Top Hat (1935) – Mark Sandrich


It’s time for some Astaire and Rogers song and dance routines with the next title in the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film as I dive back into the musicals chapter of this very enjoyable book.

Fred Astaire is Jerry Travers and Ginger Rogers is Dale Tremont in this wonderful little musical comedy. The story, such as it is,  sees Astaire’s Travers arriving in Britain where he falls for Tremont, a lovely model, who doesn’t really care for him, but thinks he’s just a producer that lives above her, before he moves onto a rather art-deco looking Italy where the two start to pursue a romance in typical musical comedy fashion. Mistaken identities, romantic missteps, and lots of great songs, tons of classic Irving Berlin tunes, and dance routines fill this classic.

Astaire radiates class, and a charming, unaffected sense of humor, while Rogers is stunning and keeps wonderful pace with every move Astaire makes. The sets, likewise, are amazing, the Italy sets are layered and massive in size.

Travers, and his producer friend, Horace Hardwick (Edward Everett Horton) fly down to this wonderfully designed getaway to meet up with Hardwick’s wife, Madge (Helen Broderick) and Dale, who is visiting the woman. Dale, who has been flirting with Travers, believes him to be Hardwick, so things get complicated very quickly.


Hardwick’s valet, Bates (Eric Blore) is sarcastic and funny, but is quite incapable of stealing the scene from Astaire, who, though not quite emotionally accessible, is a delight to watch. Everything is complicated by Alfredo Beddini (Erik Rhodes) who has his eye on Dale, and is infuriated with Travers’ (whom he believes is Hardwick, or vice versa) own interest in her.

There is confusion on the part of all parties as things are misinterpreted, characters miss one another, which continues to feed the mistaken identity problems, and through it all, Astaire and Rogers flirt, hate, love, flirt, hate and love one another.

The music is a delight, filled with songs that have become much-loved standards, like Cheek to Cheek, and while not as flamboyant as later musicals, even with the giant sets, this film feels a little smaller and more intimate than some of the films that followed it.

And of course, at its heart is the tap-tap-tapping of Astaire and Rogers’ footwork.

This one was yet another film that I SHOULD have seen a long time ago, one of those classics that all film buffs owe it to themselves to see, but I never had. But watching it now, with my love of Berlin tunes, the great clothes of the era, and just the poise and class of both the leads, with the silly melodrama of the mistaken identities and romance plot hard at work, this one truly is, really enjoyable.

TOP HAT, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, 1935





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