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Topper

Topper title card

Year - 1937
Studio - Hal Roach Studios
Stars - Cary Grant, Constance Bennett, Roland Young, Billie Burke, Allan Mowbray, Eugene Pallette, Arthur Lake, Hedda Hopper
Director - Norman Z. McLeod
Writing Credits - Jack Jevne (screenplay), Eric Hatch (screenplay), Eddie Moran (screenplay), Thorne Smith (novel)
Music - Marvin Hatley

 

Synopsis

Wealthy and free-spirited couple George and Marion Kerby (Cary Grant and Constance Bennett) love to spend their lives in nightclubs and fast cars. Cosmo Topper (Roland Young) is president of a bank for which George Kerby is an irreverent Board member. Topper is becoming increasingly frustrated by the unchanging, conservative daily routine of his life, which is demanded by his wife (Billie Burke) and supported by their stuffy butler, Wilkins (Allan Mowbray).

While joy riding through the countryside, the Kerbys' car crashes into a tree. Rising from the wreck, they see their dead bodies remaining and they realize they are ghosts, with the ability to become either visible or invisible to others. They are in limbo, having accomplished neither good nor bad deeds.

Topper poster

The ghosts decide that they will try to rehabilitate the henpecked Cosmo Topper, and put some joy in his life. They invite him to their apartment where Topper loosens up with a few too many drinks. They attempt to help him back to the car in their invisible state, which results in chaos in the lobby, and the brawl spills out onto the street. Topper is arrested, and pleads guilty in court. Mrs. Topper is mortified with his behavior and Topper packs a suitcase and leaves, not sure where he is going.

Topper goes to a resort hotel, but discovers that Marion Kerby had travelled invisibly with him, because she was annoyed at George's behavior. At the hotel, the house detective (Eugene Pallette) becomes suspicious that Topper has an unregistered woman in his room and, with the aid of the bellboy (Arthur Lake) attempts to prove it. George arrives and, again, their pranks result in pandemonium throughout the hotel. Returning Cosmo to his home, the Kirby's car again hits a tree, but Cosmo survives. He returns to his wife, who has learn to appreciate his new personality because other high society types now find him to be an interesting, no longer stuffy, man.

Show Spoilers

Topper was followed by two sequels: Topper Takes a Trip (1938), with Roland Young and Billie Burke, and with Constance Bennett returning as Marion Kerby; Topper Returns (1941), again with Roland Young and Billie Burke, and a new, fun-loving ghost played by Joan Blondell. There was also a television series (1953-55) with Robert Sterling and Anne Jeffreys as the Kerbys, and Leo G. Carroll as Topper.