This one can’t miss and the reasons are three – Fred Astaire, Irving Berlin’s 11 songs and sufficient comedy between numbers to hold the film together.
Astaire’s sock routines are up forward starting with ‘No Strings’. He does this alone. It is the hot ditty of the batch, then ‘Isn’t it a Lovely Day?’ with Ginger Rogers for probably the best dance they’ve ever done together, trailed in turn by the title item, ‘Top Hat, White Tie and Tails’, the boy number. It is the same number Astaire did in his Ziegfield show Smiles, practically the only change being the melody.
But the danger sign is in the story and cast. Substitute Alice Brady for Helen Broderick and it’s the same lineup of players as was in The Gay Divorcee (1934). Besides which the situations in the two scripts parallel each other closely.
For the rest of the cast, Edward Everett Horton bears the brunt and is the secondary pillar around which the story revolves. His is the comedy burden which he splits with Eric Blore, his valet, and Erik Rhodes as a dress designer.
Rogers never opens her mouth vocally until the concluding ‘Piccolino’. She is again badly dressed while her facial makeup and various coiffeurs give her a hard appearance.
1935: Nominations: Best Picture, Art Direction, Song (‘Cheek to Cheek’), Dance Direction (‘Top Hat,’ ‘Piccolino’)