Top Hat (1935) Poster


User Reviews

Review this title
107 Reviews
Sort by:
It's like dancing on air...
gaityr7 June 2002
TOP HAT is the quintessential Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers film--it might be the first of their nine pairings together that I've seen, but already I can tell just what it is that makes 'Fred & Ginger' almost a brand-name everywhere. Neither Fred Astaire nor Ginger Rogers wanted to get too stereotyped as being the other's partner (Rogers especially took roles specifically to get away from being typecast as one half of a dancing team), but watching them dance, you really couldn't imagine their names coming apart in conversation. It will always have to be 'Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers', because their dancing takes your breath away. The fact that it is incredibly technically complicated is itself astounding... what makes it all the better is that they make it look so darn easy and natural.

Astaire plays Jerry Travers, a professional dancer who meets and falls in love with Dale Tremont (Rogers). He tries very hard to woo her, by filling her room with flowers and singing her through a storm (the beautiful "Isn't This A Lovely Day"). Dale, unfortunately, mistakes him for her friend Madge's husband, Horace Hardwick (played with acerbic relish by Edward Everett Horton). The comedy of errors continues for most of the film, since Dale continually mistakes Jerry for Horace (regaling Madge with 'Horace's' attempts at romancing her), and her costume designer Alberto Beddini is therefore convinced that Horace is the one he must 'kill'--so as to avenge Ms. Tremont.

The plotline itself is slightly fantastical, littered with just enough eccentric characters to have you falling off your seat laughing at some of the things they do and say. Erik Rhodes as Beddini, for example, has some of the best lines in the film--"I'm a-rich and a-pretty..." He practically steals the show, which is hard given the presence of veteran scene-stealers like Horton and Helen Broderick as Madge Hardwick. Although the comedy of errors arising from the mistaken identity wears a bit thin after a while, it *does* provide some absolutely top-notch comic moments. Take the scene when Madge urges Dale to dance with Jerry--the look of utter *un*comprehension on Dale's face when Madge keeps urging them to dance closer is most certainly one for the DVD pause button. ;)

Aside from the dancing (which is sublime, and undescribable--'Fred & Ginger' is something you have to see in action for yourself to believe), the score is brilliant. Irving Berlin has penned some of the most beautiful songs ever, and here we have just a small but certainly representative sampling of them, with "Isn't This A Lovely Day", "Top Hat, White Tie, and Tails", and, of course, "Cheek To Cheek"... a classic by any standard.

What Fred & Ginger lack in palpable, explosive chemistry (along the lines of that shared by Tracy and Hepburn, or Bogart and Bacall), however, they more than make up for in their perfect synchronicity with each other--they're perfectly in tune through every dance sequence, and that's a delight, and amazing, to see.

Overall the film is a bit uneven, coasting along on the charm of its dancing leads. But it's most certainly one that's worth watching, quite simply so you can finally say that you've seen a Fred/Ginger movie, and now know what all that fuss was about. Because, goodness, there really is nothing quite so magical as when Astaire takes Rogers in his arms and spins her around a dance floor, defying gravity and all laws of motion.

Physics means nothing when it comes to these two...
54 out of 56 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Fine Entertainment, With Everything But A Plot
Snow Leopard23 July 2001
This classic is fine entertainment with plenty of everything - humor, singing & dancing, good writing, and lavish sets and costumes. The only thing missing is a plot, but too much story might have taken attention away from everything else that makes "Top Hat" enjoyable to watch.

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers are talented and charming as a somewhat star-crossed couple. The whole story line is that Ginger thinks Fred is someone else (who is married instead of single) and thus misinterprets and rejects his advances. Their many abilities and a fine script make this paper-thin plot seem not only acceptable but amusing. Edward Everett Horton is both funny and indispensable as Fred's friend (and the man whom Ginger thinks Fred is), and the rest of the supporting players are also quite good.

This is the kind of carefully produced classic that offers many reasons for watching - see it if you have the chance, whether or not you usually like musicals.
21 out of 21 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
You can't help but smile watching this movie.
Tommy-9223 December 1999
I'm only just now beginning to realize how silly the plot and some of the comedy was in this movie. When I watched it, it was perfectly wonderful, and I smiled all the way through. Fred and Ginger, of course, are perfect, whether dancing so memorably to the likes of "Isn't It a Lovely Day" and "Cheek to Cheek" or pitching woo. Edward Everett Horton, Eric Blore, and Helen Broderick kept it moving with their throughly entertaining comedy relief. Even almost 65 years after its premeire, it's still in tip-top condition, both in the print and in its impact, on first viewing, at least. (I'm afraid to watch it again, for fear the impact will be destroyed.)

