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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

At times feathery, and at times very witty.

Author: movibuf1962 from Washington, DC
20 September 2005

I'm experiencing something of an epiphany regarding this film. I've loved musicals- and just about any musical featuring Fred Astaire- for most of my life. With that said, this film used to frustrate me to no end because of its wafer-thin plot of mistaken identity. When I first reviewed it, I couldn't get past the plot- as if the plot should have carried the day. That was major impatience and intolerance on my part. Thanks to repeated showings of this one (as well as the entire RKO series) on TCM, I have recently viewed this again and allowed myself to just indulge. Indulge in the marvelous banter that Astaire and Ginger Rogers have- even when he's supposed to be annoying her in their first meetings. Quips that include, "Buy yourself a new hat," "I prefer being in distress," and perhaps my favorite line when Rogers- asking Astaire about the female pedigree of the horse he's driving- inquires with, "who was his dam?" he retorts with, "I don't know miss, he didn't give a d--!!"

That is brilliant scripting, especially for an otherwise G-rated film.

So even as he politely annoys her in their first exchanges, it's obvious that she's quite intrigued by him. And when they later dance in a gazebo in a glorious rainstorm as strangers who begin to fall in love, we fall in love right along with them. But then there is that 'mistaken identity' thing that goes on for the entirety of the film. And usually it's here that I write off the film- but if I did that then I could not acknowledge the brilliance of 'best friend' Helen Broderick- who, as the third member of this alleged triangle, tosses off some of the best dead-pan punchlines in the film. I could not acknowledge the two Eric(k)s- Blore and Rhodes, who make the roles of frustrated valet and would-be rogue absolutely hilarious. And I could definitely not acknowledge the stunning Irving Berlin music and routines, from the "Top Hat" shooting gallery of chorus boys to the sublime elegance of the feather-swathed "Cheek to Cheek" pas-de-deux. In retrospect, I can't get too worked up about the plot of this film, because it was 1935 and the middle of the Depression. Most films were light and decidedly cheeky during this sad period in history. If this film prompted some of the team's best box-office receipts in their 10-film history- and went on to garner an Oscar nomination as best picture- it must've been doing something right. I still prefer the plots of other A-R stories (like "Swing Time" or even "Shall We Dance") a bit more, but, as a poster before me stated, I should acknowledge that in terms of the mistaken identity formula, it's quite brilliant.

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Heaven, I'm in heaven, let Fred and Ginger take you there as well.

Author: Spikeopath from United Kingdom
6 January 2009

While demonstrating his new dance sequences to producer Horace Hardwick, showman Jerry Travers (Fred Astaire) severely annoys the resting Dale Tremont (Ginger Rogers) in the room below. After Dale goes up to complain about the noise, both Dale and Jerry are very attracted to each other, but due to a case of mistaken identity the path of true love is far from being smooth.

Top Hat is the first film from acclaimed duo Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers that was specifically written for them. Working around the twin source material of The Gay Divorcée and The Girl Who Dared, the screenplay sparkles amidst the frothy nature of the plot. Standard (but lovely) fare here, the kind that would define all of the duo's films, silly plot, boy meets girl and it's not straight forward, and of course a simmering sexual undercurrent that comes with the chase between the sexes.

Songs come courtesy of the magnificent Irving Berlin (aided by Max Steiner), belting show stoppers like "Cheek to Cheek", "Isn't It A Lovely Day" and the sublime solo cane Astaire showcase that is "Top Hat, White Tie and Tails". Gorgeous sets enhance the piece, such as an art deco Venice arrangement, but ultimately it's the charm and artistry of the leading pair that shines the brightest. Coming as it did during the Depression era, Top Hat, and the even better Swing Time a year later, really were (and still are) tonics for the people, I find it almost impossible to not lose myself in these types of pictures, and the audiences of the 30s clearly felt the same as me. Mussolini and his Italian countrymen may have been offended by Erik Rhodes comedy portrayal of Alberto Beddini, and Ginger's self styled gorgeous Ostrich feathered dress may have briefly caused a ripple in Fred and Ginger's working relationship (the feathers caused Fred no end of problems during the magnificent "Cheek To Cheek" sequence), but it all came good in the end with Top Hat taking over $3 million in takings and becoming RKO's biggest earner of the decade.

