The fourth pairing of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers and the first with a screenplay written specifically for them, TOP HAT is the quintessential Astaire-Rogers musical, complete with a silly plot, romance, dapper outfits, art deco sets, and plenty of wonderful songs and dance numbers. Set
in London (though the story really unfolds in Hollywood's mythical Fred-and-Ginger-Land), TOP HAT's tale of mistaken identity concerns American song-and-dance man Jerry Travers (Astaire), who becomes as enamored of lovely Dale Tremont (Rogers) as she is of him. Problems arise, however, when Dale
comes to believe that Jerry is the husband (whom she's never met) of her good friend Madge (Broderick) and rebuffs his advances, finally fleeing to Venice with Madge. Jerry and Horace Hardwick (Horton), Madge's real husband and the producer of the show in which Jerry stars, follow them to Venice,
and the confusion grows as Dale tells Madge that Horace has been unfaithful. Dale then marries her dress designer, Albert (Rhodes), before Jerry gets a chance to straighten things out. Not to worry: Horace's faithful butler (Eric Blore) to the rescue.
An effervescent musical that was the perfect panacea for Depression-era audiences, this wonderfully whimsical reworking of 1934's THE GAY DIVORCEE (whose leading players are reunited here) offers perhaps the most famous Astaire-Rogers duet, "Cheek to Cheek", wherein the dancers shift from
effortless gliding to moves of dazzling exuberance. Despite the problems it caused in filming, La Ginger was absolutely right about not changing the famous feathered dress--it does move beautifully, and she looks as light as a feather dancing in it. Built around Irving Berlin's hit-laden score,
TOP HAT also boasts Astaire's brilliant, signature solo number, "Top Hat, White Tie and Tails." Fred and Ginger once again display their incredible rapport as actors as well as dancers, and the supporting cast is uniformly perfect, even though Rhodes's Italian caricature so offended Italian
officials (and even the top guy, Mussolini himself), that TOP HAT, like THE GAY DIVORCEE (in which Rhodes played a similar character), was banned in Italy. With over $3 million in receipts, TOP HAT was RKO's biggest moneymaker of the decade. Tip top.
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- Review: The fourth pairing of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers and the first with a screenplay written specifically for them, TOP HAT is the quintessential Astaire-Rogers musical, complete with a silly plot, romance, dapper outfits, art deco sets, and plenty of wond… (more)