Crystal over at In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood, and Michaela over at Love Letters To Old Hollywood are co-hosting this blogathon about Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Be sure to visit their sites to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself.
Top Hat is my favourite Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers film. I also really love The Gay Divorcee, Swing Time and The Story Of Vernon and Irene Castle. Despite my great love for the majority of the films that Fred and Ginger starred in together, it is Top Hat which has found a very special place in my heart.
I love Top Hat so much and I never get tired of watching it. The film is one of my go to comfort films because it always leaves me in such a good mood. The film is also special to me because it is the first Fred and Ginger film that I ever saw, and it is also the film which ended up making me a fan of their work. It is also the first black and white film that I ever saw (I’ve been a fan a black and white films ever since).
Top Hat is a joyous, uplifting and very romantic film. I think the film features Fred and Ginger at their very best, both in terms of their acting performances and their dancing. The film also has some of the best and most memorable dance routines in Fred and Ginger’s entire screen partnership.
This was Fred and Ginger’s fourth film together. By this time they had developed a very good screen chemistry and they both seemed comfortable being in these films. I think Top Hat is the film which made audiences start to sit up and take some real notice of these two and their films.
Everything about this film is as good as it can possibly be, and Fred and Ginger both do some of the best acting and dancing found in any of their ten films. Top Hat is also an incredibly funny film. The comic parts and the mistaken identity storyline ensure that the film has a timeless quality about it. The funny reactions, silly situations and funny romantic games really haven’t dated at all in my opinion.
The other truly fabulous thing about this film is the set design and costumes, both of which are stunning and beautiful. The Venice set in particular is a truly spectacular sight to behold.
This set was three levels high and it consisted of canals, terraces and balconies; it was so big that it was spread across two soundstages. The art director for the film was Carroll Clark, and he oversaw all of the magnificent set and furniture design seen on screen. The art direction for the film was nominated for an Academy Award.
As well as the fabulous visuals to gaze at and the brilliant Fred and Ginger to enjoy, we also get the wonderful supporting performances by Edward Everett Horton, Helen Broderick, Erik Rhodes and Eric Blore.
Edward Everett Horton, Helen Broderick, Erik Rhodes and Eric Blore. Screenshot by me.
These four actors were among the greatest American character actors of the classic film era. They are all comedy gold in this film. They steal all the scenes they are all in, and the comic bickering between them all is priceless. I think that they all add so much to this film.
I consider Top Hat to be the best of Fred and Ginger’s films because everyone and everything in it is the very best they can possibly be. Top Hat became one of the most popular and profitable films of the 1930’s, and it has also since become the most successful and best remembered of all the Fred and Ginger dance films.
The film is directed by Marc Sandrich, who was the director of several of the Fred and Ginger films. Acclaimed American tap dancer, Jerry Travers(Fred Astaire) has arrived in London to take the lead in a stage show being produced by his friend, Horace Hardwick(Edward Everett Horton).
Jerry dancing and waking up Dale. Screenshot by me.
Jerry is demonstrating a tap routine to Horace in his hotel suite one night, when his loud tap dancing disturbs the sleep of Dale Tremont(Ginger Rogers), who is staying in the suite below. Dale complains about the noise and Jerry says sorry to her. It’s clear to us that there is an instant attraction developing between the two.
Dale and Jerry fall in love but she has mistaken Jerry for Horace, and as the film goes on this case of mistaken identity gets even more complicated and funny. This mistaken identity also prevents Dale and Jerry from being able to get together as quickly as they should be able to.
When Dale discovers that Horace is married to her friend Madge(Helen Broderick), Dale is shocked that he is romancing her and attempting to begin an affair with her which would mean he would be cheating on Madge. Dale is even more shocked when Madge seems to not to mind, shows she has a very open mind about love and flirting, and seems very amused by Dale telling her that Horace got romantic with her.
Dale goes on holiday to Venice with Madge. Dale is romanced there by dress designer Alberto Beddini(Erik Rhodes), things get complicated when both Jerry and Horace show up, along with Horace’s hysterical and meddling valet, Bates (a scene stealing Eric Blore). Can Dale and Jerry set things straight and get the happy romantic ending they deserve?
In addition to the characters and the romance story, there are lots of dance sequences to enjoy. The highlight of the film for me is Fred and Ginger’s Cheek To Cheek dance sequence. The dance caused many problems at first, due to what happened with the feathers on Ginger’s ostrich feather gown.
Part of the Cheek To Cheek dance. Screenshot by me.
The feathers sewn onto the dress flew off in clouds when Ginger and Fred started dancing, and this really annoyed Fred. Filming was stopped and the dress was altered slightly, and although feathers can be seen falling off during the completed sequence, it is not as bad as it was originally.
More of the Cheek To Cheek Sequence. Screenshot by me.
The Cheek To Cheek sequence is so beautiful to watch, the dance is very graceful and expertly choreographed too. This scene is really the epitome to me of what Fred and Ginger were all about – elegance, style, grace and an ability to make all that dancing they did on screen seem effortless.
The other standout dance sequence in the film is the Top Hat stage routine. This scene is part of Jerry’s stage show.
Fred gets to do some terrific solo tapping in this sequence, and he gets superb support from a large group of backing dancers. The dancing, the stage design and that brilliant song and music by Irving Berlin all help to make this a stunning sequence.
I think there is something here for everyone to enjoy in this film. You will also be sure to be tapping your toes right along with Fred and Ginger. I also love that for a film which is clearly all about fantasy and is set in a very artificial world, that the plot and characters still manage to feel so very authentic.
The film makes you care about Dale and Jerry and you want them to be together by the end. Top Hat is an uplifting and delightful fantasy that can cheer you up if you are feeling down. I always feel happy after spending some time watching this one.
Fred is at his most charming and loveable in this film. Ginger is equally lovable and she also gets to prove to us how much comic talent she had too. I love Ginger’s shocked and bemused expressions during the scenes where she is telling Madge about Horace flirting with her. I also think she and Fred are so funny in the scene where she pretends to be someone else and acts as though they used to be lovers.
For a film made during the time of the infamous Production Code, I think that this film is also rather risque in its subject matter. Madge’s reaction to the news that Horace (we know it’s really Jerry that Dale is talking about but Madge doesn’t)has been flirting with Dale and wants to have a relationship with her is not a response that you may expect to find in a 1930’s Code film.
Madge makes it clear that she doesn’t care if he cheats on her or not. Madge’s response also seems to imply that the couple may well have an open relationship. I’m surprised the Code people passed this scene discussing affairs involving a married person, when they famously didn’t even allow characters who were married couples to be shown sleeping together in the same bed!
Madge is another reason why I love this film so much. She is a middle aged woman who you expect to be very reluctant to discuss her marriage and her husband’s fidelity, but Madge is just the opposite, she is very open and she comes across as being a very modern woman in her attitudes towards marriage, and she is also a very fun person too.
Madge is very open when she talks about Horace’s flirting and fooling around, she also tells Dale that you can never really stop men looking at other women and desiring them. The banter between Madge and Horace is also first class and I think that both Helen Broderick and Edward Everett Horton work together so well in this film.
My favourite scenes are the following. Jerry tap dancing to shock the boring old men at Horace’s club. The Cheek To Cheek dance. Dale trying to tell Madge about Horace being in love with her. The scene where Dale pranks Jerry and acts as though she thinks they had an affair in France years ago. The Piccolino dance finale. Jerry waking Dale up with his dancing.
Anyone else here love Top Hat as much as I do?