I've seen almost all of Fred and Ginger's pictures since viewing this. Some are good, some less so, and all have their moments of excellence. But none of them matched this one in my mind for sheer feel-goodness. The ones that came closest were Swing Time, Shall We Dance, and The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle and The Barkleys of Broadway, the last two because they had quite plausible stories, (and in the case of Castle, one based on real life). But still, Top Hat is Fred and Ginger at their best, and hopefully will always stay that way in my mind.
28 out of 30 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Fred and Ginger at their very best
didi-58 June 2003
"Top Hat" has everything to make a perfect musical - great leading stars in Astaire and Rogers, good character support from Edward Everett Horton, Helen Broderick, and Eric Blore, fabulous numbers ("Top Hat, White Tie and Tails", "Isn't it a Lovely Day", "The Picolina", and "Cheek to Cheek"), an hilarious plot of mistaken identity, and breathtaking designs which transport you into a Hollywood fantasy of Venice. This was the stars' greatest teaming and the film packs a great deal of energy, fun, and sex all these years later. A true musical classic and one of RKO's finest.
37 out of 41 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
"Simply Reeks With Class"
stryker-523 June 1999
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.
33 out of 37 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
As light as the feathers on Ginger's dress...
Neil Doyle23 May 2006
If you're a fan of FRED ASTAIRE and GINGER ROGERS and their predictable screwball comedies of the '30s, you'll find this one is easy to take. First of all, the score by Irving Berlin has a variety of catchy tunes although I can't say it's his greatest, and all of the mistaken identity plot is performed with such grace by the famous dancing duo and their marvelous supporting cast that it's all as light as the feathers on Ginger's "Cheek to Cheek" dress.

Speaking of which--for me, the "Cheek to Cheek" number is worth watching just to see how skillful the two dance the number although fully aware that Astaire objected strenuously to Ginger's feathered dress. Nevertheless, it's the dancing highlight of the film, much better than the "Piccolino" number that is used for the finale.

Eric Blore and Erik Rhodes outdo themselves in great comic support. Blore we almost take for granted at this point, but Rhodes with his silly Italian accent is a scene-stealer too. His Bettini, the dressmaker, offers some of the heartiest chuckles.

Astaire is top flight here--graceful, athletic, and young enough to be seen as a dancing Cary Grant--and Ginger matches him every dancing step of the way. She's particularly delightful in the rainy park sequence for "Isn't It A Lovely Day?" And for the "Cheek to Cheek" sequence she has a braided hairdo that gives her an ultra-sophisticated, princess-like look. When she and Astaire dance, they can do no wrong.

He, of course, is more skillful with a song than she is, his voice perfectly able to deliver all the Irving Berlin numbers assigned to him, while she barely gets by with her rendition of the "Piccolino".

Great fun to watch--rainy day or not. And those art deco backgrounds for hotel rooms and Venice are a knockout. The pristine print of the film shown on TCM recently really made them stand out in glowing splendor.
26 out of 29 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Flying down to Venice
jotix10021 May 2006
"Top Hat" is one of the best films Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers made together. Jay Sandrich, the director of most of their films knew what to bring to the story to make it perfect. It also helps the genial Irving Berlin was on hand to write some of his most beautiful songs to be sung in Fred Astaire's usual impeccable style. The sets were designed by Van Nest Polglase, who is equally at home showing Manhattan interiors as well as the Venetian fantasy sets.

Much has been said in this forum about the film, so we'll only add that Fred Astaire's Jerry was one of his best creations. Ginger Rogers as Dale Tremont, the high fashion model, shows an exquisite figure and is fine in keeping pace with Fred Astaire's dancing "cheek to cheek". The other best thing about "Top Hat" are: Edward Everett Horton, Helen Broderick, and Eric Blore. These three character actors are at their finest in the film. They make everything work because they are always there to lend a hand for the stars to shine without being on the way.

"Top Hat" is a happy film that keeps delighting viewers any time one is lucky enough to fall under its spell.
16 out of 17 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Fancy Free
lugonian28 September 2002
TOP HAT (RKO Radio, 1935), directed by Mark Sandrich, marks the fourth teaming of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, and considered by many to be their best collaboration. A reworking in plot from their earlier outing of "The Gay Divorcée" (1934), TOP HAT, in fact, the most admired of the two, could easily pass as a partial remake, rehash or possibly a sequel, mainly due to the sameness in the casting of Edward Everett Horton, Erik Rhodes and Eric Blore from "The Gay Divorcée" also directed by Mark Sandrich. Stepping in for Alice Brady is Helen Broderick, whose deadpan humor and dry-wit personality proved more amusing than Brady's dim-witted character. Also similar to "The Gay Divorcée" is Ginger Rogers singing one song near its conclusion while Astaire provides most of the vocalization.

The story opens in London. Jerry Travers (Fred Astaire) is an American dancer (what else!) who is to perform in one of Horace Hardwick's (Edward Everett Horton) upcoming musical shows. They share a hotel suite together where Jerry has an urge to sing and dance. His tap dancing disturbs a sleeping patron in the room below. Dale Tremont (Ginger Rogers), the upset hotel guest in question, comes up to the room above to register her complaint. After Jerry meets his complainer, he immediately falls in love with her, and decides to soft-shoe her to sleep by dancing on sand after she returns to her room. During his stay in London, he pursues Dale whenever he can, and sweeps her off her feet by dancing with her in the gazebo in the park during a rain storm. Because she doesn't know his name, she affectionately calls him "Adam." Dale, who is to later meet with her best friend, Madge Hardwick (Helen Broderick) in Venice, Italy, discovers she's playing matchmaker, hoping to pair her with her husband's friend, Jerry, while, in turn, Dale believes Jerry to be Horace. Things get really complex as Dale mistakingly believes Made to be pushing "her husband" over to her while poor Horace, the innocent bystander, is being being threatened by Dale's dressmaker, Alberto Bedini (Erik Rhodes) and given a black eye by Madge for no apparent reason. Also adding to the confusion is Bates (Eric Blore), Horace's faithful servant, assigned by him to follow Dale Tremont and find out more about this "gold digger" out to trap Jerry, and ....

