Tag Archives: my man godfrey

Addendum: Ball of Fire and The Doff

27 Apr

Sadly, there’s this lost gesture. I suspect it disappeared after, you know, hats. But it seems to be a reference to doffing. Of a hat.

Now surely one didn’t always have to take the whole hat off. Surely just tapping the brim with the extended tips of the index and middle finger would suffice in the hustle-bustle of midtown. Eventually it could be taken as read.

And surely the Doff could even be useful to a sass-mouthed broad who wouldn’t wear an unpinned-therefore-doffable hat if you paid her in rabbit stoles and beluga.

For when I picture a textbook Doff, I picture this one:

GIF from the voluminous and splendid archives of BelleCS.tumblr.com

Sugarpuss O’Shea says, “Hullo!’

(GIF courtesy of the voluminous and splendid archives of BelleCS.)

But if you hadn’t noticed the existence of the Doff up to now, you won’t be able to get through a handful of 20s-40s era movies without them piling up on you. Sorry. I don’t know. Make it a drinking game.

William Powell does a particularly subtle one in, I believe, My Man Godfrey. Talking to one of his old business pals, the man pays him a compliment and without breaking conversational stride, Powell offers a Doff that says, in a tick of the wrist, “That’s awfully kind of you, pal, and that’s as may be, but…” Masterfully doffed.

There’s a nice one in Shall We Dance, too, the Astaire/Rogers one (if I need to specify – nor Richard Gere nor Asian businessmen Doff). The designing ballerina Lady Tarrington gives it to Pete “Petrov” Peters as he skedaddles from her after boarding the steamer. I think she says “Bon voyage.” I’m working from memory here. But I see it pretty clearly.

Let this be my plea for the Doff’s timely return. It’s a greeting. It’s a salute. It looks great being done sarcastically off the back of a train at one’s thwarted pursuers. Pretty much all you need in a go-to gesture. Imagine I’m aiming one at you now.