Years ago, one of the local TV stations in Pittsburgh (my home town) screened the 1935 film “Top Hat,” starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers. During the opening credits, the titles say “A Pandro S. Berman Production” after the credit given to Mark Sandrich for directing the movie. Berman, quite a reknowned figure at RKO, is a Pittsburgh native who produced seven Astaire-Rogers films. He left RKO for MGM in 1940 and went on to produce such classics as “National Velvet” in 1944 and “Father of the Bride” in 1950.
“Isn’t It a Lovely Day to Be Caught in the Rain,” my favorite Irving Berlin song from Top Hat, occurs in a gazebo, where Astaire sings and Rogers reluctantly dances with him. I suppose if Irving Berlin writes wonderful songs and Astaire and Rogers must sing them, then the plot must logically get to places where the subject of the song makes sense and they can be logically performed. In this case, Astaire plays a well-known performer and dancer, and the film employs a mistaken-identity plot. But the Astaire character never wonders why the Rogers character dances so well, even though she plays an international fashion model.
I love Top Hat’s script, written by Dwight Taylor and Allen Scott. It includes many funny lines delivered by comic foils Edward Everett Horton, befuddled as always, Eric Blore and and the sharply witted Helen Broderick. Broderick, the mother of Broderick Crawford, also starred in “Swing Time,” a wonderful Astaire-Rogers musical from 1936. Top Hat became an international smash, racking up enough ticket sales to become the 3rd top grossing film of 1935. What a charming work of art!