Aside from TOP HAT being long on laughs and complications becoming more confusing and the story moves on, the film takes time for five classic dance numbers composed by the legendary Irving Berlin: "No Strings, I'm Fancy Free" (sung and danced by Fred Astaire); "Isn't It a Lovely Day to be Caught in the Rain" (sung by Astaire/ danced by Astaire and Ginger Rogers); "Top Hat" (sung by Astaire); "Cheek to Cheek" (sung by Astaire/ danced by Astaire and Rogers); and "The Piccolino" (sung by Ginger Rogers and chorus/ danced by Astaire and Rogers); and "The Piccolino" (reprise, finale). Of those numbers, "Cheek to Cheek" remains a true highlight, a scene clipped in many documentaries pertaining to movie musicals or Astaire and Rogers themselves. "Cheek to Cheek" was nominated for best song of 1935. Although it didn't win, it remains as memorable as the Astaire and Rogers dance itself.

Any similarities between THE GAY Divorcée and TOP HAT are purely coincidental, but in many ways an improvement. Both films are not only the most famous and televised of the Astaire and Rogers musicals, but each presents itself like a stage play. The only twist here is that TOP HAT, which borrows from "The Gay Divorcée" is actually an original screenplay (by Dwight Taylor), written especially for the leading pair. Other than the horse and buggy ride on the London streets, the focal point remains mostly in the hotel suites, lobbies, dining areas and a brief ride on the gondola. TOP HAT gives the impression to be the most lavishly scaled musical ever released by RKO. It does. Even Ginger Rogers' dresses are glittering and rich in appearance, right down to her sleeping attire. A musical fantasy by way of costumes (how many women sleep with nightgowns flashier than a dinner dress?), TOP HAT has Astaire singing and dancing during portions of the plot, a common practice musical stage shows, though the title tune, "Top Hat, White Tie and Tails" is the only one given the production number treatment played to a theater audience on screen.

TOP HAT, available on video cassette and/or DVD, and formerly shown on American Movie Classics, most commonly found on Turner Classic Movies, is fortunate to have certain cut scenes restored. During the years of commercial television back in the 1960s, '70s and '80s, the sequence involving Bates (Eric Blore) insulting an Italian police official whom he believes doesn't speak a word of English, leading to his arrest, was among the missing. Whether seeing TOP HAT at 100 minutes, or in shorter reissue 93 minute prints, the movie itself is entertaining from start to finish. And if the blonde flower clerk in the London sequence early in the story looks familiar, look again. That's Lucille Ball, the future "queen of television." (****)
20 out of 24 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Sublime Soufflé
drednm1 January 2006
Top Hat is a terrific musical about mistaken identity that pushes the "joke" to the limit but never takes it self very seriously. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers are perfect as actors, dancers, and pals in this engaging comedy with several great dance numbers.

Astaire does a great solo (with male chorus line) to Top Hat and teams with Rogers in The Piccolino, Isn't It a Lovely Day, and Cheek to Cheek. All excellent. During The Piccolino number they seem to be having so much fun it's contagious and it seems like the entire number is done in ONE TAKE! Co-starring are 4 great actors who all turn in splendid performances. Helen Broderick is Madge, the frustrated and wise-cracking wife. Edward Everett Horton is Horace, the henpecked but conniving husband. Eric Blore is the valet, and Erik Rhodes is Beddini. Each gets his/her turn in the spotlight. Broderick was the perfect "older" woman as sidekick, Horton and Blore are a great comedy team of scene stealers, and Rhodes has a ball fracturing English. Lucille Ball has a bit part as the florist's assistant.

Central of course are Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. The Cheek to Cheek number is a classic and is fun to watch the feathers fly off Ginger's dress. My favorite is The Piccolino, especially when it breaks into a swing number and the dancers can really cut loose. Great fun.

One drawback is the UGLY set decorations that are in the same style no matter where they are. It's all that white-on-white stuff with hideous Greek decals and floral sprays everywhere. Even the scenes in Venice are all white right down to the gondolas. And just why are people swimming in the canals?
18 out of 22 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A Very Entertaining Astaire and Rogers Showcase
JOHNAMI1 April 2009
Of the ten films Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers made together "Top Hat" is the one that best demonstrates their many talents and which presents a memorable impression of their unique, inspiring partnership. Although they were great dancers, they were really so much more: Their work represented a standard of excellence, it conveyed an image of exciting, beautiful romance, and they made it seem as though the fantasy world of Hollywood was accessible to everyone.

The story lines for all ten films are weak. Some have more credibility than others, but even the pseudo-biographical films made later in their partnership are contrived, overly sentimental, and trite. RKO cranked-out a script like "Top Hat" simply to accommodate the hot team of Astaire and Rodgers. They didn't allow time to do better. In addition to the stars, good direction and fine work from both the supporting actors and the various technical people transformed the lean script into satisfying entertainment.

