#40 Top Hat

Watched: September 28 2016

Director: Mark Sandrich

Starring: Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Edward Everett Horton, Helen Broderick, Eric Blore

Year: 1935

Runtime: 1h 41min

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Jerry Travers (Astaire), an American dancer and Broadway star, is bringing his talent to Britain. Producer Horace Hardwick (Horton) and his wife Madge (Broderick) have a plan that their newly imported star should be married (and Madge has an idea as to who his wife should be), but Travers politely disagrees. So of course he falls in love. With the downstairs neighbour Dale Tremont (Rogers) who he annoys by tap dancing on her roof before he drowns her in flowers and sort of kidnaps her. This being an old-timey romantic musical screwball comedy though, he does these things in a very charming and endearing way

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“In dealing with a girl or horse, one just lets nature take its course” – actual quotation

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Their romance is complicated further when Dale (who incidentally is the Jerry’s intended wife) mistakes Jerry for Horace and believes him to be married to her friend Madge. She goes off to Venice with designer Alberto Beddini to meet up with the “betrayed” wife, followed by the admirably dedicated valet Bates (Blore – our favourite).

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“May we take your hat, your coat, and stalk your crush for you, sir?”

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After the very successful opening night performance, Travers and Hardwick charter a plane to Venice themselves, and Tremont decides to play a trick on her “dishonourable” suitor, which backfires horribly and leaves her even more confused. However, this being a comedy, it all works out in the end (thanks to Bates).

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“Thank God Beddini and I never got around to actually…dancing.”

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The plot is farcical and frustrating but it has its moments, some of them laugh-out-loud. Top Hat has an excellent cast of characters – mainly Madge Hardwick and Bates, both of whom we now adore and want to spend our lives with. The real reasons to watch the film though, are the spectacular dance numbers and the amazing costumes. If you like that sort of thing. And let’s face it – who doesn’t.

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Ah – bliss!

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What we learned: For the girls – the kiss. For the men – the sword! Also, SILENCE! Must be observed in the club rooms.

Next time: Modern Times (1936)

#27 42nd Street

Watched: August 27 2016

Director: Lloyd Bacon & Busby Berkeley (choreography)

Starring: Warner Baxter, Dick Powell, Ruby Keeler, Bebe Daniels, George Brent

Year: 1933

Runtime: 1h 29min

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Second musical on the list, and we have a new favourite choreographer. Luckily for us, there are several Busby Berkeley films on the list so we have a lot to look forward to.

The plot isn’t the most inventive, but it works. We follow several people involved in the production of a stage musical as they battle financial problems, heart conditions, the problems faced by chorus girls (which are many), romantic complications and gangster thugs.

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All of which can be spotted in this picture if you look closely

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Inexperienced chorus girl Peggy (Keeler) is helped by two lovely and catty colleagues to get her first job in new musical Pretty Lady. However, the star’s dalliance with a former vaudeville co-star (Dot and Pat – Daniels and Brent, respectively) threatens the financial situation of the show as the main backer is basically Dot’s sugar-daddy.

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“We are totally in the same league – money has nothing to do with it!”

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The night before the opening, Dot breaks her ankle and Peggy has to step in as the leading lady. The last 30 minutes or so of the film are dedicated to Berkeley’s spectacular stagings of the numbers “Shuffle off to Buffalo,” “I’m Young and Healthy” and “42nd Street,” all of which are completely incredible to watch.

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The budget was blown on dancers, choreography and film, so there was nothing left for costumes. Instead, they recycled the fur from old Santa Claus suits to cover up the crucial bits and called it a day.

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As for the plot of Pretty Lady, the musical-within-the-film, we have no idea. Suffice to say, it involves a Niagara Falls honeymoon, a girl juggling several guys, lots and lots of legs, and Gandhi. Your guess is as good as ours.

We loved this one. The outfits! The comebacks! The cattiness! The tremendous amount of legs! The three main chorus girls! The choreography! The camera work! We cannot use enough exclamation points to describe our love.

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We will attempt to embody the sass of Una Merkel and Ginger Rogers from here on out!

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What we learned: we are officially in love with Busby Berkeley. How can we not have known about this man before?

Next time: Duck Soup (1933)