Saturday, August 10, 2013

4. Top Hat

1935; dir. Mark Sandrich; starring Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers
My views: 22

This was the very first Fred and Ginger movie I ever saw.  After watching and admiring all nine others, I still think Top Hat is the best.  I don't remember exactly what I thought the first time I watched it, but I know that in seventh grade I considered it my favorite movie, and it's been near the top of my list ever since.  I still can't get over how magical Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers are together.  It makes me very sad how many people in my generation have never heard of them because as far as I'm concerned, they're the best onscreen couple in Hollywood history.  Fred is so good at falling for her, and Ginger is so good at resisting...until he gets her on the dance floor.  And that's when the world stops and perfection takes over.  This movie may be predictable and a little ridiculous - which, I must admit, is part of the reason I love it so much - but it's absolutely worth watching for the dance numbers alone, especially "Isn't This a Lovely Day (to be Caught in the Rain)" and "Cheek to Cheek," as well as Fred's solo to the title song.  I've never been a particular fan of dance, mostly because I'm really bad at it myself, but the word "dancing" does not even begin to describe what Fred and Ginger do.

Though I love Ginger and Fred more than words can express, I can't talk about this movie without raving about the supporting cast.  Top Hat wouldn't be Top Hat without Edward Everett Horton's masterful double takes, Helen Broderick's dry wit, Erik Rhodes's outrageous Italian accent, or Eric Blore's "plural personality."  Each of these talented character actors worked with Astaire and Rogers at least one other time, and Eric Blore was in half of their films, but Top Hat is the only Fred and Ginger film that has all four of them.  This is one of the main reasons Top Hat is my favorite.  They're all so fun to watch, and they play off each other and the stars beautifully.  And really, the best song in the movie is Erik Rhodes's character's serenade to himself: "Oh, Alberto, you're a fine fellow, oh Alberto Beddini, I'm so glad you're not skinny."

All of the cast members seem like they're having a really good time, which makes the movie a lot of fun for the audience as well.  I know that the dance numbers were a lot of work to pull off, especially since there are very few cuts in them, but Fred and Ginger make them look so effortless, and they look like they want nothing more than to be in each other's arms.  The non-dancing part of the film is mostly made up of really fun, clever lines and a series of hilarious misunderstandings that ultimately lead to happiness for all, and of course, more dancing.  This film was clearly made to help people temporarily forget about the Great Depression, and I think it must have worked.  It certainly helps me forget about my problems for a little while.  No matter how many times I watch it, the jokes are still funny, and the dancing is still magical.

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