Top Hat (1935)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Top Hat</strong> (1935)

(On Cable TV, February 2019) From 1933 to 1945, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers made nine movies together, revolutionizing the movie musical along the way. While I think that The Gay Divorcee is the funniest of those movies and Swing Time the best from a dancing standpoint, Top Hat is usually mentioned as the most successful of those nine pictures. It certainly gets a lot of mileage out of the classic “Cheek to Cheek” number, but perhaps the best thing about it is how it distills the Astaire/Rogers formula to its purest: A romantic comedy, with catchy music and terrific numbers spanning the gamut from funny to classy. There’s a solo tap-dancing showcase for Astaire, there are gorgeous costumes (wow, that feather dress!), there’s screwball comedy of mistaken identities, there’s an astonishing multi-storey set meant to present a fantasy version of Venice and, of course, there’s the idealized couple dancing away. With that formula, it’s a guaranteed fun time. The comedy is formulaic to the point of having miscommunication naturally escalates to good-natured slapping, which is in-keeping with mid-1930s comedy. If the Astaire/Ginger partnership worked so well compared to some other Astaire partners, it’s because the age difference between the two was a “mere” 12 years, but also because Rogers could keep up with him better than others. (If you’re paying attention to the other perennial issue in Astaire movies, that of consent in romantic pursuits, it’s still here but not as blatant as in other films.) Top Hat may not be all that substantial, but it remains exhilarating entertainment in the classic Hollywood glamour tradition. Since seeing the film, I managed to find a DVD copy—just so that I can watch it at any time.

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