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Top Hat

December 17, 2010

93. Top Hat
Directed by Mark Sandrich
USA, 1935
IMDB | allmovie

Reviewed by Ally
Umpteenth viewing

Synopsis:

American dancer Jerry Travers (Fred Astaire) is in London, starring in the latest show by producer Horace Hardwick (Edward Everett Horton). Jerry meets Dale Tremont (Ginger Rogers) after disturbing her sleep with some late-night tap dancing. Their budding romance is disrupted by a case of mistaken identities. Jerry and Horace follow Dale to Venice and attempt to straighten things out, with the assistance of Horace’s invaluable manservant Bates (Eric Blore). Features songs by Irving Berlin.

Essential Scene:

During a thunderstorm, Dale takes shelter in a bandstand. Jerry joins her, having been restlessly pursuing her since their first meeting the previous night. He sings Irving Berlin’s “Isn’t This a Lovely Day?” to Dale, her emerging smile suggesting she is warming to him.

The weather is frightening,
The thunder and lightning
Seem to be having their way,
But as far as I’m concerned, it’s a lovely day.
The turn in the weather
Will keep us together,
So I can honestly say
That as far as I’m concerned, it’s a lovely day,
And everything’s okay.

Isn’t this a lovely day to be caught in the rain?
You were going on your way, now you’ve got to remain.
Just as you were going, leaving me all at sea,
The clouds broke, they broke and oh what a break for me.

I can see the sun up high, though we’re caught in a storm.
I can see where you and I could be cozy and warm.
Let the rain pitter-patter but it really doesn’t matter if the skies are grey.
Long as I can be with you, it’s a lovely day.

Jerry whistles the first line of the melody. Dale responds by whistling the second. The pair begin to dance. Dale mimicks Jerry’s every move, at first mockingly. They seem to be sizing each other up, as Jerry attempts more difficult moves which Dale continues to match.

The tempo of the music increases. Eventually Jerry and Dale are dancing in each other’s arms, spinning around the bandstand with reckless abandon.

They finish the dance sitting cross-legged on the floor. They shake hands out of mutual respect and admiration. It’s hard to know whether this final gesture is in character, or whether Fred and Ginger were congratulating each other on one of the finest dances of their careers.

Art Tatum plays “Isn’t This a Lovely Day?”

Just because…

Thoughts:

There’s not much I don’t like about Top Hat. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers are on top form as dancers and entertainers, the songs by Irving Berlin are perfect and the supporting cast is hilarious. Sure, the plot is a soufflĂ©-light farce which could unravel if the characters would simply refer to each other by name, but the scenes between musical numbers are overflowing with delightfully funny lines. For example, Horace tries to ask Bates for advice regarding Jerry’s girl troubles:

Horace: Mr. Travers is in trouble. He has practically put his foot right into a hornets’ nest.

Bates: But hornets’ nests grow on trees, sir.

Horace: Never mind that. We have got to do something.

Bates: What about rubbing it with butter, sir?

Horace: You blasted fool, you can’t rub a girl with butter!

Bates: My sister got into a hornets’ nest and we rubbed HER with butter, sir!

Horace: That’s the wrong treatment, you should’ve used mud — Never mind that!

My one complaint is that, compared to the other classic songs, “The Piccolino” falls rather flat — I can understand why Fred didn’t want to sing it and palmed off the vocal duties to Ginger. But it’s a small lull in an otherwise great film.

(I only hope the film is digitally restored and presented on blu-ray disc soon, because the picture quality of the current DVD is one of the worst in my collection!)

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