(1935) dir. Mark Sandrich
You know the old cliche, “They don’t make ’em like they used to”, a cliche that I invoke from time to time in different contexts, myself. Well, this is one of the times that this old cliche can be used in its perhaps most straightforward intent. That is because they do not make movies like Top Hat, maybe they never did except once. Okay, they used to make a lot of musicals with dancing. In fact, this film was one of a series of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers films, considered to be the “tops” of the group. They made quite a few of these things in the classic Hollywood era, but it can be said for certain that not many turned out quiet so well as Top Hat and also as certainly, one can never imagine a film like this to ever be made again.
It is such a product of its era, with the definitively debonair Mr. Astaire and his giddy graceful non-stop tapping and charm just simply emanating from him like some magical aura. The Art Deco sets, huge and sprawling and gorgeous, are not retro…this is the kind of thing that is easy to forget in this our post-post-modern era or wherever we live these days. This is of the real time when the style was in vogue, the peak of the era, and the music and the decor just simply jibe.
Ah, the music. Irving Berlin, with “Top Hat, White Tie and Tails” and “Cheek to Cheek”, instant classics. It’s amazing stuff. And it must be said that the patter, the double-takes, and dialogue are all immensely amusing and well-delivered too. The cast is brilliant. Beyond Astaire and Rogers, Edward Everett Horton is absolutely hilarious. It took me a minute to place his voice as the narrator of “Fractured Fairy Tales” from The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. He was awesome. He must have done about 30-40 double-takes as his character was slow enough on the uptake to have to react when someone said something unexpected or ironic.
Astaire does almost make you want to dance, just watching him tapping, bopping around, whether soft-shoe-ing Ginger Rogers to sleep from the floor above or uncontrollably just popping around, in big numbers or small. I can only imagine the influence this could have on the young. Take it from me, I only dance when highly intoxicated…and then only rarely. This is saying something from me.
This film was recommended by a friend, a dancer and dance aficionado who delivered a delightful encapsulation of a scene from the film with such obvious charm and allure, I had to borrow it. It’s pretty much a pure joy.