- Top Hat
:"For the item of clothing, see
top hat. For the fictional TUGScharacter, see Top Hat (TUGS)."Infobox Film
name = Top Hat
Pandro S. Berman
Fred Astaire Ginger Rogers Edward Everett Horton
Eric Blore Helen Broderick
Irving Berlin Max Steiner
RKO Radio Pictures
August 30, 1935
runtime = 101 minutes
language = English
budget = $609,000
amg_id = 1:50447
imdb_id = 0027125
"Top Hat" is a 1935 screwball musical comedy in which
Fred Astaireplays an American dancer named Jerry Travers, who comes to London to star in a show produced by Horace Hardwick ( Edward Everett Horton). He meets and attempts to impress Dale Tremont ( Ginger Rogers) to win her affection. The film also features Eric Bloreas Hardwick's valet Bates, Erik Rhodes as Alberto Beddini, a fashion designer and rival for Dale's affections, and Helen Broderickas Hardwick's long-suffering wife Madge.
The film was written by
Allan Scott, and Dwight Taylor. It was directed by Mark Sandrich. The songs were written by Irving Berlin. " Top Hat, White Tie and Tails" and " Cheek to Cheek" have become American song classics.
"Top Hat" was the most successful picture of Astaire and Rogers' partnership (and Astaire's second most successful picture after "Easter Parade"), achieving second placecite book
last = Mueller
first = John
title = Astaire Dancing - The Musical Films
publisher = Hamish Hamilton
date = 1986
location = London
pages = pp.76-87
id = ISBN 0-241-11749-6 ] in worldwide box-office receipts for 1935, and while some dance critics cite book
last = Croce
first = Arlene
title = The Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers Book
publisher = W.H. Allen
date = 1972
location = London
pages = pp.54-79
id = ISBN 0-491-00159-2 ] maintain that "
Swing Time" contained a finer set of dances, "Top Hat" remains, to this day, the partnership's best-known work.cite book
last = Hyam
first = Hannah
title = Fred and Ginger - The Astaire-Rogers Partnership 1934-1938
publisher = Pen Press Publications
date = 2007
location = Brighton
id = ISBN 978-1-905621-96-5]
An American dancer, Jerry Travers comes to London to star in a show produced by the bumbling Horace Hardwick. While practising a tap dance routine in his hotel bedroom, he awakens Dale Tremont on the floor below. She storms upstairs to complain, whereupon Jerry falls hopelessly in love with her and proceeds to pursue her all over London.
Dale mistakes Jerry for Horace, who is married to her friend Madge. Following the success of Jerry's opening night in London, Jerry follows Dale to
Venice, where she is visiting Madge and modelling/promoting the gowns created by Alberto Beddini, a dandified Italian fashion designer with a penchant for malapropisms.
Jerry proposes to Dale, who is disgusted that her friend's husband could behave in such a manner and agrees instead to marry Alberto. Fortunately, Bates, Horace's meddling English valet, disguises himself as a priest and conducts the ceremony.
On a trip in a
gondola, Jerry manages to convince Dale and they return to the hotel where the previous confusion is rapidly cleared up. The reconciled couple dance off into the Venetian sunset, to the tune of "The Piccolino". [ Adapted from Billman]
Fred Astaireas Jerry Travers
Ginger Rogersas Dale Tremont
Edward Everett Hortonas Horace Hardwick
Erik Rhodesas Alberto Beddini
Helen Broderickas Madge Harwick
Eric Bloreas Bates
Notable bit parts:
* Astaire's personal valet George (last name unknown) as Valet to Jerry Travers
Lucille Ballas Flower Shop Clerk
Tom Rickettsas Thackeray Club Waiter
"Top Hat" began filming on
April 1, 1935and cost $620,000 to make. Shooting ended in June and the first public previews were held in July, these led to cuts of approx. ten minutes mainly in the last portion of the film - the carnival sequence and the gondola parade which had been filmed to show off the huge set were heavily cut. A further four minutes were cut [ incl. the scene where Blore poses as a gondolier and insults an Italian policeman - this scene is restored in some prints. cf. Croce p.78] before its premier at the Radio City Music Hall, where it broke all records, and went on to gross $3 million on its initial release and became RKO's most profitable film of the 1930s.cite book
last = Billman
first = Larry
title = Fred Astaire - A Bio-bibliography
publisher = Greenwood Press
date = 1997
location = Connecticut
pages = pp.88-90
id = ISBN 0-313-29010-5 ] After "Mutiny on the Bounty", it made more money than any film released in 1935.
