In late 1937 Mel Ferrer was barely 20 years old when he decided to change his life
completely, dropping out of Princeton and eloping to California with his
college sweetheart - socialite Frances Pilchard. After a quick wedding in Tahoe, the
two migrated to Mexico where they began a bohemian life as artists - he as a
writer and she as a sculptress.
He intended to write a great novel, but in the end the
book he sold was a children's picture book entitled "Tito's Hats." Sold to
Garden City Publishers, they assigned a fairly well known children's artist
to illustrate it - Jean Charlot. She employed the sparse three color format that
was popularly used at that time, and it was eventually published in 1940,
where it sold out immediately. Because of the war, the publishers decided
against a second printing, so the book is no longer in print, but it's still
extremely easy to find through used book stores and online sources.
The plot is sweet, chronicling a young Mexican boy's
relationship with his father as they go into town to buy Tito a new hat.
When Tito finds the one he wants it doesn't fit, but his father knows
exactly what to do. He takes Tito to a shop where he gets his very first
haircut, and after that his hat fits perfectly. Tito goes to bed that night
with his new hat balanced on his foot through the covers, so that he can
feel it all through the night
A boy's first haircut is a very special event in a young life, but even
more touching is the charmingly understated bond young Tito has with his
father. Since Mel Ferrer never knew his own father, who died in February
of 1920 when young Melchor was barely 2 years old, the story seems to be a
bittersweet homage to a relationship he never knew himself but obviously
thought about often.
The story was adapted in 1970 for a homeschool children's reader with different
illustrations and an altered text that places more emphasis on the haircut.
Mel Ferrer rather than Melchor Ferrer is credited as the author, so he
probably rewrote the text for the new publishers.
For the alternate version: Going Places, Seeing People