office information for numerous films looked at in this study.
Another useful source was “Savage, Sinner, and Saved: Davy Crockett, Camp Meetings, and the Wild Frontier” by Catherine L. Albanese published in 1981 in American Quarterly. This article looked at the concept of wilderness and the frontier in America which was something embodied by Crockett and is one of the traits that appealed to his fans throughout history.
Chapter one has presented an overview of the study and its particular purpose. The various roles and meanings of hats throughout history have been introduced with a special emphasis on the use of hats in film and television and in the development of film and television characters and the effects they have had. The role of the hat as it relates to the development of two historical media characters and their influence, Davy Crockett and his coonskin cap in the Walt Disney productions of the 1950s and the Indiana Jones character and his fedora in the 1980s was introduced. It was contended that hats are highly important communication artifacts used in the development of mediated characters. They play a significant role in the mediated communication process and they can have great effects on the individuals and cultures who view the media productions that contain them. The Davy Crockett phenomenon of the 1950s and the Indiana Jones phenomenon of the 1980s and beyond appear to provide extraordinary evidence and examples that this is the case.
Chapter two will provide contextual background for the study of hats by examining the roles and influences they have had throughout history. This will include a look at hats as fashion, use by the military, and hats as a symbol of culture.
Chapter three will explore how hats have been used in television and film. A more in depth examination of the hat’s identification role in culture should shed light on why it has been an important communication artifact which is of use to film and television studios. This chapter also will further examine why the decline use of hats in society makes the hat even more important when used by mediated characters. The heart of this chapter will examine how film and television tapped into the hat’s role as a communication artifact.
Chapter four will provide an in depth examination of the life and legend of Davy Crockett including media portrayals of him. This will include how Crockett’s legend was created by his appearance and use in the various media which included almanacs, plays, books, comics, magazines, films, and television programs. Also explored will be how he came to be known as a wearer of a coonskin cap and how this was reflected in the mediated communication about him. This will focus on the headgear he was presented in. The arguments for and against the real Crockett ever wearing a coonskin cap will also be looked at.
Chapter five will look at Walt Disney’s media presentation of Crockett in the 1950s which ultimately received an overwhelming audience response and lead to a craze for the coonskin caps as well as a wide range of Crockett merchandise. The effect on the audience and the cultural craze that the programs and the coonskin cap created will be examined in some detail. The involvement of Fess Parker in the development of the series and the incredible response to it, the Davy Crockett character, and the coonskin cap will be part of this historical analysis. Parker became synonymous with Crockett to millions and the impact on his life will be part of this chapter. The cultural context of the 1950s and the role this played in the response to and influence of Davy Crockett (including the coonskin cap) also will be examined.
Chapter six will examine the popular modern hero Indiana Jones and the hat he wore that became the symbol of his identity. The part the hat played in the development of the Indiana Jones character and the films in which he was portrayed will be examined. The impact these films, the Indiana Jones character, and his hat in particular had on audiences, including fan communities, and the culture as a whole will be examined in detail. As in the case of the Davy Crockett and coonskin cap phenomenon of the 1950s, the popularity of the Indiana Jones films and the great attraction to the main character and the fedora can be partly explained by characteristics of the film industry, media environment and culture of the 1980s and beyond in which they emerged. Because of great changes in communication technologies and other factors, this was a culture quite different from what was evident in the 1950s.
Chapter seven will examine the similarities and differences between the Davy Crockett phenomenon of the 1950s and the Indiana Jones phenomenon of the 1980s and beyond. The mediated heroes Davy Crockett and Indiana Jones, the hats that characterized them and the influences they had on individuals, audiences and culture generally seem to have much in common and yet much that makes distinct from one another. How the development of the television and film productions and their characters and the distinctive hats each character wore, the nature of the media environment in which each emerged, and the effects of these productions, their characters and their hats will be compared and contrasted. By looking at the similarities and differences in the portrayal of the heroes in these film series, and what the hat represented to each character, to those involved in creating these films and to the viewing audience, a greater understanding of the impact of the hat worn by mediated heroes not just in these historical instances but in others should result.
Chapter seven will also draw general conclusions based on this study and in light of its stated purpose and research questions. It will examine the implications of this study both for scholars and media practitioners and will suggest directions for future research.
The Hat with a Thousand Faces
The title for this study was obviously inspired by the famous work on hero archetypes by The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell. He wrote that when people in a courtroom stand up when the judge walks in, “you’re not standing up to that guy, you’re standing up to the robe that he’s wearing and the role that he’s going to play. . . . So what you are standing up to is a mythological character” (Campbell and Moyers 12). It is the contention of this study that in a similar way the hat becomes part of the mythological character created by film and television stories and people interact with it like they did with the judge’s robe in Campbell’s example. The audience recognized the judge’s robes and what they stood for and likewise, viewing audiences recognize hats worn by mediated characters and what they stand for. This is especially true of heroes like Davy Crockett and Indiana Jones where hats have become the part of their mythos.
Before examining the two mediated characters in question, it is first necessary to trace the place of hat in history and its use in mediated communication.