Dwight Taylor was the principal screenwriter in this, the first screenplay written specially for Astaire and Rogers. Astaire reacted negatively to the first drafts, complaining that "it is patterned too closely after "
The Gay Divorcee", and "I am cast as ... a sort of objectionable young man without charm or sympathy or humour". Allan Scott, whose first major project this was, and who would go on to serve on six of the Astaire-Rogers pictures, was hired by Sandrich to do the rewrites and never actually worked with Taylor, Sandrich acting as script editor and advisor throughout. The Hays Office insisted on only minor changes, including probably the most quoted line of dialogue from the film: Beddini's motto: "For the women the kiss, for the men the sword" which originally ran: "For the men the sword, for the women the whip." [reviewing the film in England, author Graham Greenewas pleased to find the film "quite earnestly bawdy" and took satisfaction in how this had escaped the British censor. cf Mueller, p.80.] Of his role in the creation of "Top Hat", Taylor recalled that with Sandrich and Berlin he shared "a kind of childlike excitement. The whole style of the picture can be summed up in the word inconsequentiality. When I left RKO a year later, Mark said to me, 'You will never again see so much of yourself on the screen.'" [The claims that "Top Hat" was adapted by Karl Noti from "A Scandal in Budapest" by Aladar Laszloand Alexander Faragohave been examined and dismissed by Arlene Croce, cf. Croce p.70] On the film's release, the script was panned by many critics, who alleged it was merely a rewrite of " The Gay Divorcee".
Musical score and orchestration
This was composer Irving Berlin's first complete film score since 1930 and he negotiated a unique contract, retaining the copyrights to the score with a guarantee of ten per-cent of the profits if the film earned in excess of $1,250,000. Eight songs from the original score were discarded as they were not considered to advance the film's plot. One of these: "Get Thee Behind Me, Satan" was recycled into "
Follow the Fleet" (1936). All five songs eventually selected became major hits and, in the September 28, 1935broadcast of " Your Hit Parade", all five featured in the top fifteen songs selected for that week.
Astaire recalled how this success helped restore Berlin's flagging self-confidence. Astaire had never met Berlin before this film, although he had danced on stage to some of his tunes as early as 1915. There ensued a lifelong friendship with Berlin contributing to more Astaire films (six in total) than any other composer. Of his experience with Astaire in "Top Hat" Berlin wrote: "He's a real inspiration for a writer. I'd never have written "Top Hat" without him. He makes you feel so secure."
As Berlin couldn't read or write music, and could only pick out tunes on a specially designed piano which transposed keys automatically, he required an assistant to make up his piano parts. Hal Borne - Astaire's rehearsal pianist - performed this role in "Top Hat" and recalled working nights with him in the Beverly Wiltshire Hotel: "Berlin went 'Heaven...' and I went "dah dah dee" 'I'm in Heaven' "(dah-dah-dee)". He said, 'I love it, put it down.'" These parts were subsequently orchestrated by a team comprising Edward Powell, Maurice de Packh, Gene Rose, Eddie Sharp, and Arthur Knowlton who worked under the overall supervision of
Berlin broke a number of the conventions of American songwriting in this film, especially in the songs "
Top Hat, White Tie and Tails" and " Cheek to Cheek",cite book
last = Green
first = Benny
title = Let's Face the Music: The Golden Age of Popular Song
publisher = Pavilion-Michael Joseph
location = London
pages = p.171
id = ISBN 1-85145-4896 ] and, according to Rogers, the film became the talk of Hollywood as a result of its score.
