4YE’s Big Movie Binge: Top Hat (1935)

Credit: RKO

Classic films is the one area of cinema that seems to not get talked about much outside of academia. No one really revisits them or reviews them based on how they hold up as films in this modern era and that fact is a little depressing. Without classic films and especially classic musicals, musicals of today like The Greatest Showman or La La Land might not exist.

Classic musicals were integral to the growth of Hollywood and produced many bankable stars like Gene Kelly, Judy Garland, Fred Astaire, and Ginger Rogers. Astaire and Rogers were the most famous in the early to late thirties which is when Top Hat was released. Top Hat was an immediate success and cemented the dancing duo into the hearts and minds of millions of film goers who made their films hits, though none of the other ones were quite as famous and as loved as Top Hat.

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers play Jerry Travers and Dale Tremont, respectively. Jerry is a song and dance man on the stage in the middle of the Depression who is sponsored and promoted by Horace Hardwick (Edward Everett Horton). One night, while singing about the joys of bachelorhood, Jerry disturbs the sleep of socialite beauty Dale. Dale is only used by an Italian designer to model his dresses but she is a spitfire. Jerry is immediately smitten but Dale takes  bit of persuasion before the two fall in love. However, a case of mistaken identity almost derails the entire affair to hilarious results.

For being a film that was released in 1935, Top Hat holds up against the films of today. The film is full of sterling wit and playful banter that is almost always missing from the films of today. Maybe it is the chemistry between the cast that makes the script sparkle so well but the story is hilarious and it is a rom com that should be seen at least once.

The music of Top Hat is where the film falls sort. “Cheek to Cheek” is memorable only for the dance number. The fact that Rogers wears a ridiculously feathered dress that sheds throughout the whole number (much to Astaire’s chagrin. He hated that dress). Despite the music falling short, the dance numbers are what really elevate Top Hat. Of course, it’s an Astaire film so the dance numbers have to be strong or else there would be no point.

Astaire takes point on al the dance numbers, dancing only two with Rogers with the others all going to him. He also sings the most songs with Rogers only singing briefly at the end when all is well and Jerry and Dale get together. It’s lovely to see the graceful athleticism that Astaire has. This is the first full movie I’ve seen him in. While he doesn’t dominate the screen, his charisma does and so does his comedic timing.

Top Hat might have lost some of its sparkle because I looked at it through a romantic lens. There’s no denying why the film was popular for its time and there’s no denying that Astaire and Rogers had chemistry. The film stands the test of time. If you happen to be a rom com lover, then this is a classic film that needs to be revisited.

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Shelby Arnold

Shelby is currently reviewer extraordinaire for 4YE. She is also currently the co-editor of Arkansas Tech University's paper The Arka Tech. She runs her own movie review blog called Shellin' Out Reviews where she crossposts many of her reviews. She previously was a staff writer at PopWrapped.

Shelby started writing at the age of 13 and has been hooked ever since. She's currently going to school at ATU for Creative Writing and English with a minor in Film Studies. She hopes to one day be a professor of film, a film critic, and a screenwriter. (Can you tell she likes the movies?)

She hopes to walk the red carpet one day. She contributes a long list of friends, co-workers, professors, and writers as the inspiration for her dreams and goals.

You can find Shelby on Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook.
Shelby Arnold
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