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|Index||106 reviews in total|
There's a whole wealth of reasons as to why this is the defining Astaire and
Rogers musical. Some of the best quips, songs and dances spawn from it. It
lacks the elements that turned the series sour with later musicals like
"Carefree". The performances are perhaps the best of all Astaire and Rogers
musical. "Top Hat" also boasts the classic number "Cheek to Cheek", in which
Ginger dances in a fabulous pale blue dress of ostrich feathers, which in
turn, is a whole story in itself.
On the other hand, it travels along lines obviously similar to that of its predecessor, "The Gay Divorcee". Mistaken identity. Girl refusing guy troubles. Elegant costumes and tails. Erik Rhodes is back as 'The Italian Guy'. Edward Everett Horton is back as Fred's clumsy buddy. More screamingly painful controlled studio sets. In all, more ironic silliness, more crazy behaviour, and even more surprisingly, everyone seems to get away with it.
It could have been the public couldn't simply get enough of Ginger and Fred, the reasons the execs at RKO decided to merely reinvent "The Gay Divorcee". It certainly worked at the time. Preview audiences pains included working out whether they liked "It's a lovely Day" or "Cheek to Cheek" better. It even was nominated as a candidate for Best Picture of 1935. Clearly the ploy worked, "The Gay Divorcee" also receiving the nod the year before. Therefore, would this gimmick be fried the second upon re-release?
It's been sixty five years. The classic magic that thrilled the audiences of its day is still there. The screenplay is frivolous once again, but that is where the brilliance lies. The performances still preserved have lost none of their charisma and humour. Dances and songs are sensational, and the class of the whole thing is just a faint reminder of days gone by, though not with such silliness.
Despite its greatness and immortal appeal, the movie still has its flaws. Poor Ginger was passed "The Piccolino" the film's weakest number which was disguised with a lavish dance routine. Ginger received the numbers that Fred didn't like. Fred got the good ones again, "It's a Lovely Day", "Fancy Free" and "Cheek to Cheek".
RKO probably comes in second for lousiest in the exterior set decoration department. The only studio worse in its days was FOX. They certainly did their indoor decors beautifully, but still couldn't get it right for the outdoors. A somewhat acceptable London is supported by a totally artifical Venice.
It evokes an imagery of the Golden Hollywood ended. This was the first of the team's musicals I saw, although "Swing Time" remains my favourite.
What makes it in all, so brilliant? Go and see it for yourself. If the time and place is right, you'll love it.
I could watch these two dance for hours. That's the main attraction where Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers movies are concerned. The engaging plot and great original songs are just icing on the cake.
This isn't just the best of the Astaire-Rogers musicals, but is by
implication the best musical ever made. The dancing is, of course, superb,
but the comedy is sharp and witty, the performances all round are flawless,
and the romance is wonderful as well.
This was the second-biggest grossing movie of 1935.
Top Hot is a sheer delight. When it's said that they don't make 'em like they used to, they could be talking about this film. Astaire and Rogers are maybe the best duo in the history of American film, and certainly the best dance team. Top Hat also boasts one of Irving Berlin's best film scores, with standards like Cheek to Cheek, Isn't This a Lovely Day?, and Astaire's show-stopping solo number Top Hat, White Tie, and Tails. Then there are the comic antics of two of Hollywood's biggest scene-stealers, Edward Evert Horton and Eric Blore. Top Hat is really one of those films where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. And nothing tops Fred and Ginger dancing cheek-t- cheek during Cheek to Cheek for romance and unutterable beauty. A true classic, and testament to Astaire's timeless charm and grace.
Why am I in heaven? Because I have just returned from seeing this
wonderful, wonderful film on the big screen (for maybe the tenth time).
But it was over a decade since I had that pleasure and I had forgotten
the wonder, the thrill, the ecstasy of it. Am I a musicals nut? No. Am
I an Astaire-Rogers super-fan? No. But this delirious romantic musical
farce is one of the most precious jewels in the crown of the cinema.