In an Astaire-Rogers picture, the Big White Set - as these
Art-Deco-inspired creations were known - took up the largest share of the film's production costs, and "Top Hat" was no exception. A winding canal - spanned by two staircase bridges at one end and a flat bridge on the other - was built across two adjoining sound stages. Astaire and Rogers dance across this flat bridge in "Cheek to Cheek". Around the bend from this bridge was located the main piazza, a giant stage coated in red bakelite and this was the location for "The Piccolino". This fantasy representation [Croce, p.56: "Venice as a celestial powder room"] of the Lidoof Venicewas on three levels comprising dance floors, restaurants and terraces, all decorated in candy-cane colours, with the canal waters dyed black. The vast Venetian interiors were similarly inauthentic, reflecting instead the latest Hollywood tastes. [Descriptions adapted from Croce, p.76]
Carroll Clark, who worked under the general supervision of Van Nest Polglase, was the unit art director on all but one of the Astaire-Rogers films and he managed the team of designers responsible for the scenery and furnishings of "Top Hat".
Wardrobe: The "feathers" incident
Although Bernard Newman was nominally in charge of dressing the stars, Rogers was keenly interested in dress design and make-up [a preoccupation lost on the "Variety" critic who wrote: "she is again badly dressed, while her facial make-up and various coiffeurs give her a hard appearance", cf. Billman, p.90. Croce, p.66, disagrees.] and for the "Cheek to Cheek" routine she was determined to use her own creation: "I was determined to wear this dress, come hell or high water. And why not? It moved beautifully. Obviously, no one in the cast or crew was willing to take sides, particularly not my side. This was all right with me. I'd had to stand alone before. At least my mother was there to support me in the confrontation with the entire front office, plus Fred Astaire and Mark Sandrich."cite book
last = Rogers
first = Ginger
title = Ginger, My Story
publisher = Harper Collins
date = 1991
location = New York
pages = p.143
id = ISBN 0-060-18308-X ]
Due to the enormous labour involved in sewing each ostrich feather to the dress, Astaire - who normally approved his partner's gowns and suggested modifications if necessary during rehearsals - saw the dress for the first time on the day of the shoot [Astaire had approved the costume sketch. cf. Billman p.89.] and was horrified at the way it shed clouds of feathers at every twist and turn, recalling later: "It was like a chicken attacked by a coyote, I never saw so many feathers in my life."cite book
last = Astaire
first = Fred
title = Steps in Time
publisher = Heinemann
date = 1959
location = London
pages = pp.205-211
id = ISBN 0-241-11749-6 ] [
David Nivenattended the shoot in the company of Astaire's wife, Phyllis, who suffered from a speech impediment. He recalled her verdict: "she looks like a wooster", cf. Billman p.89] According to Pan, Astaire lost his temper and yelled at Rogers, who promptly burst into tears, whereupon her mother, the redoubtable Lela "came charging at him like a mother rhinoceros protecting her young."cite book
last = Thomas
first = Bob
title = Astaire, the Man, the Dancer
publisher = Weidenfeld & Nicolson
date = 1985
location = London
pages = p.112
id = ISBN 0-297-78402-1 ] An additional night's work by seamstresses resolved much of the problem, however, careful examination of the dance on film reveals feathers floating around Astaire and Rogers and lying on the dance floor. Later, Astaire and Pan presented Rogers with a gold feather for her charm bracelet, and serenaded her with a ditty parodying Berlin's tune:
Feathers - I hate feathers
And I hate them so that I can hardly speak
And I never find the happiness I seek
With those chicken feathers dancing
Cheek to Cheek [Since Astaire and Pan had to create a tap track to accompany the routine, they also created a joke version, replete with melodramatic female sighs and creaking sounds to accompany backbends for Rogers' amusement. cf. Mueller p.86]
Thereafter, Astaire nicknamed Rogers "feathers" - also a title of one of the chapters in his autobiography - and parodied his experience in a song and dance routine with
Judy Garlandin "Easter Parade" (1948).
