I recently watched Top Hat, a 1935 musical comedy staring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers… who I didn’t know much about until now.
I didn’t CHOOSE to see this movie. It was forced on me by my husband, who is a fan of “classic” movies. This happens now and again. If I want to snuggle up to him on the couch, the price I often pay is to suffer through a film which is “important to cinema history”… as opposed to “entertaining”. For example, you might like to read my review of Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry.
Thus, I was expecting Top Hat to involve aliens, guns, car chases, zombies, weird humor, or whatever.
But I LOVED IT! It was so cute, funny (in a silly way), and the dancing was lovely. And after I got used to the style, I realized I was watching a romantic comedy-musical that was almost older than my grandmother. But it still worked!
The movie was one of the most popular and successful movies of its time and it broke box office record, grossing $3 million dollars – which was a lot of money back then! It is continually referenced as one of the most stylish films of the 1930s… Hollywood’s “golden” era, when modern glamour was invented.
Fred and Ginger were Hollywood’s top stars in the 30s and 40s and they had such an electric on-screen chemistry that they went on to make a total of 10 movies together. So they were as big as can be, in the world of movies stars, pop music stars, and celebrity icons… but they were not a couple in real life. Top Hat was a movie written specially for them, especially to show off Fred’s amazing dancing.
Even though the movie was in black and white, I was so struck by the interior set designs and of course… the fashion!
Basically I was checking out all the clothes worn by both Fred and Ginger throughout the movie.
But being a girl, I was very taken by this feather dress!
I had to do a bit of interweb digging to find this stunning photo of Ginger Rogers and her dress.
I don’t know who took the original photograph, but by the looks of it, it was a film still portrait taken on set at the RKO Movie studios.
Ginger collaborated with RKO costume designer Bernard Newman to create this blue feather gown. It features a figure-hugging, low back, bias-cut silhouette, which was covered with ostrich feathers. Stunning!
The dress famously dropped feathers everywhere and apparently the feathers floated all over the stage, got caught in Fred’s suit, hair, face and made a huge mess during the dance scene. Yet Ginger insisted on wearing this gown, despite Fred’s and the film crew’s protests. Fred subsequently went on to called her by the nickname, “Feathers”. So cute.
I also discovered that Fred always chose his own wardrobe in movies. He had a signature “casual elegant style” and as a result he was a significant influence in 20th century men’s fashion and often named one of the best-dressed men in the world, and helped established sophisticated “masculine cool”.
At the end, I realised that my husband and I had watched a whole romantic comedy together… without him whining about it!
Well, there you go.
I wonder what other time traveling treasures are out there!