Ginger Rogers brings a great deal to the shallow women she is asked to portray. Her acting accounts for much of the success of the Astaire and Rogers movies because she approaches every line, every idiotic incident, every emotion with the same professional integrity she would give to the finest material. She is a hard working, disciplined actress, always completely in character, and in turn, completely believable. In great part, we believe the stories simply because of her.

Her singing and dancing skills are excellent, although not as dynamic as her acting ability. Fred is definitely the lead in singing and dancing. That she is able to follow Fred's dancing with both technical and artistic agility attests to her talent and even more to her professionalism. She earned a reputation as Fred's greatest partner because, on many levels, she can approach his greatness. They work as one toward a common goal.

Fred Astaire was an established Broadway star when he began working in Hollywood. He had already defined his artistic persona and had concentrated on three major areas: Demeanor, Musicianship, and Dancing. Fred is a most unlikely romantic lead. He has comely, but ordinary looks that diminish under close examination; too high a forehead, too large features, too pale and small-framed. Yet, on the screen, he projects a charming, elite image that more than compensates for the banality of his physical person. These qualities derive from Fred having developed the most exquisite manners. He is the most poised, the most polite, the most confident of men. Those fine traits, combined with his everyday looks, make him a romantic lead anyone can believe in, by association as well as by example.

He also developed an exceptional ability to interpret music. He finds everything the composer has written. It's not just a matter of reading the notes or of keeping the right tempo. He finds the essence of the song, its deepest meaning. He has a pleasant, small voice with which he sings splendidly. Every word is given full value, both musically and literally. The music is fully appreciated and fully communicated. In "Top Hat" his excellent musical talent is beautifully demonstrated in the song, "Cheek to Cheek." Written in a high register, Fred scales the music with impressive virtuosity, never failing to convey the full meaning of the song.

His gift with music extends with perfect appropriateness to dance. As a choreographer and dancer his work is one hundred percent original. His ability to find the very core of the music creates interpretation that is never obvious, never expected, and seeded with a genius that is unparalleled, highly aesthetic, and always inspiring. It is unfortunate that he has been labeled a "perfectionist" because it is a misunderstanding of his objectives. The word perfectionist tends to have an underlying negativism. It suggests triviality, fanaticism, rigidity. None of those factors exist in the work of Fred Astaire. His objective was, perhaps to some degree unconsciously, to achieve a level of quality that equaled his genius. In order to get to that point, it was necessary to rehearse and rehearse, to make everything just right, in the same way that all the stokes of a Matisse are as they need to be, or all the chisel strikes of a Michelangelo create a unified artistic achievement.

In "Top Hat," when Fred finishes singing the lyrics in the "Cheek to Cheek" scene he and Ginger segue to an open area where they perform a beautiful, fascinating dance. It is a highly romantic sequence, performed with impressive technical skill. At the end, Ginger's reaction clearly shows how it wasn't just dancing, but a type of love-making that satisfied the mind and the soul. It is notable how much they were able to communicate symbolically through movement.

For me, "Top Hat" showcases the many talents of Fred and Ginger more fully than the other nine films they made together. It also has excellent production values. However, it should be noted that the other films also have exceptional dance numbers of equal, and sometimes, even greater merit than those in "Top Hat." It is definitely worth seeing all ten of the Astaire and Rogers films, preferably in chronological order.
6 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
The real star of the movie
tork003017 April 2001
When whipping up the froth of a musical comedy most creators and commentators forget that fateful second word . . . COMEDY. Not to take away from Astaire & Rogers' beautiful balletic grace, but no one ever gave more comedy more modestly yet more professionally than Edward Everett Horton. His triple-barreled name alone suggests haughty dignity and sniffing puritanism, and his role in this film, as in so many others, gives him ample scope to screw up his mouth in petty disdain, look aghast at social blunders, and sputter in disbelief over the foibles of others while generously ignoring his own idiocies. Horton is a reactor, one which boosts a fairly pedestrian plot to the Moon & beyond. Like Margret DuMont with the Marx Brothers, there is something about the pernickity Horton that begs us to tilt his top hat and fling a banana peel his way just for the delightful reaction we are sure of getting. Perplexed or chagrined, the hatchet-faced Horton is a monument to the lost art of supporting clown -- those dumb bunnies and prissy busybodies that used to inhabit movies and give them life & breath even when the big-shot stars were off the screen. Horton had impeccable timing in delivering a line or flashing a double-take -- you feel he could just as easily count the nano-seconds between the neutron pulses of an atom. If he seems to intrude too much into the musical numbers of this movie it's simply because the director/editor must have been overly fond of his coy mugging. I recommend that music lovers rewatch this film and concentrate on Edward Everett Horton. Your attention will be well-rewarded with deep chuckles and an abiding affection for this New England zany.
6 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
"Isn't this a lovely day to be caught in the rain?"
ackstasis6 November 2007
'Top Hat' is a classic 1930s dance musical. The film positively reeks with class, and the winning partnership of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers is impossible to overlook. The two stars had performed together three times previously {Flying Down to Rio (1933), The Gay Divorcée (1934), Roberta (1935)} and would later do so on a total of ten occasions. As of this moment, I've only seen one of these films, but if 'Top Hat' is anything to go by, I have a lot of great titles to track down. It's rather peculiar that until recently I would actively avoid anything that features characters suddenly bursting into song for no particular reason, but classics such as this one and 'Singin' in the Rain' are gradually overcoming my aversion towards the musical genre. Mark Sandrich, who would direct five of the dancing team's outings, presents the audience with a glittering world of wealth, class and elegance, helped along by the potent chemistry of the two leads and a memorable selection of musical numbers written by Irving Berlin.