Astaire also chose and provided his own clothes. He is widely credited with influencing 20th Century male fashion and, according to "
Forbes" male fashion editor, G. Bruce Boyer, the "Isn't It a Lovely Day?" routine: "shows Astaire dressed in the style he would make famous: soft-shouldered tweed sports jacket, button-down shirt, bold striped tie, easy-cut gray flannels, silk paisley pocket square, and suede shoes. It's an extraordinarily contemporary approach to nonchalant elegance, a look Ralph Laurenand a dozen other designers still rely on more than six decades later. Astaire introduced a new style of dress that broke step with the spats, celluloid collars, and homburgs worn by aristocratic European-molded father-figure heroes."cite book
last = Bruce Boyer
first = G.
title = Fred Astaire Style
publisher = Assouline
date = 2005
pages = pp.10-11
id = ISBN 2-84323-677-0 ]
Musical numbers and choreography
The choreography, in which Astaire was assisted by Hermes Pan, is principally concerned throughout with the possibilities of using taps to make as much noise as possible. In the film, Astaire suffers from what Rogers terms an "affliction": "Every once in a while I suddenly find myself dancing." Astaire introduces the film's tap motif when he blasts a tap barrage at the somnolent members of a London Club. [Croce, p.57: "the dance technique is an element in the characterization. Jerry Travers is literally footloose, he's bumptious, he's a disturber of the peace." Also Mueller, p.78: "this urge becomes a motif in the film as Astaire's dancing feet, usually irritating somebody or other, send the plot skittering along."]
* "Opening Sequence": After the RKO logo appears, Astaire, shown only from the waist down, dances onto a polished stage floor, backed by a male chorus sporting canes. On pausing his name appears. Rogers then follows suit and the two dance together as the picture dissolves to reveal a top hat. A similar concept was used in the opening sequence of "
The Barkleys of Broadway" (1949).
No Strings (I'm Fancy Free)": On retiring to his hotel suite, Horton advises him to get married. Astaire declares his preference for bachelorhood and the song - this number was the brainchild of scriptwriter Dwight Taylor and is found in his earliest drafts - emerges naturally and in mid-sentence. Astaire sings it through twice [As Mueller notes, repeating a song was extremely unusual for Astaire, who by way of variation, mixes two drinks during the repetition] and during the last phrase leaps into a ballet jump, accompanied by leg beats, and launches into a short solo dance that builds in intensity and volume progressing from tap shuffles "sur place", via traveling patterns, to rapid-fire heel jabs finishing with a carefree tour of the suite during which he beats on the furniture with his hands. On his return to the center of the room, where he noisily concentrates his tap barrage, the camera cranes down to discover Rogers in bed,awake and irritated. [ described by Croce (p.59) as "rising from her satin pillows, like an angry naiadfrom the foam.". This scene is also referenced in Bernardo Bertolucci's 2003 film "The Dreamers".] As she makes her way upstairs, Horton fields telephone complaints from hotel management. Astaire incorporates this into his routine, first startling him with a tap burst then escorting him ostentatiously to the telephone. As Horton leaves to investigate, Astaire continues to hammer his way around the suite, during which he feigns horror at seeing his image in a mirror - a reference to his belief that the camera was never kind to his face. The routine ends as Astaire, now dancing with a statue, is interrupted by Rogers' entrance, a scene which, as in " The Gay Divorcee" and "Roberta", typifies the way in which Astaire inadvertently incurs the hostility of Rogers, only to find her attractive and wear down her resistance.
* "No Strings (reprise)": After storming upstairs to complain, Rogers returns to her room, at which point Astaire, still intent on dancing, nominates himself her "
sandman", sprinkling sand from a cuspidorand lulling her, Horton and eventually himself to sleep with a soft and gentle sand dance, to a "diminuendo" reprise of the melody, in a scene which has drawn considerable admiration from dance commentators. [Mueller, p.80: "at once tender and erotic...This scene is one of the most memorable in Astaire's career," and Croce, p.59: "in the movie's sexiest scene, dances...with caressive little strokes."]
