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Warner Home Video presents
Top Hat (1935)

Horace Hardwick: You're sure you didn't forget yourself with that girl in the park?
Jerry Travers: Positive. If I ever forgot myself with that girl, I'd remember it.

- Edward Everett Horton, Fred Astaire

Review By: Jeff Wilson  
Published: August 17, 2005

Stars: Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers
Other Stars: Edward Everett Horton, Eric Blore, Helen Broderick, Erik Rhodes
Director: Mark Sandrich

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for nothing objectionable
Run Time: 01:39:40
Release Date: August 16, 2005
UPC: 053939725926
Genre: musical comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- BB+B+ B

DVD Review

Top Hat is often accused of re-hashing the previous year's The Gay Divorcee, due to plot similarities, but when you can produce as entertaining a film as this, I can't say I really care all that much. Considered by many the high point of the Astaire-Rogers series, Top Hat blends some excellent songs by Irving Berlin, a witty script, equally sharp performances, and eye-candy Art Deco sets to produce splendid escapist fare.

The plot, like The Gay Divorcee, revolves around mistaken identity; this time, Dale Tremont (Rogers) wrongly believes that Jerry Travers (Astaire) is the husband of her friend Madge Hardwick (Helen Broderick). Jerry is actually starring in Horace Hardwick's (Edward Everett Horton) show, and he falls for Dale immediately, having woken her up with his tap-dancing in the hotel room above hers. It's all extremely silly and completely unrealistic, but if you're watching one of these movies looking for realism, you've clearly made the wrong viewing choice.

One of the joys of this series is watching the supporting cast work. Horton repeated his skill at doing double takes in multiple films in the series, and Eric Blore, as Hardwick's aggrieved, prissy valet Bates, plays against Horton well. Erik Rhodes, as the Italian fashion designer Beddini, is there to eventually be dumped upon. Italy, it is reported, banned the film due to Rhodes' less than manly portrayal of Italian masculinity. I didn't know anything about Rhodes' background, but was amused to learn via the commentary that he was from Oklahoma. Helen Broderick completes the supporting cast as the bemused Madge.

At the film's center of course, are Astaire and Rogers, and they're both in superb form. Rogers had the more thankless role of the two, as she is restricted to reacting against Fred's active character. They're both excellent, with Fred making the most of some choice material. Their dances are marvelous as well, with Isn't It a Lovely Day to Get Caught in the Rain? and Cheek to Cheek being two classic moments. Fred has his Top Hat, White Tie and Tails number, complete with the famous "gunning down" of his backup dancers. The final number, The Piccolino, is not really needed story-wise, but it's pleasant nonetheless.

And as for the costumes and sets, what is there to say that hasn't already been said? Outrageous in their excess and stylization, they complete what is clearly a fantasy world. The Venice sets in particular are deliriously lush. They've been described as something like a theme park version of Venice, and I can agree with that assessment. They're utterly insane but suit the story completely.

Astaire and Rogers would go on to make another six films together, but they wouldn't scale the giddy heights they reached here again. Top Hat finds these two at their peak as a pair, and if you're a fan of musicals, of movies in general, you do yourself a disservice to miss this one.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The picture sometimes look a bit soft, but overall, this is a nice image. Occasional defects pop up now and again, but never do they interfere with the viewing experience.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The original mono track is generally clean and crisp, the music coming across well, without sounding too shrill. Dialogue is clear and understandable.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Documentaries
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Ava Astaire McKenzie and film historian Larry Billman
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Watch the Birdie, a comedy short starring Bob Hope
  2. Page Miss Glory, a Merrie Melodies cartoon
Extras Review: The chief extra is a commentary with Astaire's daughter Ava Astaire McKenzie, and film historian Larry Billman. It's something of a tedious affair, with too much play-by-play and not enough interesting material. There is some behind-the-scenes info, but not enough for my liking. It's an okay commentary, but a little too much of a drag to really recommend. The featurette On Top: Inside the Success of Top Hat (18m:20s) looks at the film via interviews and clips, and it does a fine job covering some of the film's background. The other two extras are contemporary pieces with the film; the first is Watch the Birdie (18m:16s), a comedy short starring a young Bob Hope. It's fairly amusing. The other is the Merrie Melodies cartoon Page Miss Glory (07m:43s), which I remember from television viewings as a kid. It's the Art Deco dream of a hick bellboy awaiting the arrival of the titular star. The title card describes it as "moderne art," but that's a judgment you may want to verify yourself.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

Sheer pleasure from start to end, Top Hat is the apex of the Astaire-Rogers pairing, with everything one expects from their films. Warner's DVD mixes in some decent extras to present a quality disc.


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