Thursday, March 2, 2017

Top Hat

Year 9, Day 61 - 3/2/17 - Movie #2,561

BEFORE: Day 3 with Fred and Ginger carrying over.  Why is she called "Ginger", anyway, since she's got blonde hair - was this before "Ginger" was an epithet for people with red hair and freckles?  Ah, I see, her original first name was "Virginia".  Well, that answers that.  Perhaps people didn't figure out that red-heads don't have souls until a few decades later.

Tomorrow's the last day in TCM's "31 Days of Oscar" programming, so for the last time:
7:45 AM White Shadows in the South Seas (1928)
9:30 AM Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966)
12:00 PM Wild Strawberries (1957)
1:45 PM The Wind and the Lion (1975)
3:45 PM Woman in the Dunes (1964)
6:15 PM A Woman of Affairs (1928)
8:00 PM Woman of the Year (1942)
10:00 PM Young Frankenstein (1974)
12:00 AM The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967)
2:15 AM The Young at Heart (1938)
4:00 AM Z (1969)

I've seen three of these: "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf", "Woman of the Year", and "Young Frankenstein".  Another 3 out of 11 brings me to my final score: 124 seen out of 340.  36% - not too shabby, at least I did better than 1/3.  Once I get through the films I recorded this month, anyway.

I'm not getting much of a chance to rest, since TCM's running a Richard Burton marathon starting this weekend.  Everything from "The Robe" and "The Night of the Iguana" to "The Sandpiper" and "The VIPs" so it looks like I'll be picking up another 4 or 6 films in the next few days.  I'll have to log them in now so my watchlist total doesn't go up again.  At least I'm holding the line at 133 films.

I also figured out a plan to get me to the end of the month.  Before this, I was only set until March 23, and some recent additions to the watchlist have allowed me to add a few more days before my linking runs out.  But I was hoping to link to the new Marvel film "Logan", and right now I don't have a way to do this.  I thought maybe I could get there through watching "Doctor Strange", but it turns out that there's a Stan Lee cameo in one film, but not the other.  What's up with that?  Also, how come I can watch "Doctor Strange" on iTunes for $5.99, but when I try to order the DVD on Amazon, they can't deliver it in 2 days like normal, but in 1 to 2 months instead?  That just won't work for me, Amazon., I need it in like 3 weeks...

THE PLOT: An American dancer comes to Britain and falls for a model whom he initially annoyed, but she mistakes him for his goofy producer.

AFTER: The search for a Fred Astaire movie that I won't fall asleep during continues - that's not a great sign.  Or maybe it's a good sign that I'm just not cut out for these singing/dancing films - I knew going in that this genre was not my cup of tea, but so many of these films, like "Top Hat" and "Swing Time" appear on everyone's lists of the "Greatest American Films" or "Films You Must See Before You Shuffle Off This Mortal Coil", so I still count watching them as progress.

Look, the truth is, I had a very stressful day at work.  I'm starting to wonder (after only 23 years on the job) why absolutely EVERY task given to me is an emergency, either the deadline is tomorrow (or worse, yesterday) or it needs to be e-mailed out this afternoon before 3, or the boss needs to take that thing with him on a business trip and he's leaving for the airport in 10 minutes.  I mean, why can't any task be given to me with a reasonable deadline - it's obviously going to take me 30 minutes or 3 days to do that, why can't I be given the appropriate time-frame to do it?  In the end, if everything is an emergency, then nothing is, or everything is extremely stressful, and then I'm held accountable for not working on the long-term projects when all those emergency requests are what prevented me from doing that.  It's anything but fair.

So when I come home, you'd think that watching a nice bit of Hollywood fluff with Astaire and Rogers whirling around, or a bedroom farce where there's a case of mistaken identity, it would come as a form of relief - but I've been like a rubber band that's been stretched too far, and apparently after stress-eating a frozen meal if I'm not allowed to constrict back to my regular shape, I'm bound to snap.  So given the chance to relax, my body keeps choosing to fall asleep, which is not good - it means I've got two speeds, furiously fast and completely inert, and there's no longer anything in-between.

I'll try to take all this under consideration, but the truth is that I haven't found a Fred Astaire film that will hold my attention and keep me awake - no, not even "Top Hat".  Then I have to wake up at either 4 am and finish the film, then grab a few more hours of sleep, or wake up at 9:30, watch the last hour of the film and be late for work.  The latter situation is not ideal, because if I'm late then I have to work even harder to finish everything in time the next day, and it's become a vicious cycle.

Anyway, only 3 days into the Astaire/Rogers chain, and the pattern has started to emerge - Fred's going to travel to some fancy city in Europe (London, Paris, Venice) and he's going to encounter Ginger there, and there will be some kind of wacky mistaken identity, but then they're going to dance together and everything will work out in the end.  It's fairly simplistic, but it sure seems like it was a winning formula at the time.

Tonight Astaire plays Jerry Travers, a song-and-dance man (I know, it's a bit of a stretch) and Horton plays his friend and married producer.  His dancing wakes up the sleeping Dale Tremont (Ginger) and after she falls for him, she mistakes him for the married man - so his advances are no longer wanted, and he gets slapped in the face (this happens repeatedly).  And since she can't marry the man she wants to, this means that for some reason, on the rebound, she has to marry her Italian friend.  It's all a big confusing mess until the secrets are revealed (and revealed by the same guy who performed this role in "The Gay Divorcee, no less).

Apparently many critics at the time also noted the many similarities to "The Gay Divorcee" - almost the same cast, the love triangle, confusion over identity and such.  However, time's been good to "Top Hat", and now on all those "Best of" lists it's quite prominent, and the earlier Astaire/Rogers film doesn't even make the cut.

Maybe it's the soundtrack - "Gay Divorcee" really only had "The Continental" going for it, and this one has Irving Berlin's "Cheek to Cheek", "No Strings (I'm Fancy Free)" and of course, "Top Hat, White Tie and Tails".  And then there's "The Piccolino", but that's not really worth talking about.

Also starring Edward Everett Horton (last seen in "The Gay Divorcee"), Erik Rhodes (ditto), Eric Blore (ditto), Helen Broderick, with a cameo from Lucille Ball (also carrying over from "Roberta")

RATING: 5 out of 10 gondolas

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