* "Isn't This a Lovely Day (to be Caught in the Rain)": While Rogers is out riding, a thunderstorm breaks out [The script originally called for a scene in a zoo, but as Berlin provided this song, the script was adapted accordingly. cf. Mueller, p.80.] and she takes shelter in a bandstand. Astaire follows her and a conversation about clouds and rainfall soon gives way to Astaire's rendering of this, one of Berlin's most prized creations. Astaire sings to Rogers' back, but the audience can see that Rogers' feelings for him change during the song, and the purpose of the ensuing dance is for her to communicate this change to her partner. The dance is one of flirtation and, according to Mueller, deploys two choreographic devices common to the classical
minuet: sequential imitation (one dancer performs a step and the other responds) and touching. Initially, the imitation is mocking in character, then becomes more of a casual exchange, and ends in a spirit of true cooperation. Until the last thirty seconds of this two and a half minute dance the pair appear to pull back from touching, then with a crook of her elbow Rogers invites Astaire in. [Croce, p.62: "that ecstatic embrace when they pivot together in a wide circle all around the stage...a shining moment in the history of the musical film."] The routine, at once comic and romantic, incorporates hopping steps, tap spins with barrages, loping and dragging steps among its many innovative devices. The spirit of equality which pervades the dance is reflected in the masculinity of Rogers' clothes and in the friendly handshake they exchange at the end.
Top Hat, White Tie and Tails": Probably Astaire's most celebrated [Hyam, p.104: "It epitomises the elegance and sophistication that are synonymous with his name."] tap solo, the idea for the title song came from Astaire who described to Berlin a routine he had created for the 1930 Ziegfeld Broadway flop "Smiles" called "Say, Young Man of Manattan," in which he gunned down a chorus of men - which included teenagers Bob Hopeand Larry Adler- with his cane. [ Astaire recounts how he got the idea at 4.00 a.m. and woke his sister Adele as he cavorted around his bedroom with an umbrella. After explaining to his awakened sister that he had just had an idea for the Manhattan number, she replied: "Well, hang on to it, baby — you're going to need it in this turkey." cf. Astaire, p.184] Berlin duly produced the song from his trunk and the concept of the film was then built around it. In this number Astaire had to compromise on his one-take philosophy, as Sandrich acknowledged: "We went to huge lengths to make the 'Top Hat' number look like one take, but actually it's several."cite book
last = Satchell
first = Tim
title = Astaire - The biography
publisher = Hutchinson
date = 1987
location = London
id = ISBN 0-09-173736-2 ] Astaire's remarkable ability to change the tempo within a single dance phrase is extensively featured throughout this routine and taken to extremes - as when he explodes into activity from a pose of complete quiet and vice versa. This routine also marks Astaire's first use of a cane as a prop in one of his filmed dances. [ Mueller, p.16: "Trudy Wellman, a secretary who worked on "Top Hat" recalls: 'He gets very annoyed with himself, just himself....He would take that cane and he would break it across his knee, just like that, and, of course, we were all shocked because we knew we only had 13 canes....It was a good thing we had that 13th cane because that was the take we printed.'"] The number opens with a chorus strutting and lunging in front of a backdrop of a Parisian street scene. They make way for Astaire who strides confidently to the front of the stage and delivers the song, which features the famous line: "I'm stepping out, my dear, to breath an atmosphere that simply reeks with class," trading the occasional tap barrage with the chorus as he sings.The dance begins with Astaire and chorus moving in step. Astaire soon lashes out with a swirling tap step and the chorus responds timidly before leaving the stage in a sequence of overlapping, direction-shifting, hitch steps and walks. In the first part of the solo which follows, Astaire embarks on a circular tap movement, embellished with cane taps into which he mixes a series of unpredictable pauses. As the camera retreats the lights dim and, in the "misterioso" passage which follows, Astaire mimes a series of stances, ranging from overt friendliness, wariness, surprise to watchful readiness and jaunty confidence. Jimmy Cagney attended the shooting of this scene and advised Astaire, who claims to have ad-libbed much of this section. [ Astaire, p.210: "Jimmy watched and whispered to me after about the third take, 'Don't shoot it again, kid — you got it on the second take. You'll never top that one.' I insisted on one more, but Jimmy was right. Next morning when I saw the rushes, that second take was the one."] The chorus then returns in a threatening posture, and Astaire proceeds to dispatch them all, using an inventive series of actions miming the cane's use as a gun, a submachine gun, a rifle and, finally, a bow and arrow. [This sequence was parodied in a scene in
Mel Brooks' " Young Frankenstein".]
