Top Hat (1935)

1935, RKO. Directed by Mark Sandrich. Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Edward Everett Horton, Erik Rhodes, Eric Blore, Helen Broderick.

Decent Films Ratings

Overall
Recommendability
?A
Artistic/
Entertainment Value
?
Moral/Spiritual
Value (+4/-4)
? -1
Age
Appropriateness
?Teens & Up

External Ratings

MPAA ?NR USCCB ?A-III

Content advisory: Romantic and marital complications, including suspicions of infidelity and references to divorce.

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Top Hat (DVD)

From a National Catholic Register review

By Steven D. Greydanus

The quintessential Fred-and-Ginger vehicle, Top Hat features some of the most glorious, memorable dance sequences ever filmed. The Irving Berlin score includes perhaps the duo’s best-known number, "Cheek to Cheek," as well as Astaire’s signature solo number, "Top Hat, White Tie, and Tails."

Like many of their pictures, Top Hat opens with Fred making a bad first impression on Ginger, then spending much of the film trying to get on her good side. This device seems to fit Astaire’s insouciant, sometimes annoying screen persona, though he’s more sympathetic and likable here than in some pictures. Their early scenes, especially the sequence in the rain at the park band shell, are appropriately light and charming, with Ginger especially believable as the young woman annoyed but not entirely displeased by Fred’s attentions.

Then the plot takes a turn for farce with a contrived case of mistaken identity, as Ginger confuses Fred with her best friend’s husband. Suitably outraged, Ginger turns to her friend, who affects cynical unconcern to Ginger — though showing a different face to her bewildered, not entirely innocent husband.

Perhaps the most unusual element in the film is the unusual "gangster tap" finale to the big "Top Hat" production number, in which Fred wields a cane like a machine gun, with sharp raps of his heels for gunfire, and drops a line of tuxedoed dancers one by one. The gangster conceit may be part of the Depression milieu; certainly the film, with its glamorous, elegant trappings, is typically escapist Depression-era fare, laced with a hint of satire. In any case, whenever Fred and Ginger are in motion, the magic is timeless.

Tags: Comedy, Musical, Romance

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Mail: Re: Top Hat

Just read your review of Top Hat, and while it’s odd that you didn’t mention the killer performances by Helen Broderick, Eric Blore, and the brilliant Edward Everett Horton, I realize that there are space limitations.

Now, I know that the consensus viewpoint is sometimes, even often, wrong. But sometimes the consensus is right. I point this out because I have never heard anyone, even the tragically unimaginative types who don’t like Astaire/Rogers movies, refer to Astaire’s screen persona as “somewhat annoyng.”

Please tell me this is a typo, or you’d had a bad day, or you had someone else write the review for you, or that you weren’t thinking of Fred Astaire, you were thinking of Nicholas Cage.

Because, whether you enjoy these movies or not, it is simply an objective fact that Astaire is thoroughly charming and a gifted comedic actor, as well as a fine dancer. You might as well say Ginger Rogers isn’t pretty or doesn’t have a nice figure.

Did I say Astaire’s screen persona was “somewhat annoying”? Heh. How careless of me. What I meant to say is that he generally comes off as smug, insouciant, conceited and shallow.

I mean, really, how the heck do you star with Audrey Hepburn — Audrey Hepburn, for pity’s sake — in movie called Funny Face — and when the title song comes up, you’re the one singing about how she’s the one with the funny face? What on earth does Astaire see when he looks in the mirror, anyway?

Oh, and Mrs. Decent Films agrees with me.

Incidentally, I don’t have space limitations, I have time limitations. I write up movies in my off hours, and the amount of time I’m able to invest in a review varies wildly. Also I’m less inclined to invest a lot of energy in a review when (a) I think that others have already done the film sufficient justice and (b) I’m not sure I have anything very unique, interesting or important to say about it.

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