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I Bet You Didn't See... Top Hat


Top Hat is a wonderful spectacle. It is a fantastic example of the glory days of "Old Hollywood", where the theatre was transferring onto the screen.

The story follows Jerry Travers (Fred Astaire), an American dancer who is brought over to England by Horace Hardwick (Edward Everett Horton). After disturbing a glamorous young Dale Tremont (Ginger Rogers) when dancing in Horace's hotel room above hers in the middle of the night, Jerry instantly falls in love. The rest of the film follows them through London and on to Italy in Jerry's attempts to "woo" the young lady. Dale happens to be good friends with Horace's wife, Madge. Helpful coincidence, really.

Throughout the majority of the film, Dale thinks Jerry is Horace. She is afraid that he is trying to leave Madge for her. Madge knows this, but doesn't realise that Dale and Jerry have met. Madge is trying to set Dale and Jerry up, but this isn't going down well with Dale. Jerry, however, is loving it! Horace also has an issue, with an Italian designer called Alberto Beddini, who has been getting Dale to showcase his dresses, starts chasing him as Dale has told him what is going on.

Horace: "You mean to sit there and tell me that that girl slapped your face in front of all those people for nothing?"
Jerry: "What would you have done? Sold tickets?"

Rogers and Astaire

We have five big dance numbers in Top Hat. The first is Jerry's hotel room dance, which sets up the 'meet-cute' with Dale. Sticking with the film's cheesy, but not cringe-worthy, comedy, the song Jerry sings here is called "No Strings (I'm Fancy Free)", immediately before becoming hopelessly in love. This is the film showing off Astaire's talent as soon as possible.

There is also a great use of puns throughout the film. One instance, when talking about a horse...

Dale: "Who was his dam?"
Jerry: "I don't know, Miss. He didn't give a..."
The iconic ending of "Isn't it a Lovely Day?"

The second dance number is the iconic dance in the gazebo in the park. The rain is falling, and Jerry sings to Dale "Isn't it a Lovely Day (to be Caught in the Rain)?". This was the dance that stuck with me when I saw the stage performance. Fred and Ginger work really well together and their chemistry is fantastic.

The third dance is Jerry on stage in the show as the showman he is. You can see Fred Astaire is in his element here, on stage with other dancers. He does deliver a fantastic line before dancing to and singing "Top Hat, White Tie and Tails" when he tells Horace to get them a plane to Italy so he can go after Dale...

Jerry: "Get us a plane!"
Horace: "What kind of plane?"
Jerry: "One with wings!"

A colourised film cell

The fourth is where Madge has insisted Dale and Jerry dance together, but doesn't understand that Dale think this is Horace. They float around the dance floor as Jerry sings "Cheek to Cheek".

The final dance is the grand sweeping ballroom showpiece after Jerry and Dale finally get together. It's the kind of dance where you can imagine the theatre audience would be up on their feet applauding, and I could picture them doing the same in the cinemas.

What you can see in this picture is that they are still taking into account audiences applauding after each song and dance. I also love that the silliness isn't awkward or embarrassing. It's funny, entertaining and joyful.

I believe everyone who claim to be "film buffs" should be able to say they've seen Top Hat. It's a piece of Hollywood gold.

Fred Astaire, 1899-1987

Directed by: Mark Sandrich

Screenplay by: Alan Scott, Dwight Taylor, Ben Holmes, Ralph Spence, Karoly Noti

Based on: “Scandal in Budapest” by Sandor Farago, and "A Girl Who Dares" by Aladar Laszlo

Starring: Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers

Released: August 29th, 1935

My Rating: 8/10

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