Cheek to Cheek": Astaire's first seduction of Rogers in "Isn't This a Lovely Day," falls foul of the mistaken-identity theme of the plot, so he makes a second attempt, encouraged by Broderick. As in "No Strings," the song emerges from Astaire's mid-sentence as he dances with the hesitant Rogers on a crowded floor. Berlin wrote the words and music to this enduring classic in one day, and, at 72 measures, it is the longest song he ever wrote. He was very appreciative of Astaire's treatment of the song: "The melody keeps going up and up. He crept up there. It didn't make a damned bit of difference. He made it." As he navigates through this difficult material, Rogers looks attracted and receptive and, at the end of the song, they dance cheek to cheek across a bridge to a deserted ballroom area nearby. According to Mueller's analysis, the duet that follows - easily the most famous of all the Astaire-Rogers partnered dances [which did not dissuade Croce from describing it as "a bit too ritzy, a bit too consciously "poised"." For a comparison of critical opinions see Hyam, pp.205,207] - reflects the complexity of the emotional situation in which the pair find themselves. No longer flirting, as in "Isn't This a Lovely Day?," the pair are now in love. But Rogers feels guilty and deceived and would prefer to avoid Astaire's advances - in effect, fall out of love with him. Therefore Astaire's purpose here is to make her put aside her misgivings (which are a mystery to him) and surrender completely to him. The choreographic device introduced to reflect the progress of this seduction is the supported backbend, exploiting Rogers' exceptionally flexible back. The main dance begins with the first of two brief passages which reuse the device of sequential imitation introduced in "Isn't This a Lovely Day?". The pair spin and lean, dodging back and forth past each other before moving into a standard ballroom position where the first hints of the supported backbend are introduced. The first backbends occur at the end of a sequence where Astaire sends Rogers into a spin, collects her upstage and maneuvers her into a linked-arm stroll forward, repeats the spin but this time encircles her while she turns and then takes her in his arms. As the music becomes more energetic, the dancers flow across the floor and Rogers, moving against the music, suddenly falls into a deeper backbend, which is then repeated, only deeper still. The music now transitions to a quiet recapitulation of the main melody during which the pair engage in a muted and tender partnering, and here the second passage involving sequential imitation appears. With the music reaching its grand climax Astaire and Rogers rush toward the camera, then away in a series of bold, dramatic manoeuvers culminating in three ballroom lifts which showcase Rogers' dress [Hyam, p.205: "Rogers' feathered dress creates dazzling spirals of white."] before abruptly coming to a halt in a final, deepest backbend, maintained as the music approaches its closing bars. They rise, and after a couple of turns dancing cheek to cheek for the first time since the dance began, come to rest next to a wall. Rogers, having conducted the dance in a state of dreamlike abandon now glances uneasily at Astaire before walking away, as if reminded that their relationship cannot proceed. [Dance description principally condensed and adapted from Mueller, pp.83-86]
* "The Piccolino": By now, Rogers has learned Astaire's true identity although neither of them yet know that her impulsive marriage to Rhodes is null and void. Dining together during carnival night in Venice, and to help assuage her guilt, Astaire declares: "Let's eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we have to face him," which serves as the cue for the music of "The Piccolino," the film's big production number. A gondola parade is followed by the entry of a dancing chorus who perform a series of ballroom poses and rippling-pattern routines choroeographed by Hermes Pan. Berlin, who lavished a great deal of effort on the song [Mueller, p.87: "I love it, the way you love a child that you've had trouble with. I worked harder on 'Piccolino' than I did on the whole "Top Hat" score."] designed it as a
pasticheof "The Carioca" from " Flying Down to Rio" (1933) and " The Continental" from " The Gay Divorcee" (1934), [Unlike its predecessors, "The Piccolino" never became a national craze. cf. Mueller, p.86] and the lyric communicates its fake origin: "It was written by a Latin/A gondolier who sat in/his home out in Brooklyn/and gazed at the stars". It is a song about a song [Croce, p.75: "When Pan objected that Berlin's lyric was about a song rather than a dance ('Come to the Casino/ And hear them play the Piccolino'), Berlin suggested that the dance could be called 'The Lido,' and then the lyric could run 'Come and do the Lido / It's very good for your libido.'"] and Rogers sings it to Astaire [Hyam, p.121: "a thoroughly appealing performance, lively and expressive without any suspicion of exaggeration." Also Mueller, p.86: "a lively rendition"] after which an off-camera chorus repeats it while the dance ensemble is photographed, Busby Berkeley-style, from above. The camera then switches to Rogers and Astaire who bound down to the stage to perform a two minute dance, all shot in one take, with the Astaire-Pan choreography separately referencing the basic melody and the Latin vamp in the accompaniment. They dance to the accompaniment as they descend the steps and glide along the dance floor, then, when the melody enters, they halt and perform the Piccolino step, which involves the feet darting out to the side of the body. The rest of the dance involves repetitions and variations of the Piccolino step and the hopping steps associated with the vamp, leading to some complex amalgamations of the two. On the vamp melody's final appearance, the dancers perform a highly embellished form of the Piccolino step as they travel sideways back to their table, sinking back into their chairs and lifting their glasses in a toast.