The storyline in 'Top Hat' is relatively basic, a lightweight screwball comedy with an assortment of misunderstandings and mistaken identities, but it's very entertaining. Of course, some of the plotpoints are rather contrived and require a bit of suspension of disbelief, but try and find me somebody who gives a damn. Jerry Travers (Astaire) is an American Broadway dancer making his London debut for producer Horace Hardwick (Edward Everett Horton). Following an uncontrollable late-night urge to start tappin' in his hotel room, Jerry comes to meet Dale Tremont (Rogers), who is initially repulsed by him but is later won over by Astaire's boyish enthusiasm and charm, not to mention some well-executed dance moves. However, an assortment of unlikely scenarios leads Dale to believe that Jerry is the husband of her good friend Marge (Helen Broderick), and his perceived infidelity leads her to seek somebody else's hand in marriage, namely the pompous Italian dress designer Alberto Beddini (Erik Rhodes).

Of course, the story is entertaining to watch, but the film's main assets are its remarkable dance numbers. As opposed to many other musicals, the sequences in 'Top Hat' have a certain intimacy about them. There is no quick editing or unusual shooting angles, but instead the camera is settled at enough of a distance for us to fully see both performers, and then it just sits back and allows the two stars to do what they do so well. Additionally, because each of the songs is integrated almost perfectly into the plot {except for "The Piccolino," which seemed a bit out-of-place}, the musical interludes complement the storyline, and vice versa. Choosing a favourite song would be next to impossible, so I'll just declare that "No Strings," "Isn't This a Lovely Day (To Be Caught in the Rain)" and "Top Hat, White Tie, and Tails" are all massively enjoyable to watch. The film's most famous number, "Cheek to Cheek," has since become one of American cinema's most beloved musical scenes, and subsequent directors have regularly employed it to add emotional resonance to their own works {see Woody Allen's 'The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)' and Frank Darabont's 'The Green Mile (1999)'}.
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Smooth, a frappé delight.
Robert J. Maxwell7 June 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Fred and Ginger in one of their best at mid career, almost a remake of "The Gay Divorcée". The music is by Irving Berlin and includes "Isn't This a Lovely Day" and "Cheek to Cheek." I can't imagine how Fred and Ginger managed to grind out these demanding films. The actors showed up at the studio at 4AM. And Fred Astaire was a perfectionist. He used up thirteen canes while filming one number, "Top Hat." He had his most notable argument with his partner over a feathery gown that Ginger Rogers had designed, since the feathers had a tendency to fly off during spins and stick to Astaire's dark evening clothes. And dancing itself, physical stamina aside, involves compelling self discipline. What looks so easy -- so IMPROVISED -- on the screen is actually worked out in minuscule detail beforehand, with each step, and each PART of each step, thoroughly memorized and rehearsed. Berlins' lyrics are above his usual standard: "I'm steppin out, my dear To breathe an atmosphere that simply reeks with class. And I trust that you'll excuse my dust when I step on the gas." ("Reeks with class", pretty good.)

Astaire made it even more difficult. Before him (and after him, for that matter) there had been Busby Berkeley, he of the overhead camera shot and the unfolding flower imagery. Astair had proclaimed "either the camera dances or I dance," so his numbers were shot with as few cuts as possible, and from eye level only. An exception occurs here during the climactic "Piccolino", although Astaire isn't in the shot, and it was the last time a Berkeleyesque shot was to appear in one of his films. These ensemble dances were organized by Astaire's colleague, Hermes Pan, a name that suggests its owner had just waltzed out of Andy Warhol's Factory but that, in fact, was the real name of an ordinary mid-Westerner who just happened to dance well.

I don't know how Irving Berlin could pump out songs as if they were hamburgers at a Sonic Drive-in either -- and winners, too, like "White Christmas" and dozens of others. The guy couldn't read music any better than you or I can. And he could play the piano in only one key, and only on the black keys. He had a custom piano built that mechanically transposed the melodies into other keys. It's like a chimpanzee picking up a paintbrush and producing The Last Supper, followed by Three Musicians, and so on, with scarcely a Big Eye painting among them.

You've got to see this thing if only for the art deco sets, blindingly white, huge, accented with black. The Greek keys and sinuous French curves follow one another sequaciously. The walls are white, the furniture is white, the telephones are white. Only the glossy floors and some of the wardrobe are black. Venice here looks like an expensive and sterile two-story set in an RKO studio. The dialog has more cutting witicisms than usual. Talking about a carriage horse, Astaire tells Rogers that his sire was Man O' War. "Who was his dame?", asks Rogers. "I don't know. He didn't give a (Rogers slams trap door)." And Rogers: "What is this power you have over horses?" Astaire: "Horse power."

