Top Hat (1935)
THE SCREEN; Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in Their New Song and Dance Show, 'Top Hat,' at the Music Hall.
Last year this column suggested that Miss Jessie Matthews would make a better partner for the debonair star than our own home girl. Please consider the matter dropped. Miss Rogers, improving magnificently from picture to picture, collaborates perfectly with Mr. Astaire in "Top Hat" and is entitled to keep the job for life. Their comic duet in the hand stand, danced to the lyric music of "Isn't This a Lovely Day," and their romantic adagio in the beautiful "Cheek to Cheek" song are among the major contributions of the show. In his solo flights, when he is abandoning his feet to the strains of "Fancy Free" or lulling Miss Rogers to sleep with the overpowering opiate of his sandman arrangement, Mr. Astaire is at his impeccable best. Then there is the "Top Hat, White Tie and Tails" number, which fortifies the star with a chorus of gentlemen of the evening and makes for a highly satisfying time.
The narrative complication which keeps the lovers apart for ninety minutes will have to go down as one of the most flimsily prolonged romantic misunderstandings of the season. Mr. Astaire, star of a London show, is occupying a hotel suite with his manager, the jittery Edward Everett Horton, at the time he falls in love with Miss Rogers. Somehow the lady becomes convinced, as ladies will, that Mr. Astaire is the one who is married to her friend, Helen Broderick, when all the time it is Mr. Horton. By a miracle of attenuation this mistaken identity persists in complicating matters all through the picture, causing Miss Rogers to slap Mr. Astaire's face vigorously every time he catches up with her, Miss Broderick to poke the unfortunate Mr. Horton in the eye, and the passionate Latin, Erik Rhodes, to make terrifying lunges in all direction with a bared rapier. An amusing but largely undevelopel secondary theme in the film concerns Mr. Horton's feud with his man servant, Erik Rhodes, whereby the two manage not to be on speaking terms despite the intimacy of their life.
All the minor players are such skilled comedians that they are able to extract merriment from this none too original comedy of errors. Miss Broderick, that infamously funny lady, has too little support, though, from the script. "Top Hat," after running almost its entire course with admirable restraint, collapses into one of those mammoth choral arrangements toward the end. It isn't worth ten seconds of the delightful Astaire-Rogers duet during the thunderstorm. Anyway, "Top Hat" is worth standing in line for. From the appearance of the lobby yesterday afternoon, you probably will have to.
TOP HAT, from a play by Alexander Farago; screen play by Dwight Taylor and Allan Scott; adapted by Karl Noti; lyrics and music by Irving Berlin; directed by Mark Sandrich; produced by Pandro S. Berman for RKO Radio. At the Radio City Music Hall.
Jerry Travers . . . . . Fred Astaire
Dale Tremont . . . . . Ginger Rogers
Horace Hardwick . . . . . Edward Everett Horton
Madge Hardwick . . . . . Helen Broderick
Alberto . . . . . Erik Rhodes
Bates . . . . . Eric Blore
Curate . . . . . Donald Meek
Curate's Wife . . . . . Florence Roberts
Hotel Manager . . . . . Gino Corrado
Call Boy . . . . . Peter Hobbs