Whence cometh this wonder, I ask myself? Yes, many other of the Astaire Rogers films are enjoyable, and the dancing and even, perhaps, the songs in Swingtime or Carefree can match most of the numbers in Top Hat. But Top Hat stands like a beacon above and beyond anything that the duo, or RKO's musical division ever did before or after. I am coming to the conclusion that a lot of the credit belongs to Aladar Laszlo who was co-author of the play, but, more importantly had the same function on Lubitsch's masterpiece, Trouble in Paradise...
So what if Aladar did light the spark in the film? Nearly everyone concerned is perfect. There is barely a line of dialogue that is not funny or barbed, and even the corny jokes: Ginger:'What is this strange power you have over horses?'. Fred: 'Horse power.' add to the blinding sense of INNOCENCE that gives the film its power.
And then there are the supporting roles. Edward Everett Horton makes a magnificent Horace, but is upstaged in every scene by Eric Blore as the incomparable Bates. Erik Rhodes is sensational as Beddini, uttering mangled English as though he imagined he was Shakespeare. And what of director Mark Sandrich? If Howard Hawks' definition of a good director ('Someone who doesn't annoy you.') is right, then Mark Sandrich is a good director! But this is not a film d'auteur but a magnificent product of the Hollywood studio system - one of the best.
But I digress. I like thousands of films, and love hundreds of them, but this wondrous emotional masterpiece can take its place along with perhaps twenty or thirty films that I love to exasperation. That is alongside The Adventurer, 42nd Street, The General, Earth, Citizen Kane, El Dorado... OK, I won't bore you with the rest. And so that is why I'm in heaven. And if there is a heaven, then after I die, I will enter the world of Top Hat.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
. . . turning Hitler's Nuremberg Rallies into an international hit movie (TRIUMPH OF THE WILL), but like the Dodgers' Jackie Robinson, Leni had to first step on the shoulders of Giants to get to where she got. Only, in Leni's case, it was more like she was treading on gnomes, following in the footsteps of America's Tap-Dancing Terrorist Fred Astaire, who was never scarier than in 1935's TOP HAT. Viewers will pick up a threatening vibe from Freddy Kruger's Role Model early on, as he throws a fright into the fragile and half-asleep crowd of octogenarians packed into a Thackeray Reading Room. Next he attacks Ginger Rogers, stomping so hard on the ceiling of her hotel room that falling tiles wake her up at 3 AM; it's lucky that she isn't blinded! Upping the ante of his mayhem, Freddy pantomimes a literal 21-gun salute to close out TOP HAT's title song, "shooting" nearly two dozen chorus boys with his dancing cane between 44:30 and 45:10. He even "guns down" an audience member for an encore. If Today's Cleveland cops run across someone behaving like Freddy in his TOP HAT heyday, their rules of engagement probably will let them leave a thoroughly deceased hoofer on the ground in the park.
Top Hat (1935)
**** (out of 4)
Dancer Jerry Travers (Fred Astaire) arrives in the UK for a show and soon meets the beautiful Dale Tremont (Ginger Rogers). The two quickly fall in love but then Dale thinks that he's actually the husband of her best friend. Not realizing that she's making a mistake, Dale does everything she can to destroy the relationship. TOP HAT is perhaps one of the best known of the ten teamings between Astaire and Rogers and it's easy to see why so many people love it. The two stars are in great form, there are many great songs and dance sequences and we've also got a pretty simple but very funny story that actually works. The screenplay is quite good even though there's really not too much that happens when you think about it. The first thirty-minutes has Astaire and Rogers meeting, flirting, dancing and falling in love. Then we get the mix-up to where Rogers thinks Astaire is married and for the next hour plus we get them fighting and dragging other people into the mess. I thought the stuff dealing with Rogers making the mistake was handled quite well and it led to many laughs and especially when the real husband gets involved with another man who has a thing for Rogers. The performances by the two leads are certainly everything you'd expect them to be. The chemistry between the stars is what made these teamings legendary and every bit of praise that has been said about them is rightly deserved. The supporting players offer up nice performances from Edward Everett Horton, Helen Broderick and Erik Rhodes. The song "Check to Check" is perhaps the most memorable from any of the Astaire-Rogers musicals but we also get an excellent "Isn't This a Lovely Day (to Be Caught in the Rain?" and "The Piccolino" at the finale is just divine. TOP HAT certainly deserves its reputation as one of the best musicals out there but I think it's the comedy that really makes it stand out.
