It is the best known of the Astaire-Rogers musicals and justly so. It is high spirited and stylish with a fast moving, witty script and the score by Irving Berlin is one of the most famous in movie history. It was the duo's first movie made with a script specifically written for them. They perform a total of five exquisitely elegant dances, all top class and amongst the best that they ever did. "Top Hat, White Tie, and Tails" was to be the song most closely associated with Astaire throughout his career, while the romantic "Cheek to Cheek" has become an evergreen classic. The other Berlin songs in the film are "No Strings," "Isn't This a Lovely Day (To Be Caught in the Rain)" and "The Piccolino."
The film offers a scintillating mix of dancing genius and light comedy and, unsurprisingly, was a big hit at the box office, becoming RKO's biggest earner of the decade. It was nominated, for four Academy Awards for Best Picture, as well as Art Direction (Carroll Clark and Van Nest Polglase), Original Song (Irving Berlin for "Cheek to Cheek"), and Dance Direction (Hermes Pan for "Piccolino" and "Top Hat"), but did not win any. In 1990, 'Top Hat' was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". It is ranked at number 15 on the American Film Institute's list of best musicals.
The movie's plot is really a peg on which to hang the superlative music and dancing. It relies on mistaken identity for its surprises and comedic moments. Astaire plays an American musical star Jerry Travers who is in London to star in a show produced by Horace Hardwick (Edward Everett Horton). Jerry meets and falls in love with Horace's downstairs neighbor, Dale Tremont (Ginger Rogers). When Jerry shows his feelings, Dale, thinking he is the married Horace, whom she has never met, takes offence. The action moves to Venice where many complications ensue.
After a successful opening night in London, Jerry follows Dale to Venice, where she is visiting Horace's wife, Madge. Jerry is blissfully unaware that Dale has told Madge that her husband has made illicit advances toward her. As one might expect, romantic complications ensue. there is, of course, an happy ending, when Dale is finally convinced of Jerry's true identity.
The supporting cast led by by Edward Everett Horton and Erik Rhodes is first class and we even have a glimpse of a young Lucille Ball as a flower girl.
Its a beautiful movie. A musical must see.
Main CastFred Astaire ... Jerry Travers
Ginger Rogers ... Dale Tremont
Edward Everett Horton ... Horace Hardwick
Erik Rhodes ... Alberto Beddini
Eric Blore ... Bates
Helen Broderick ... Madge Hardwick
Robert Adair ... London Hotel Clerk (uncredited)
Lucille Ball ... Flower Clerk (uncredited)
Phyllis Coghlan ... (uncredited)
Gino Corrado ... Venice Hotel Manager (uncredited)
CreditsDirector ... Mark Sandrich
Producer ... Pandro S. Berman
Screenplay ... Dwight Taylor, Allan Scott
From the play 'The Girl Who Dares' by Alexander Farago and Aladar Laszlo
Cinematography ... David Abel, Vernon L. Walker
Art Direction ... Van Nest Polglase
Music direction ... Max Steiner
Format ... B & W
Running Time ... 100 minutes
Academy AwardsNo Wins:
4 Unsuccessful Nominations:
Best Picture ... Pandro S. Berman
Art Direction ... Carroll Clark and Van Nest Polglase
Best Original Song ... Irving Berlin for "Cheek to Cheek"
Dance Direction ... Hermes Pan for "Piccolino" and "Top Hat"