And the supporting players like Eric Blore, Eric Rhodes, Edward Everett Horton, Lucille Ball, and Helen Broderick. They were all typecast, of course. The men tended to be effete, which served to emphasize Astaire's genuine, everyman quality. It must have been reassuring to see the same actors play variations on the same themes. Their descendants are the TV actors we've come to know in supporting parts -- the Ted Baxters and the Fred Mertzes and the -- well, the Fred Dalton Thompsons? Can I say that here? In the 1930s the audience had to wait for a year to see their favorite character actors. Now we get them once a week.

What gets me about this series is that the people we see are all so terribly rich. They all wear gowns and tuxedos and fly around from London to Venice to Paris and stay in the fanciest of hotels -- and this is 1935, with the world in the grip of a depression. It seems far too glib to claim the audience wanted an "escape" from the dreariness of their real worlds, too facile. Warner Brothers at the same time was producing films that "reflected" the dilemmas of the working-class audience. It would be interesting to know if "Top Hat" and its clones attracted a somewhat different audience from, say, "I Was a Fugitive From a Chain Gang." Too late to know.

Alas, though, the movie ends tragically, with everyone in Venice dying of cholera.

Just kidding.
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Great Dances, Crazy story
Scaramouche200428 January 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Top Hat, although the most successful of all the Astaire/Rogers movies of the 1930's, is however the most hard to swallow.

The songs and dances are as wonderful as ever, especially when provided by the great Irving Berlin, and executed by such consummate performers as Fred and Ginger, but it's the storyline that lets this one down. In short, it's entertaining enough but it's just not believable enough.

Fred and Ginger are Jerry Travers and Dale Tremont who as ever, meet under acrimonious circumstances and as ever, put down their weapons, kiss and make up and fall in love. That's before a case of mistaken identity makes Dale believe Jerry is actually Horace Hardwick, erring husband of her very best friend Madge played as brilliantly as ever by Helen Broderick.

Here is the plot down point as I find it hard to accept that after falling in love after dancing together in a rain soaked bandstand to Irving Berlins 'Isn't it a Lovely Day' that they didn't deem it necessary to introduce each other. Apparently the unimportant matter of somebodies name means nothing when it comes to true love. They obviously believe their romance can survive with the occasional 'Hey you' or a far from personal grunt.

Jerry is determined to woo her and put right any wrongs, and in true stalker style follows her all the way the Venice resort to which the ever elusive Miss Tremont has escaped too.

Again despite the fact that Jerry, Dale and Madge all meet at a poolside café and have a rather long conversation, Madge under the impression that this is Jerry and Dales' first meeting also neglects the preliminary introductions, with Jerry instead fanning the flames of the fire by declaring his love and respect for Madge and the impact she has on his life, which the rest of the film goes on to show as none whatsoever.

In fact the only person who goes out of his way to ask who anybody is Alberto Beddini (Erik Rhodes) Dale Tremont's fashion designer and would-be boyfriend who unfortunately finds and threatens to kill the real and completely innocent Horace Hardwick played by the ever watchable Edward Everett Horton.

See what I mean, I practically pulled my hair out by the roots in pure desperation the first time I saw this movie, but as ever it is the dances that really make up the missing magic.

Fred delights us with two wonderful solo numbers, 'Fancy Free' an energetic tap number around a spacious London apartment and 'Top Hat' a song that has over the years become Fred's signature tune and a routine where he made the ensemble of top hat, white tie and tails his very own brand name of swelegance (although many have said in real life, he hated wearing the outfit)

With Ginger he performs the aforementioned 'Isn't it a Lovely Day' and the films finale the The Piccolino, which was again an attempt to recreate both The Carioca, and The Continental, a concept that was later dropped from future movies.

But without doubt the highlight of this musical is the Cheek to Cheek number in which Fred and Ginger perform one of their best routines around a deserted Italian veranda, falling in love all over again.

Although the scene and the dancing is faultless, it was the routine that caused most of the off screen problems between the two. It is the now notorious ostrich feathers incident. These feathers can be seen quite clearly floating from Ginger's self designed evening gown onto Fred's suit and no doubt up his nose. Despite the bad feeling it caused at the time, according to Ava Astaire it became a life-long joke that the two would laugh and reminisce about whenever they spoke.

Forget the story, just watch the dances, they are great.
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Delightful Confusion and Musical Numbers
Claudio Carvalho1 November 2011
The dancer Jerry Travers (Fred Astaire) meets his friend and producer Horace Hardwick (Edward Everett Horton) at the conservative Thackeray Club in London and Horace invites Jerry to spend the night in his hotel. Jerry is excited with the show and has a "dance attack", tap dancing in the room and disturbing the guest Dale Tremont (Ginger Rogers) that is lodged in the room below. Dale goes upstairs to complain against the noise and meets Jerry and they flirt with each other.

On the next morning, Dale mistakes the single Jerry for the married Horace and becomes upset with her flirtation. When she learns that Horace is the husband of her friend Helen Broderick (Madge Hardwick), there are many complications and confusions in the lives of the two friends.