Still very watchable. Fred Astaire is Fred Astaire even if he comes as too aware of his star status throughout the film. Ginger is an excellent actress but unfortunately her dancing steps are mostly criminally hidden by too long dresses. The dancing does not take over the whole film and has a measure of spontaneity in it, making it more natural. The sets are laughably prewar, rooms without ceilings - the bridal suite for example - but taken in stride. The characters are likable and the script is witty. Unfortunately the soundtrack quality is terrible by today's standards and while good enough to understand the dialog, renders the music to scratchy gramophone days. Nostalgic yes but cramps the style somewhat.
Frankly, while Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers had wonderfully
chemistry, I don't feel the Astaire/Rogers films were his best movies.
Band Wagon, for one, was much better, and in terms of dance partners,
Eleanor Powell was much more impressive than Rogers.
Still, I watched all the Astaire/Rogers films when I was in college, and I enjoyed them, less for the dancing (I really like Astaire best in his novelty numbers, like dancing with a coat rack or firecrackers) than with the goofy comedy of supporting players like Edward Everett Horton.
Top Hat is a very good example of the Astaire Rogers formula. Astaire and Rogers coo and snipe, supporting players are amusingly befuddled, the story is an amusing though remarkably dopey comedy of errors, and there is quite a lot of dancing. The songs by Irving Berlin are some of his best, and the dancing is, of course, excellent, even though I'm really more a fan of Gene Kelly's earthier approach.
If you like Astaire/Rogers movies, you'll like this one. If you've never seen one, this is a good place to start. I don't consider it a great movie by any means, but it is consistently entertaining.
If there was one film that comes to mind when thinking of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers it would be Top Hat. And it is easy to see why because it is a wonderful film, whether as a musical, comedy or a timeless and unsurpassed partnership. The story isn't its strongest asset, some may argue that it's the story that they remember the least about Top Hat and a lot of Fred and Ginger's other outings. However that doesn't matter all that much, because it still has a fantastical fun element and told with a lot of charm and warmth. And because everything here just works amazingly well. The art-décor settings are very sumptuous, with costumes that are equally stunning(some of Ginger Rogers' dresses have to be seen to be believed) and handsome photography. Irving Berlin's score and songs are some of the best of any 30s-50s film musical, the witty lyrics, charming melodies and distinctive style is just a joy to listen to throughout. Top Hat, White Tie and Tails is a very catchy title number and really allows Fred Astaire to make it his own, while Isn't It a Lovely Day is one of Berlin's most beautiful songs and Cheek to Cheek has some of the best choreography of any single song of any Fred and Ginger film. Piccolino also comes across very well, Ginger's singing isn't a wow factor but the song itself and the lively choreography do win you over. The songs are helped by the choreography, which is glamorous, good-natured and looks so light-as-a-feather when Fred and Ginger do it. The dialogue is very witty and warm-hearted, the highlights were the hansom-cab scene and anything involving Beddini. The characters are eccentric but immensely likable, it's very easy to warm to and relate to Jerry. And there's no going wrong with the performances either, Fred and Ginger's dance partnership is deservedly iconic, you just admire and sometimes envy how poised and athletic they both are, and their individual performances are just as charming, especially Astaire. The supporting cast sparkle just as much, especially Erik Rhodes who steals every scene he's in and even at times the whole film. In conclusion, a Fred and Ginger classic. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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