September 02, 2014
When Fred Astaire makes love to Ginger Rogers, she only half-heartedly turns him away. She doesn't really want him to stop, and it's a lovely kind of movie-going pleasure to see her grin appear, only a little at first, as he sings ridiculous love songs to her and tap dances all around her. The mistaken identity plot--which may feel somewhat weather-worn simply because it's been done so many times since--still amuses, especially with the aid of Edward Everett Horton and Helen Broderick. Broderick may be one of the most liberated women you'll ever see in a movie, although there were lots of them in the 1930s. It's only in the last 20 or 30 years that we've put women in the movies back in prisons. Top Hat is also a lot smarter and more sophisticated than the Doris Day-Rock Hudson movies that it spawned. They too used to mistake each other for someone else, and although those sudsy love comedies are certainly fun and charming in their own way, Top Hat works on a different level: it's blithely conscious of the fact that it's only a movie. Directed by Mark Sandrich from a script by Allan Scott, Dwight Taylor, Ben Holmes, and Ralph Spence. The songs are of course by Irving Berlin. With Erik Rhodes, and Eric Blore, and Lucille Ball who has a bit part as a flower shop clerk.