Top Hat [1935]

Even the best Fred and Ginger musicals are merely lavish excuses for some of the most elegant dancing ever put on screen, and Top Hat is no exception. The story is a silly but timeless tale of mistaken identity that compounds itself to extremes. Fred Astaire is the famous American hoofer Jerry Travers, in London preparing for a new show with his befuddled producer Horace Hardwick (the always entertaining Edward Everett Horton) when he falls for Dale Tremont (Ginger Rogers), a lovely, wisecracking American girl as light on her feet as Jerry. Dale believes Jerry to be Horace, the husband of her best friend Madge (Helen Broderick) and rebuffs his advances by marrying her dressmaker Alberto (Erik Rhodes), but in the best tradition of musical comedy, true love finds its own way. Practically the entire cast of the 1934 hit The Gay Divorcee reunites for this frothy confection, along with director Mark Sandrich, designer Van Nest Polglase, and choreographer Hermes Pan. Irving Berlin provides a tuneful score, including "Cheek to Cheek," which provides a classic duet for Astaire and Rogers, and "Top Hat, White Tie and Tails," which remains one of Astaire's finest solo numbers. Polglase outdoes himself with sets both elegant and outrageous and Hermes Pan's choreography is as smooth as ever, but ultimately it's the grace and chemistry of the leads that makes Top Hat top entertainment. --Sean Axmaker

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