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William A. Seiter
Showman Jerry Travers is working for producer Horace Hardwick in London. Jerry demonstrates his new dance steps late one night in Horace's hotel, much to the annoyance of sleeping Dale Tremont below. She goes upstairs to complain and the two are immediately attracted to each other. Complications arise when Dale mistakes Jerry for Horace. Written by
The stage star, Jerry Travers, disturbs a young woman's sleep by tap-dancing on the floor of a hotel room directly above hers. The young woman is Dale Tremont, a beautiful fashion model. In the course of the movie plot, by way of London, Venice and the usual snags of mistaken identity, the two youngsters flirt, dance and fall in love.
Fred Astaire was a huge Broadway star and social lion long before he ever saw the inside of a film studio. A lucky pairing with Ginger Rogers (a film star in her own right) in "Flying Down To Rio" (1933) led on to a series of smash hits throughout the 1930's. "Top Hat" was the third film the couple made together, and for this one RKO Radio started getting serious, bringing in the legendary Irving Berlin to write the sparkling songs.
This picture was preceded a year earlier by "The Gay Divorcee", and is a repeat prescription of that successful formula - wealthy, elegant characters, frivolous lifestyles, light-hearted love and sumptuous dance numbers. It is not merely the storyline of 'Divorcee' that is repeated here
alongside Fred and Ginger, several of the cast members
reappear. Edward Everett Horton was the lawyer Egbert in the earlier film, and here he is Horace the impresario, but is still Fred's bumbling buddy. Eric Blore was the wisecracking waiter, now he is the sarcastic valet: Erik Rhodes plays Italian buffoons in both films - Tonetti in 'Divorcee', Beddini here. Watch out for the girl florist ... it's Lucille Ball, two years into a very long and busy showbiz career.
The film's first number is "Fancy Free", an amiable little ditty which sets the prevailing tone of easy gaiety. Fred leads into it very nicely, his speech becoming more and more rhythmic until he lifts off into song.
"It's A Lovely Day" has a great tune, witty choreography, a thunderstorm and a superb bandstand set. Yet the song everyone associates with this movie is "Top Hat, White Tie And Tails": it doesn't involve Ginger at all, but Fred makes up for that by being in breathtaking form, his performance exuding athleticism, grace, poise and assurance.
Ginger gets her turn to sing with "The Piccolino", a song designed to accord with the plot's Venetian setting. It is the weakest number in the movie, and Ginger sings it without conviction.
In order for the plot knots to unravel, it is necessary for Horace to be kept apart from his wife Madge for 24 hours, even though they haven't met for weeks and they are staying in the same hotel. This is highly artificial, but such flaws are rendered negligible by the sweeping climax of "Cheek To Cheek", the splendid finale in which Fred and Ginger get to dance as lovers.
Verdict - Immortal stylish music and dance.
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