Much like how the film can lift you, that is just as priceless. 8/10

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Sophistication and gaiety in the Depression made us feel better. Might be time to watch this one again

Author: Terrell-4 from San Antonio, Texas
30 September 2008

With the nation in the midst of economic ruin, who were better at lifting our spirits and making us smile? Why, Fred and Ginger, of course. I've got a feeling we'd better start watching their old movies again.

Is Top Hat better than Swing Time? People have been staking out their positions for years. Me, I think both represent the height of the Astaire-Rogers magic, all wrapped up in some of the greatest songs ever written for Hollywood movies and with incomparable choreography and dancing. So I just flip a coin to decide...but I make sure I always use the coin with a head on each side.

The story in Top Hat is inconsequential. It's all about Jerry Travers (Fred Astaire) an American dancing star in London who meets Dale Tremont (Ginger Rogers), the girl who charms him. It's love at first sight for Jerry, but not for Dale. There are misunderstandings, reconciliation, comedy relief and...well, who cares? The point is that in Top Hat both Astaire and Rogers have classic Astaire and Rogers characters to play, he classy and without a major worry in the world, she down to earth and a little hard to get. The plot is light, sophisticated and moves quickly. The comedy relief, provided by Eric Blore, Edward Everett Horton, Erik Rhodes and Helen Broderick, often is genuinely amusing ("We are Bates!") ("I will never allow women to wear my dresses again!") and doesn't become tiresome. The songs by Irving Berlin are among the best he ever wrote, and are so spotted within the movie that it seems we keep moving from exhilaration to exhilaration. That said, the point of an Astaire-Rogers film is the dancing, and then the way things happen through the dances and the songs...

"No Strings" introduces us to Jerry in one of those wonderful all white art deco hotel suites where sophisticated people hang out. He tells us in song just the kind of free-spirited guy he is..."no strings and no connections, no ties to my affections..." and then moves into a fast and complicated tap dance all over the room. Just watch how Astaire perfectly picks out a counter rhythm with hand slaps against a shelf while he taps.

"Isn't This a Lovely Day to Be Caught in the Rain" is a total charmer. In a gazebo, Jerry tries to woo Dale. After singing the song, he does a few steps and she, hands in her pockets in her riding breeches, surprises him by taking him on. A little challenge dance starts...and then we're off into one of those great wooing dances that only Astaire could create. The longer they dance the more we see how taken with each other they're becoming. They move from an easy-going beginning into a mutual and happy recognition that something serious may be happening. Then the rain and the thunder start and we're off again. When the dance is over we all know something seriously happy really has taken place. I think this number also is a fine example of how Berlin could craft a great song where the lyrics are so conversational it's too easy to overlook the skill he had in placing them into the music:

Isn't this a lovely day to be caught in the rain? You were going on your way, now you've got to remain.

Just as you were going, leaving me all at sea, the clouds broke, they broke, and oh what a break for me.

I can see the sun up high, though we're caught in a storm. I can see where you and I could be cozy and warm.

Let the rain pitter patter, but it really doesn't matter If the skies are grey. Long as I can be with you, it's a lovely day

"Top Hat, White Tie and Tails" is a classic Astaire stage number, a marvelous song impeccably delivered. Watch how he gives his head a little shake of sheer joi de vivre as he gives us that inimitable Astaire walk. Then it's on to all those 20 chorus boys in tuxes being mowed down by Astaire and his cane. The dance shifts from light to dark to light again. And watch how Astaire slows down the dancing and, unexpectedly, strikes several poses in silhouette. Great stuff.

"Cheek to Cheek" is simply, in my opinion, one of the finest love sequences set on film. Astaire sings the song, then the two of them launch into one of the great dance duets where the song, the dancers and the choreography come as close to romantic perfection as you're likely to see. Even the feathers on Rogers' gown cooperate.

"The Piccolino" is the big production closer, an attempt to match the craze the Carioca, in Flying Down to Rio, set off. For sheer Hollywood sound stage spectacle -- a Berlin hit song, at least 30 dancing couples, a singing chorus, gondolas on canals, a dish of veal that rhymes with piccolino, and everyone in gowns and tuxes -- it's hard to beat.

Fans of Astaire will find invaluable Arlene Croce's The Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers Book and John Mueller's Astaire Dancing: The Musical Films.