* "The Piccolino (reprise)": After the various parties confront each other in the bridal suite with Rogers' marriage to Rhodes revealed as a fake, the scene is set for Astaire and Rogers to dance into the sunset, which they duly do, in this fragment of a much longer duet - the original was cut after the July 1935 previews - but not before they parade across the Venetian set and reprise the Piccolino step.
The film was nominated for the
Academy Award for Best Picture, as well as Art Direction ( Carroll Clarkand Van Nest Polglase), Original Song ( Irving Berlinfor "Cheek to Cheek"), and Dance Direction (Hermes Pan for "Piccolino" and "Top Hat").
In 1990, "Top Hat" was selected for preservation in the
United States National Film Registryby the Library of Congressas being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
In 2006 this film ranked #15 on the
American Film Institute's list of best musicals.
*Los Angeles Evening Herald Express,
September 4, 1935, Jimmy Starr:"Top Hat" is the tops! With Fred Astaire dancing and singing Irving Berlin tunes! Well, one (in his right mind) couldn't ask for much more - unless, of course, it could be a couple of encores."
New York Times, August 30, 1935, Andre Sennwald: "Last year this column suggested that Miss Jessie Matthewswould make a better partner for the debonair star than our home girl. Please consider the matter dropped. Miss Rogers, improving magnificently from picture to picture, collaborates perfectly with Mr. Astaire...and is entitled to the job for life..."Top Hat" is worth standing in line for. From the appearance of the lobby yesterday afternoon, you probably will have to."
September 4, 1935, Sid: "The theatres will hold their own World Serieswith this one. It can't miss and the reasons are three - Fred Astaire, Irving Berlin's songs and sufficient comedy between numbers to hold the film together...the title item "Top Hat, White Tie and Tails" is dynamite because pictures have never seen anything like it...the number is a classic of its kind and had the picture been shortened and the dances reroutined so as to finish with this smash it might have sent them out of the theatre yelling...It might also be noted that Hermes Pan, who staged the production numbers, has kept away from the animated pinwheels and revolving swastikas which often make audiences crosseyed. In addition, he has made a marked effort to subjugate the chorus to the principals. Smart."
Since 2005, a digitally restored version of "Top Hat" is available separately and as part of "The Astaire & Rogers Collection, Vol.1" from
Warner Home Video. In both cases, the film features a commentary by Astaire's daughter, Ava Astaire McKenzie, and Larry Billman, author of "Fred Astaire, a Bio-bibliography."
Since 2003, a digitally restored version of "Top Hat" (not the same as the US restoration) is available separately, and as part of "The Fred and Ginger Collection, Vol. 1" from
Universal Studios, which controls the rights to the RKO Astaire-Rogers pictures in Europe. In both releases, the film features an introduction by Ava Astaire McKenzie.
Notes and references
*imdb title|id=0027125|title=Top Hat
* [http://www.lib.washington.edu/subject/history/bi/hstaa365/ Contemporaneous reviews and other material related to "Top Hat" housed at the
University of Washington Libraries]
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