George Lucas, as quoted in STAR WARS MYTHMAKING: BEHINDTHE SCENES OF ATTACK OF THE CLONES, “…I wanted to tell a love story in a style that was extremely old-fashioned…much more like a movie from the 1930s than any of the others had been, with a slightly over-the-top, poetic style…” 1935 Best Picture Nominee TOP HAT is such a love story…and, quite frankly, delivers flowery dialogue ever-more-so eloquently.
Top Hat was one of the films that rocketed Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers to stardom. As far as “old” black-and-white musicals go, it’s fantastic. A toe-tapping Irving Berlin score, superb dance numbers, cool Art Deco sets, and light-hearted love angst create an entertaining ride from London to Brighton to Venice.
To boil TOP HAT down to its basic plot: A very talented performer named Jerry (Fred Astaire) hopes a very elite, beautiful woman named Dale (Ginger Rogers) will be his girl. Jerry tries to woo Dale, but she needs convincing throughout the whole picture that Jerry is worthy of a commitment. Right before the grand finale, Dale realizes Jerry is worthy of a love pledge – but there’s one more adventure to survive.
Sound familiar? Here's the Attack of the Clones version of what I just wrote...
To boil AOTC down to its basic plot: a very powerful Jedi named Anakin (Hayden Christensen) hopes a very elite, beautiful woman named Padme (Natalie Portman) will be his girl. Anakin tries to woo Padme, but she needs convincing throughout the whole picture that Anakin is worthy of a commitment. Right before the grand finale, Padme realizes Anakin is worthy of a love pledge – but there’s one more adventure to survive.
Let’s face it: the “out of your league” love quest is nothing new to cinema…or storytelling for that matter. But Lucas’ disregard for criticism of his dialogue is commendable, especially since everyone including Harrison Ford is a known critic of his screenplays’ dialogue. “I was very happy with the way it turned out in the script and in performances, but I knew people might not buy it, “ Lucas confessed. “…Most guys think that kind of flowery, poetic talk is stupid…More sophisticated, cynical types also don’t buy that stuff. So I didn’t know if people would laugh at it and throw things at the screen, or if they would accept it.”
The first time I saw AOTC, moviegoers either laughed or winced at this dialogue. Padme’s line to Anakin about “dying a little bit each day since you came back into my life” caused a mysterious female moviegoer to bellow from the back of the now defunct United Artists East Whiteland Stadium Theater, “AWWWW, Come on! For Real?!” Here’s that line and more from AOTC’s love pledge scene…
That said, the dialogue is nostalgic and builds the relationship to a significant degree. By the time we get to Mustafar in Revenge of the Sith, fans were dialed into this over-the-top dialogue. When Padme delivers the equally corny line, “Anakin, you're breaking my heart! You're going down a path I cannot follow!” I heard my Father-in-law – just a few seats down from me –ask a female moviegoer, “Are you all right? You’re crying.” The female fan simply said, “I am. It’s so beautiful.”
Still not buying AOTC as a worthy love story? Fine. You don’t have to. BUT…if you want to see it done right, see romance films from the 1930s…starting with TOP HAT.