Doffing My Hat To “Top Hat” (1935)

Cover of "Top Hat"

Cover of Top Hat

I’m no judge of choreography, but that involving Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in 1935’s Top Hat strikes me as palatable, not silly or clumsy or pretentious.  More appealing are the Irving Berlin songs, all of which have decent melodies, one of which (“Cheek to Cheek”) has an outstanding one.

Directed by Mark Sandrich, Top Hat is a delicious musical comedy, as are other Astaire-and-Rogers musical comedies, and one which takes the comedy in its genre seriously, however trivial these nonstop jokes may be.  No, they’re not Oscar Wilde but at least they’re funny.  As for the actors, they form a rather remarkable comic ensemble, even the two dancing stars:  beau-less Ginger, blurting out, “I HATE men!” holds her own.  Always, of course, she held her own as a dancer, though with fewer sparks than Astaire, who has among other things the “damn-your-eyes violence of rhythm” (Otis Ferguson).

Top Hat was nominated for an Oscar for best interior decoration, but I’d rather see the damning-your-eyes.  The interior decoration is dated now; Astaire’s dancing isn’t.