By Stacia Woycheck
When I write my blog posts for the Monday Matinees, I typically rent the movie on Amazon Prime (mostly), watch it once, then write. Depending on the flick, sometimes I watch it twice. The March Matinee, Top Hat, is a “two-view” film for me. Although we haven’t had much cause for the winter blues here in Maryland, it’s been a rough season for me personally, so if you are looking for a pick-me- up, Top Hat will do the trick. It will turn any day into a “lovely day (to get caught in the rain)”.
The film stars Fred Astaire (as Jerry Travers) and Ginger Rogers (as Dale Tremont) and the supporting cast of Edward Everett Horton (as Horace Hardwick), Helen Broderick (as Marge Hardwick) and Erik Rhodes (as Alberto Beddini). It’s a wonderful screwball musical comedy with a lively mistaken identity plot. If you pay close attention, you’ll spot a young Lucille Ball as the flower clerk. She delivers only two lines, but you gotta love Lucy.
Nominated for four Oscars, the 1935 flick is charmingly funny and features upbeat “sing along” tunes by Irving Berlin including “No Strings“, “Isn’t This a Lovely Day”, and the iconic “Cheek to Cheek.” The music and choreography are worthy billings in the film as they claim the third and fourth star of the film alongside Astaire and Rogers. It is hard not to join in on the melodies, regardless of your singing prowess. Astaire refers to his dancing as his “affliction” and this film will pull you out of your seat forcing you to demonstrate your own “affliction” as well.
The movie opens with a room full of men sitting in silence in the London Thackeray Club. When Fred Astaire exits the room, he stops and breaks the silence with an assertive tap dance stomp and the film is off and running. It never slows down until the 101st minute when “The End” appears centered on the black screen. Jerry is an American dancer who travels to London to star in a show being produced by Horace Hardwick. In a stroke of fate, he meets Dale at his hotel and falls desperately in love with her. In a typical, boy chases girl plot he proceeds to try to win her over. Of course, there’s a twist. There’s no spoiler here. You will have to see it for yourself when you head to the Old Greenbelt Theater. The light hearted plot and charming cast deliver witty lines and wonderful dancing and singing while traversing through London and Venice.
Beyond the winning duo of Astaire and Rogers and the perfect choreography to Berlin’s energized melodies, there is Erik Rhodes who plays Alberto Beddini. Beddini is an Italian fashion designer who is competing for Dale’s affections. He creates an Italian caricature while his witty lines feature marvelous malapropisms like “Why not face the musicians now?” and “I am very displeased to meet you.” Sorry Fred and Ginger, Rhodes gets a “Stacia award” for this film.
Grab your top hat and coat and tap down to the Old Greenbelt Theater to see this one. Top Hat is a wonderful shot of dopamine dressed up as a 1935 celluloid classic. It will be playing Monday, March 2 at 1:00 pm.
This blog post is dedicated to my Dad, who’s dancing his way through heaven.
Stacia’s love of old movies began as a child, when her mother would take her to the matinee to see classics like Casablanca, Gone With the Wind, and The African Queen. She fast became a Humphrey Bogart and Old Hollywood fan. Her favorite class as an undergraduate student was Film Appreciation. She loves the charm of the Old Greenbelt Theater and volunteers to spread the word. She loves to spend time with her husband, play with her dog, and travel (when she isn’t traveling, she is planning her next trip).