"Top Hat" is another wonderful film from the Golden Age of Hollywood, with delightful confusion and musical numbers. The gags are very funny and the song "Cheek to Cheek" was nominated to the 1936 Oscar in the category Best Music, Original Song. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "O Picolino"
6 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Top Hat: Tops in Movie Musicals!
krdement14 July 2007
I do not watch musicals to hear music. For a musical to be enjoyable, the music should be an embellishment of a story that is otherwise fun to watch. Dancing is the same thing. Beginning sometime in the 50's most musicals leave me flat - precisely because they don't have a good storyline, because they emphasize music to the detriment of the story, and because they routinely interrupt the flow of the film to just "burst into song." There are some wonderful, notable exceptions, of course - Singing in the Rain, 7 Brides for 7 Brothers, My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music... But give me the musicals of the Golden Age of Hollywood any time; the story always seems to come first - just think of The Wizard of Oz (the musical that nobody ever thinks of as a musical).

Give me a musical that features Fred and Ginger. In fact give me almost any film with EITHER Fred or Ginger - especially Ginger!

And if the story is predictable, who cares? It is the journey (the telling) not arriving at the destination (the predictable ending) that counts. This is the key to storytelling - cinematic and otherwise - that both film makers and movie goers understood and appreciated when Hollywood was the "Dream Factory." A film entertains by the deftness with which a story is told - the cleverness of dialog, the development of characters and their interaction. It is not necessarily a bad thing that the outcome is predictable.

Neither is it necessarily a good thing that a story is unpredictable; Hollywood has since produced a lot of original, unpredictable garbage.

This is Fred and Ginger at their very best. Their chemistry was never better. The dialog, musical numbers, dances, costumes and sets are all tops. This film is like a fabulous screwball comedy with song and dance, featuring two of the very brightest stars in the history of Hollywood in peak form. My favorite Fred and Ginger routine of all time - dancing and singing the immortal "Cheek to Cheek" will delight you. Let Top Hat take you on this delightful journey as an illustration of Golden Age musical-making at its finest! Top Hat is Tops!
6 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Blues-chasing Musical
harry-7619 August 2001
Treat yourself to a dandy funfest, called, "Top Hat."

Fred and Ginger are on in one of their all-time smash hits, dancing superbly, singing up a storm, and acting the heck out of their fluffy, delightful roles.

The double-take master, Edward Everett Horton is Fred's rich-pal producer; sardonic Helen Broderick is Ginger's best friend, Madge; and persnickety Eric Blore is Everett's manservant, Bates. But it's the fantistic Erik Rhodes as the Italiano dressmaker, Alberto Beddini, who steals the show.

Mark Sandrich's direction, Astaire and Hermes Pan's choreography, Thomas Little's set decoration, and Irving Berlin's score, are faultless.

It all adds up to a laugh-a-minute, eye-popping bouquet from RKO Radio Pictures. See it in a full theatrical house with an audience who appreciates the period, the style, and the message ("Just sit back, relax, and enjoy") and you're in for special treat.

"Raise you glass of vino, and sing the Piccolino."
13 out of 19 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
You can't help smiling when they're dancing.
islander-1426 September 2007
When my parents use a metaphor for a film too old to watch, they say Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers are in it. Since I watch silent films with relish, Astaire and Rogers singing and danching cheek to cheek are positively contemporary from my point of view though there are many ways one is reminded these swingers were kicking about 15 years before my parents were born.

'Top Hat' is great fun. The two dancers defy gravity in a way that looks improbable to eyes who have seent he making of Hong King wire-fu movies. There is a grace and ease that is not of this world. The smiling and cheering of dancers who should be sweating and panting from the physical exertion is as unreal as everything else about the story that is told. But this is really happen, for a 1935 camera without cuts and edits does not lie.

Beyond the dancing there's very little to write home about. The plot is as silly as they come and probably would not pass the morning conference of script writers of a bad Argentinian soap. What's so dissonant to our post-war (post-several wars) eyes is that everyone seems so damn happy: they have so much to smile and dance and sing about. Don't these people pay bills? In reality that is what this film is meant to do: let us look into a world without worries. Those looking at it first time round in 1935 had much to worry about. They are the people of Grapes of Wrath and of Modern Times: the depressees who lost everything and could afford no luxury but the movies every week.

Musicals gave them a magical world they could escape to and if that magical world was anything like reality it would not be worth paying the ticket for.

I suppose if you wanted to tell a story where people break into song and dance every few minutes, you could not really have much to do with reality even if you wanted to.

Consider the set for what is meant to look like Venice in the second half of the film. It looks like something out of a Disney park: an American interpretation of a long-ago seen post-card retold and magnified to seem even more otherworldly in children's eyes than Venice in any case really is.

