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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
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...
Tags for Top Hat Full Movie
Edward Everett Horton
, Eric Blore
, Erik Rhodes
, Fred Astaire
, Ginger Rogers
, Helen Broderick
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