Top Hat

Critics Consensus

A glamorous and enthralling Depression-era diversion, Top Hat is nearly flawless, with acrobatics by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers that make the hardest physical stunts seem light as air.



Total Count: 39


Audience Score

User Ratings: 9,822
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Movie Info

One of the best of the Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers musicals, Top Hat centers on a typical mistaken-identity plot, with wealthy Dale Tremont (Rogers), on holiday in London and Venice, assuming that American entertainer Jerry Travers (Astaire) is the husband of her friend Madge (Helen Broderick) -- who's actually the wife of Jerry's business manager Horace Hardwick (Edward Everett Horton). Complicating matters is Dale's jealous suitor Beddini (Erik Rhodes), whose motto is "For the woman the kiss -- for the man the sword." Beddini is disposed of by some last-minute chicanery on the part of Jerry's faithful valet Bates (Eric Blore), paving the way for the happy ending everyone knew was coming from the opening scene. The Irving Berlin score includes "Cheek to Cheek," "Isn't it a Lovely Day?," and the jaunty title song. The charisma of the stars, the chemistry of the supporting players, the white-telephone art direction of Van Nest Polglaise, the superlative choreography by Astaire and Hermes Pan, and the effervescent direction of Mark Sandrich all combine to make Top Hat a winner. Originally released at 101 minutes, the film was for many years available only in its 93-minute reissue form; it has since been restored archivally to 99 minutes.


Critic Reviews for Top Hat

All Critics (39) | Top Critics (8) | Fresh (39)

  • Finally, thanks more to Fred Astaire than any other single influence, the character of musicomedy in the cinema has now completely changed.

    Apr 24, 2009 | Full Review…
    TIME Magazine
    Top Critic
  • This one can't miss and the reasons are three -- Fred Astaire, Irving Berlin's 11 songs and sufficient comedy between numbers to hold the film together.

    Jan 11, 2008 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Top Critic
  • This 1935 musical finds Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers at the top of their form.

    Jan 11, 2008 | Full Review…
  • The third Astaire-Rogers movie and one of the best.

    Feb 9, 2006

    Tom Milne

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • Because we are bound by gravity and the limitations of our bodies, because we live in a world where the news is often bad and the prospects disturbing, there is a need for another world somewhere, a world where Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers live.

    Jan 20, 2006 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…
  • The plot is involving, especially as it builds to its seemingly impossible-to-solve finale.

    Sep 7, 2005

Audience Reviews for Top Hat

  • Aug 09, 2019
    It's not much more than a series of contrivances and excuses to get Fred and Ginger to dance but it's not like that's a problem.
    Alec B Super Reviewer
  • Aug 26, 2018
    Fred Astaire is a fantastic dancer, sure, so light on his feet and making difficult moves look easy, but he's also an engaging as an actor. With his slicked back hair and those sly eyes, his interest and wooing of Ginger Rogers is charming. He's also smooth as he breaks out into several songs from the fantastic score by Irving Berlin, including 'Cheek to Cheek' ("Heaven...I'm in heaven...") and 'Top Hat, White Tie and Tails' ("I'm...puttin' on my top hat...tyin' up my white tie..."). It's such an iconic moment when the men's chorus momentarily disappears in the latter number, and the lights dim while Astaire dances solo; it's as if we're seeing a genius creating something out of nothing. I think my favorite performance was Ginger echoing Fred's moves in 'Isn't This a Lovely Day (To Be Caught in the Rain)?' She is something special as well, with as great a timing in the delivery of her lines as the timing in her dance moves, which she often performed in heels, a cumbersome dress, and needing to go backwards more often. While the film revolves around the music and Fred and Ginger's dancing, the supporting cast is quite entertaining as well, particularly Edward Everett Horton (Astaire's producer), Eric Blore (Horton's manservant), and Helen Broderick (Horton's wife). The premise is that Rogers thinks Astaire is the one married to Broderick, which, while silly, creates a number of humorous moments between the various characters. Blore is delightful in his cheeky role, and sometimes seems to be at the center of it all. There is little to find fault in the film; maybe the fact that 'Venice' looks like it's straight out of Las Vegas? Maybe that under the production code, some of the edge is sanded down? I don't know. For the musical genre, this is a landmark film, and I almost feel guilty not giving it an even higher score. There were certainly transcendent moments for me in the dancing; it was as if I was watching perfection, two people so supremely skilled and alive that it was if they never could have possibly aged, or been broken down by time. Perhaps with this film, we can imagine that they never really were.
    Antonius B Super Reviewer
  • Nov 26, 2012
    Yes it is unbelievably silly as most o fthe Astaire and Rogers films are but who can't love a bit of top flight dancing. This is the ultimate Astaire and Rogers treatment and it is a delight.
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Jul 16, 2012
    "Heaven, I'm in heaven". The fourth film to pair up legendary duo Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, "Top Hat" features some legendary songs by Irving Berlin ("Top Hat, White Tie and Tails", and "Cheek to Cheek") and some very charming dance sequences by the two stars. When Horace and Madge (Edward Everett Horton, Helen Broderick) seek to set up their two friends on a date, the woman, Dale (Rogers) mistakes Jerry (Astaire) for Madge's husband, Horace. As Jerry woos Dale, she can only resist as a good friend should when said friend's husband is making plays for her. Dale's friend, Alberto Beddini is a fashion designer with eyes on his model, but she doesn't take him seriously. Then there's Bates, the butler of Horace who always refers to himself as a small group ("we will take your hat for you, sir") and lives to antagonize his boss. It's a light romantic comedy to be sure, but between all the nonsense there's some amazing dance numbers. There's something so familiar to the Astaire/Rogers asthetic that it may as well be ingrained in our collective subconscious. It is elegance and class personified, a depression-escaping fantasy to be sure, but it is beauty and art, both basic and complex. That these two still resonate so deeply within our hearts and minds, nearly eighty years later, is a testament to just how great they really were.
    Devon B Super Reviewer

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