"The happiest marriage I've seen in Hollywood is Billy Haines and Jimmy Shields."
--Joan Crawford (left to right, Jimmy, Billy, Joan, and Joan's husband, Pepsi executive Alfred Steele)
Swaying with them against her will, Tessie does the dance of the New Yorker trying to avoid too much body contact, no matter how cramped the quarters. She drops her purse, and the men who are bookending her stoop to help her retrieve its contents. But when they reach back up for the straps, she's still got her arms looped through theirs, and for a moment she's suspended in air. Once she's back on her feet and smacking away at her gum, the movement of the car and the crowd dislodges Tessie's impossible hat, an overlarge squashy cloche adorned with what look like marbles—although they're probably supposed to be grapes—swinging from one side like the tassel on a fez. The hat falls to the ground, she does a deep-knee bend to retrieve it, and when she finally comes back up, the hat has lost its grapes.
And, for one marvelously subtle half-minute, the mood shifts. Tessie's face crumples as she looks at that hat, bereft of its ridiculous ornament. It’s clear, instantly, that the fruit was her favorite part, probably the reason she bought it, just as surely as Swanson’s expression shows that she can't afford to replace it.
Then her face regains its old hardness, she pulls the denuded hat back over her hopelessly mussed bob, and the hellish ride continues, complete with a masher all but licking his lips at her from his seat. When she tries to get off at her station, Dwan switches to an overhead shot. Perched in the rafters, poor Tessie tries to disembark and gets pushed back into the car, over and over. She can't manage to leave walking upright; she eventually has to bend over and scurry under a railing. Small as Tessie is, the subway—meaning of course New York itself—has all but brought her to her knees.