Production Company: RKO Radio Pictures
Top Billed Actors: Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Edward Everett Horton
IMDb Rating: 7.8
*Best Picture Nominee*
Won 0 Oscars
Nominated for 4 more:
Best Art Direction - Carroll Clark and Van Nest Polglase
Best Dance Direction - Hermes Pan ("Piccolino" and "Top Hat")
Best Original Song - Irving Berlin ("Cheek to Cheek")
Plot: A case of mistaken identity and an affliction of tap-dancing bring two people together. Also, see The Gay Divorcee (1934).
So are the dance routines worthy of their classic status? The answer is a bold 'yes.' "Cheek to Cheek" is technically sound and a joy to watch. "Top Hat" is both fun and funny to see how Astaire uses his cane as various guns (using his feet as the gunshot sound effect), only to top it off with a bow-and-arrow. The most effective dance is "Isn't It a Lovely Day." Although it might not be as famous and the previous two, or even the finale "Piccolino," it does a lot to show how the characters feel about each other. Rather than a piece of dialogue or a song, we get a wonderful dance that has Astaire and Rogers nearly touch each other throughout the first few minutes. This can be seen as the flirtation between the two, spinning and tapping so close yet never quite in contact. By the time the number is over, they do touch each other, signifying Rogers eventual embrace of someone she found so annoying before. This is also their first duet of the film and the succeeding numbers can't quite match its magic. Good dances also need good music. This is Irving Berlin's first movie working with Fred Astaire (they would go on to have a long career together) and he hits the ground running with an Oscar nomination for "Cheek to Cheek" and many other classic songs. Max Steiner supervised the orchestration and score aspects of the film so suffice to say, another aurally pleasing output was in the books.
My main criticism with the film is something that was also mentioned in 1935. The plot is very similar to The Gay Divorcee (1934), an Astaire-Rogers film that was nominated for Best Picture the year before. The mistaken identity situation, in which Rogers thinks Astaire is somebody else, is present in both movies. Even the same actors are reprising similar roles. Erik Rhodes again plays a flamboyant Italian character, Edward Everett Horton again plays a less-than-graceful friend of Astaire's and Eric Blore again plays a serving professional (waiter in The Gay Divorcee and valet in Top Hat). The remedy to all of this is to just watch this film and skip The Gay Divorcee.
Overall, a similar plot to a previous movie doesn't detract from the humor of the scenes between the masterful dance routines and the music that pleases throughout. The Astaire-Rogers masterpiece that cannot be missed.
My Score: 8/10