As screwball comedies go, this one lacks the dash of, say, “It Happened One Night,” the punch of “My Man Godfrey.” The inspired silliness of “Bringing Up Baby.” But “Top Hat” has Fred Astaire. Watch him woo Ginger Rogers in a gazebo during a thunderstorm:
Roger Ebert nailed it in a 2005 review of “Top Hat.”
Because we are human, 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. Where everyone is a millionaire and hotel suites are the size of ballrooms and everything is creased, combed, brushed, shined, polished, powdered and expensive. Where you seem to find the happiness you seek, when you’re out together dancing cheek to cheek.
The story is just filler, to keep audiences in their seats between dance numbers. Bates the valet is diverting, as he stalks the dancing duo in various disguises. The cartoon Italian, Alberto Beddini, is amusing, proclaiming in exasperation, “Never again will I allow women to wear my dresses.”
For the most part, though, it’s best to ignore the hijinks in Mussolini’s Italy. Stick with the dancing.