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5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

"The course of true love never did run smooth"

Author: imperfectfilms from United States
6 September 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Watching TOP HAT again I found myself completely spellbound. I'd seen it years ago in college and forgotten about it, but seeing it again realized how much I love it. Any film that follows Shakespeare's formula - "The course of true love never did run smooth" - is really wish fulfillment in the literal sense for us all. It always seems that we had a clear shot at winning the heart of a lost love, if we had been a different kind of person, less given to the darker side of our nature.

What strikes me about TOP HAT was Fred Astaire's persistence at wooing Ginger Rogers. It's done wonderfully as their dancing together, supposedly spontaneous, so graceful as to appear effortless, establishes that the two are made for one another, sharing in the same soul. When turmoil and mistaken identity befall the lovers and cause their separation, the anticipation of their ultimate reunion is almost unbearable. Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy fights to win girl back. Classic stuff - the most basic archetypal story of the myths the persist in every culture, apparently a story written into our genetic make-up.

Has there ever been a lover as determined as Fred Astaire to win back his lost love? And yet his demeanor is almost careless, so strong is his faith in the ultimate undeniable nature of Love. True Love as a force of nature. Inevitable. Melting away any and all opposition - Erik Rhodes' hapless, ineffectual suitor, Rogers' moral outrage at what she assumes to be Astaire's philandering nature, even Rogers' loyalty and dedication to her best friend Madge (Helen Broderick), who she wrongly believes Astaire to be betraying.

My favorite scene is when Astaire and Rogers are reunited in Venice, and Rogers, still believing Astaire to be betrothed to Madge, who sits only a few feet away from the couple, and despite all her righteous indignation at his presumed faithlessness, is nevertheless overcome by the ecstasy she feels as they dance in one another's arms. It is the most erotic, most impassioned love scene I have ever seen on film. She surrenders completely to the demands of love as we all must do or wish we had.

Movies of course are not real life. Unlike the predetermined lives on the screen we mere mortals have a free choice that often betrays even our most innermost desires and needs, no matter how hard they pound on our stone cold hearts.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Premium escapist fare

Author: MissSimonetta from United States
27 September 2014

There's nothing like Depression-era escapism, especially the Astaire-Rogers brand of it. Devoid of unpleasantness and cynicism, these films are light as air and fun, untouched by silly things like plot. Top Hat (1935) is the most famous of the Astaire and Rogers collaborations. I'm not sure if it's the best, but it's certainly my favorite.

Like I said before, the plot is of no consequence. It's the stuff of farce and isn't too memorable. What you're here for is witty dialogue, memorable music, and great dancing. Oh, and those gorgeous Art Deco sets and costumes.

There are a lot of movies I wish I lived in and this is one of them. What I wouldn't give to live in such a glamorous world in shimmering black and white...

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

The American Musical Screen's Peak

Author: arsportsltd from Los Angeles
4 December 2011

Ginger Rogers glorious and gorgeous was said to have done everything her great co star Fred Astaire did but in high heels and dance backwards. Ginger in her later years hated that comparison but seeing Mark Sandrich's brilliant film Top Hat one sees two great artists Astaire and Rogers at their peak. I can rave forever re this film and the great performances of the two classic Stars and also the brilliant set design. Filmed at RKO, the sets are wondrous and set a peak for artistic and interior design not only in Films but in decors worldwide. The canals of water, a set on a sound stage are remarkable.

Ginger Rogers flawlessly beautiful in some of the greatest gowns of the era is what being a movie star is all about. Sexy Great Star.

Bravo to RKO, Sandwich, Astaire and Ms Rogers.

David Barra

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Fop chat & Tap pap

Author: charlytully from Rosebush
8 May 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It is hard not to compete with all the brainiacs (and pardon my use of an official IMDb "junk word," for which the comment butler is threatening to ban my continued presence here) sharing their erudition above, but TOP HAT is pure froth and does not lend itself to cerebral dissection. Who cares if Ginger's taps were dubbed by some guy off camera (as they were)? Who cares if Fred Astaire broke 12 of his 13 prop canes in anger before the "Top Hat, White Ties, & Tails" title dance was in the can (as he did)? And what does it matter that a few Italian slurs caused Mussolini to ban the film in Italy (as HE did)? After all, you cannot get the "last laugh" hanging from a meat hook! I liked TOP HAT twice as much as Astaire's ROYAL WEDDING, and nearly as much as Astaire's EASTER PARADE (which were both Ginger-less, alas!).

