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The Tip-Top of Musical Comedy Charm
Here is ‘Top Hat’ – one of the most well-known films to star Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. It also features music and lyrics by Irving Berlin. This is definitely a musical comedy of misunderstandings. 🙂
In the film, Fred Astaire plays an American dancer named Jerry Travers. He comes to London to star in a show produced by Edward Everett Horton as Horace Hardwick. He also meets this beautiful lady.
When dancing on the spot in Horace Hardwick’s hotel room, Jerry wakes up Ginger Rogers as Dale Tremont. He doesn’t make a good impression on her and he tries to win her affection in the movie. 🙂
It is amusing when Fred’s character dances to the song of ‘No Strings (I’m Fancy Free)’, causing Ginger’s character to wake up. He then dances by placing sand on the floor to help her go and sleep.
The next day, Fred as Jerry chases after Ginger as Dale, which quite annoys her at first, especially when he becomes her horse and cab driver. Eventually, Dale softens as she grows to like Jerry in this.
This leads to the song number ‘Isn’t This a Lovely Day (to be Caught in the Rain)’. Fred and Ginger’s characters sing and dance as they take shelter in this bandstand whilst a thunderstorm is happening.
But the romance doesn’t quite last long as Dale mistakes Jerry for Horace being married to her friend Helen Broderick as Madge. I’m surprised Jerry didn’t tell Dale her name before all that had occurred.
Jerry, still hopelessly in love with Dale, follows her to Venice in order to try and win her heart. Through a series of misunderstandings, Jerry and Dale find themselves so closer together than ever.
Fred Astaire continues to show his dancing skills to a degree as well as his singing and acting alongside Ginger Rogers. There is the issue with that ‘feathers’ incident, but it was alright in the end.
During the making of the ‘Cheek to Cheek’ dance number, Ginger Rogers wore a feathers-filled dress. It got on Fred Astaire’s nerves at the time, but thankfully the two continued to work well here.
It was amusing to see those scenes where Ginger Rogers as Dale tried to make Fred Astaire as Jerry feel bad about himself; believing he was a married man. She even slapped him twice during the film.
A lot of actors from other Astaire/Rogers films appear in this one. Edward Everett Horton as Horace Hardwick was in ‘The Gay Divorcee’. He always plays the English bumbler who’s Fred Astaire’s friend.
There’s Erik Rhodes as Alberto Beddini, a dandified Italian fashion designer who’s in love with Dale. Erik Rhodes was also in ‘The Gay Divorcee’. I wonder if he always plays Italian-like characters in films.
And there’s Eric Blore as Bates, Horace’s meddling English valet. Eric Blore is in most Astaire/Rogers films, playing the English butler/valet. Bates is ordered by Horace to keep tabs on Dale in the movie.
Helen Broderick stars as Madge Hardwick, Dale’s best friend and Horace’s husband. Helen Broderick later starred in ‘Swing Time’ with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. She’s pretty amusing in this flick. 🙂
As well as ‘No Strings’; ‘Isn’t This a Lovely Day’ and ‘Cheek to Cheek’, there’s also the song ‘Top Hat, White Tie and Tails’. This is performed by Fred Astaire’s Jerry for Horace Hardwick’s show in London.
There’s also the song ‘The Piccolinio’ which takes place after Dale learns of Jerry’s true identity. This includes a sequence of boats on the Lido of Venice, which is clearly set design and not the real thing.
It’s funny when it turns out that Dale didn’t marry Alberto Beddini at all in the film. They’d been married by Bates who was disguised as a clergy man. Therefore, Jerry can marry Dale after all here. 🙂
It was equally amusing beforehand when Bates made insults to a chief gondolier who he thought didn’t speak English and he was disguised as a gondolier himself. Bates was soon arrested as a result.
It’s also ironic that the gents of the London club who wanted Fred Astaire to keep quiet were actually enjoying him dancing during his ‘Top Hat, White Tie and Tails’ dance number. Pretty surreal!
‘Top Hat’ is a fun Astaire/Rogers film and is considered one of the best and well-known. It’s a romantic comedy of misunderstandings and Fred Astaire and Ginger Roger play to that pretty well. 🙂
The DVD special features are as follows. On the ‘Top Hat’ disc for ‘The Fred & Ginger Collection – Volume 1’ DVD box set, there’s a special introduction for the film by Fred Astaire’s daughter Ava Astaire McKenzie. There are also production notes by film historian Ken Barnes; cast and crew notes and a photo gallery for ‘Top Hat’.
On the ‘Top Hat’ disc in ‘Astaire and Rogers: The Complete Film Collection’ DVD box set, there’s a DVD audio commentary by Fred Astaire’s daughter Ava Astaire McKenzie and film historian Larry Billman. There’s also the featurette ‘On Top: Inside the Success of Top Hat’; a comedy short called ‘Watch the Bride’ with Bob Hope; the classic cartoon ‘Page Miss Glory’ and a theatrical trailer for the film.
‘Top Hat’ rating – 9/10
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