Though you'll raise your eye brows a few times at the sheer improbability of the plot turns and you won't laugh the second time the characters take a Stan Laurel double-take (today's humour is too fast to leave place for people who expect to be funny because they're slow on the uptake) you can't help smiling when they're dancing. The sheer joy of Astaire and Rogers in their art form is infectious.
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Very positive and spacious Astaire-Rogers entry; genial and quite well-done
silverscreen88822 June 2007
"Top Hat" was adapted from an Hungarian play, for which Sándor Faragao credited as Alexander Faragó and Aladar Laszlo deserve the credit. The serviceable but slight story-line was also worked on by Károly Nóti, Allan Scott and Dwight Taylor. The main plot may be told in a single paragraph: A dancer comes to London to star in a new show. Annoying a young woman by tap dancing when she is trying to sleep, he meets her, falls in love with her and fails to win her despite her attraction to him because she believes him to be the husband of her best friend instead of only being the star of his show, a man working for him. Complicating the mix are a jealous count for whom the girl works and an opinionated butler working for the impresario, who is then paid by the dancer to spy for him instead. Mark Sandrich directed the goings on in sprightly fashion, with Pandro S. Berman credited as the attractive film's producer and Irving Berlin, with incidental music by Max Steiner, writing the film's above-average score of songs, including "Dancing Cheek to Cheek:, "To Hat" and "The Piccolino", among others. Art Director Van Nest Polglase, Cinematographer David Abel, set dresser Thomas Little and designer of gowns Bernard Newman manage to give the entire production an airy and positive feeling, whether the scene is one set indoors or out. Hermes Pan and Fred Astaire devised the intelligent choreography and half a dozen fine arrangers helped to make the music work. The sunny disposition of the story, with its reliance on a simple misunderstanding, allows the smallish cast to develop their characters unusually fully for a musical. Fred Astaire is lively, young and likable, and his dancing has seldom been better. Ginger Rogers generally seems comfortable with her demanding role as dancer,. singer, confused lover, angry young woman and bewildered participant. Edward Everett Horton is very properly stuffy, Eric Blore as his butler successfully sarcastic, and Helen Broderick makes a delightful and able sarcastic wife in a role that only Eve Arden could have bettered. Eric Rhodes impersonates the irascible Italian count Alberto with power and ability throughout. But ultimately, the film's charm comes down to its simplicity, high style and characters. An intended musical climax to the film, the elaborate "Piccolini", as written by Irving Berlin and sung by Ginger Roger, is a mistake despite its competent arrangement. However it is the only sour note in an otherwise expert trifle, one played winningly and presented beautifully, in my judgment. The opening comedic scene in a London Men's Club, Astaire's first meeting with the butler, the Italian sequences, the stage numbers and the hotel room and hansom scene are all memorable. This film was very popular in 1935 and because of its positive qualities remains a favorite Astaire-Rogers vehicle today. Its elements have often been imitated, but perhaps never bettered,
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
At times feathery, and at times very witty.
movibuf196220 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.
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Reaching the Highest Peak
bkoganbing20 April 2006
A point not often raised by other reviewers of Top Hat is how much of a benchmark this film was in the career of Irving Berlin. Top Hat marked Berlin's return to Hollywood with a new appreciation for the business end of the motion picture industry.

Berlin had been there in the first three years of sound and wrote a few songs for the screen. He didn't like writing and seeing his work integrated into the scores of other films, he didn't like seeing his work ending up on the cutting room floor as was the case in Reaching for the Moon and he didn't like just writing the songs and seeing them tossed every which way into a film.

With Top Hat Berlin began a tradition of total control. After that it was extremely rare to hear a non-Berlin note in any score he wrote. He was as in on the creation of the film as he would have been on the Broadway stage. And he retained copyright control of his songs which was usually not the case, the studio did. The man was a first class businessman as well as our greatest songwriter.

This was the fourth teaming of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. With these two, RKO started rivaling Warner Brothers and MGM for quality musicals. With Fred Astaire they had not only a great dancer, but a star who worked hard in the creation of those numbers. The Piccolino number that he and Ginger do at the finale certainly rivals any of the stuff Busby Berkeley was doing at Warner Brothers though it is not as surrealistic.

Irving Berlin wrote and integrated five outstanding songs into Top Hat. The aforementioned Piccolino, No Strings, Isn't It a Lovely Day To Be Caught in the Rain and Cheek to Cheek. The last was one of Berlin's most popular songs, still done today by would be Astaires. It was nominated in the second year of the Best Song Oscar category, but lost to Lullaby of Broadway.

My favorite number here is the free and easy Isn't It a Lovely Day To Be Caught in the Rain. Fred and Ginger make that informal number under a gazebo so natural, it's positively infectious.

A whole lot of this cast was retained from the previous Astaire-Rogers outing, The Gay Divorcée. Edward Everett Horton, Edward Blore, Erik Rhodes, and Helen Broderick simply repeat their roles from the previous film.

So when you're caught in the rain at home with your significant other, you could do worse than watch Top Hat. You'll be dancing cheek to cheek and soon.
6 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Heaven, I'm in heaven, let Fred and Ginger take you there as well.
Spikeopath6 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
4 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Sophistication and gaiety in the Depression made us feel better. Might be time to watch this one again
Terrell-430 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.
4 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
"The course of true love never did run smooth"
imperfectfilms6 September 2005
Warning: 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.
5 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Extremely Annoying Story
ccthemovieman-13 September 2006
This started off with a bang - a couple of good songs and some tremendous dancing by Fred Astaire. However, it bogs down with the standard storyline of mistaken identity which goes on and on and on. It just gets really annoying after awhile. Ginger Rogers and Helen Broderick continually mistreat and make accusations against their men. Then, when they find out their mistakes, they never apologize or act like they did anything wrong!

At any rate, it's always a pleasure to watch Rogers and Astaire dance together, but these stories......yeech! At least Edward Edward Horton added something to the story. The dialog is very dated and, for the millionth time, you see marriage treated with no respect.

Overall, you can find a lot better Astaire-Rogers movies than this overrated turkey.
16 out of 31 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews