Friday, August 15, 2008

Summer Under the Stars: Fred Astaire

Movie Dearest continues our daily previews of Turner Classic Movies' month long "Summer Under the Stars" celebration:

Now Playing Star Profile for Fred Astaire - Stardates: Born May 10, 1899, Omaha, Nebraska; died 1987. Star Sign: Taurus. Star Qualities: The fleetest of feet, lighter-than-air presence, guileless sophistication. Star definition: "The greatest dancer who ever lived -- greater than Nijinsky." -- Noël Coward. Galaxy of Characters: Fred Ayers in Flying Down to Rio, Jerry Travers in Top Hat, "Huck" Haines in Roberta, Don Hewes in Easter Parade.

As if the presence of frequent "sissy" players Eric Blore, Edward Everett Horton and Erik Rhodes* all in the same movie wasn't enough to make it a little gay, Top Hat also has this famous scene (seen here in the trailer for The Celluloid Closet at the 1:20 mark) between the latter two. Rhodes (as Alberto Beddini, Ginger Rogers' devoted dressmaker) apologizes to Horton (a constantly befuddled Horace Hardwick) by kissing him on both cheeks, European style. Helen Broderick, as Mrs. Hardwick, looks on and quips, "Go right ahead, boys. Don't mind me."

Of course, Top Hat is much more then gay subtext; arguably the greatest of the Astaire/Rogers musicals, it features such classic song and dance sequences as "Isn't This a Lovely Day?", "Top Hat, White Tie and Tails" and the legendary "Cheek to Cheek". Rogers' elaborate gown in the latter shed so many of its ostrich feathers during filming that Astaire took to calling her "Feathers".

Top Hat airs tomorrow on TCM at 10:00 PM EST.

* Note: Not this Erik Rhodes.

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