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Silly & Sublime!

Author: ilprofessore-1 from United States
18 March 2009

One of the earliest of the Astaire-Roger's films, this one set in London and on the Venetian Lido --but constructed entirely on the Hollywood sound stages of RKO in 1935-- has a non-stop American exuberance and charm rarely matched in the rest of the series. There's a delightful silly script by Scott and Taylor which the director, Mark Sandrich, keeps moving from one gag to another as the warring couple battle with each other, fall in love, fall, out of the love, fall ---well, you know the rest. Then, of course, there are immortal jazzy songs and romantic ballads by Irving Berlin which Astaire sings with such youthful energy and conviction that one quickly forgets that he hardly had a voice. The dances, particularly the feathery "Cheek to Cheek," have never been equaled when it comes to old-fashioned cinema romance; you truly believe that all human differences and misunderstandings could be solved if only two people could get up and dance together as sublimely as do the two stars. The film is helped enormously by the rhythmic under-scoring and orchestrations of Max Steiner back in the days before he moved over to Warner Bros. and started pouring out the symphonic schmaltz.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Charming fun film.

Author: Boba_Fett1138 from Groningen, The Netherlands
23 April 2008

This basically is one fine charming film, that you can just not hate watching. It's just too cheerful and fun for that.

The movie features one fine story, specifically written for Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers together. It's a charming little romantic story, of course featuring also lots of dancing routines and singing. It nevertheless is not your standard average musical. It's a RKO Radio Pictures and not a MGM musical. It's more a story that gets driven by its story and actors, rather than by its dancing and signing routines. I also regard this movie more of a romantic-comedy than a full-blood musical. It's a story that gets also filled with lots of misunderstandings between characters, which leads up to some fine comical situations.

The movie features lots of great fun comedy. It makes this a real pleasant, innocent movie to watch. Especially some of the dialog is also greatly fun written. It of course also helps to the movie that all the lines get delivered by some fine actors.

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers of course did lots of movies together and they were always great to watch together in any movie. This is one of their best pairings. Also Edward Everett Horton, who also starred in a couple of more Fred Astaire movies, makes one fine appearance.

It's a great looking film, that also got professionally put together by director Mark Sandrich. It using some nice settings and costume designs. It's also a movie that got nominated for an Oscar for Best Art Direction, as well as actually Best Picture, which might be a bit too much credit though.

The movie also features some fine musical numbers, composed by Irving Berlin, with Max Steiner serving as the movie its musical director. It features some fine classic numbers such as cheek to cheek, which got performed first into this movie and got re-recorded by many more in the later future.

Some great cheerful and entertaining fun, even so if you aren't really into the genre.


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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Sumptuous Hollywood Escapism

Author: BJJManchester from United Kingdom
18 November 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

If you are looking for a break from the grim realities of your depressing life into a fantasy world of glorious art-deco sets,unforgettable songs,dazzling dancing and lighter-than-light characters,then TOP HAT is the film which will fulfil those dreams.Sadly,it is the kind of film that Hollywood doesn't do anymore,or perhaps more truthfully,cannot do,because the talent required is no longer available.And when there is an attempt to try and replicate past glories like this,it usually ends in miserable and embarrassing failure.

Embarrassing is never a word to associate with the talent involved with TOP HAT;the incomparable Fred Astaire,the ideal of style and elegance,maybe the greatest dancer ever witnessed on celluloid,a slightly inferior but still very effective and likable singer,and a decent light comedian to boot.His most celebrated partner Ginger Rogers,an accomplished comic and straight actress,talented dancer and singer,plus such inimitable comic performers like Edward Everett Horton,Eric Blore,Helen Broderick and Erik Rhodes,and near faultless direction from Mark Sandrich make this an experience to cherish;it still delights and entertains over 70 years after it's release.Yes,the plot is so thin and inconsequential as to not even exist,and the depiction of Venice (after a surprisingly realistic view of London) is fictitious to the point of absurdity,but does this matter with the witty dialogue,amusing incident,memorable songs and dances,and the company of Fred,Ginger and co? One of Hollywood's greatest musicals from it's golden age,and deservedly so.

RATING:9 out of 10.

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