I am afraid to announce that they're doing a remake. So vexing. I can't really see it as working except as period pieces, and nobody does that with remakes. Especially not (sigh) Steve Martin. He better be playing Cosmo Topper, too, because I'm here to tell you that he'd be lousy in the Cary Grant role. Maybe he could've pulled it off thirty years ago, but not now. And I'm really worried that he wouldn't do it properly, as a straight man. Topper can't be the clown. It would ruin the movie. And filmmakers do not seem to understand this concept--often, the titular character, the theoretical star, just isn't the funny one. Funny things may happen around that person, and that's just as good, provided the main character reacts properly. What's worse, it seems as though no comedic stars these days are willing to play that character. That character has a great place in comedy--heck, that was pretty much what George Burns did until Gracie died.
Wild '30s millionaires George (Cary Grant) and Marion (Constance Bennett) Kerby are leaving a bank officals' meeting when George drives them off the road, and they are killed. Later, the head of that bank, Cosmo Topper (third-billed Roland Young), buys their car and manages to crash it in exactly the same place. The Kerbys take him on as a project, believing that improving Topper's life will be their ticket to Heaven. Marion believes that an important aspect is to loosen him up, which only goes to complicate his life and drive away Mrs. Topper, Clara (Billie Burke). She and George do not always manifest; they say it wastes ectoplasm and stay invisible as often as not, which of course leads to all sorts of wacky hijinks. In the second movie, Gail Richards (Joan Blondell) is killed at the palatial estate of her best friend, Ann Carrington (Carole Landis). Only it's a mistake, and Ann--the heiress--is the one who was supposed to be killed. She goes down the road to the Toppers' vacation house (I think) to enlist his help for some reason.
The Kerbys may well be right about Topper. He leads an awfully stuffy life, following very precise timetables. He eats the same food at the same time every day. Now, it's true that people who need to catch a train at a certain time will have to leave at the same time every day. But the same food part? He does rather tend to follow his wife's every whim. He only encounters the post-mortem Kirbys because he's suddenly sick of the whole thing; it seems that, had they come into his life at any other time, all their plans would come to naught--and it's a thing that they couldn't have done alive, even had they tried. It's clear that his brief rebellion is in no small part because he was rather jealous of them. Not to mention hot for Marion.
As for the sequel . . . . I think it's odd, really, that they brought in Eddie Anderson (Rochester from the Jack Benny radio and TV shows). The first movies seems to have gotten by just fine without the kind of wacky hijinks involved here. I mean, it was far from a serious movie, but apparently, it makes a better movie if you have a comic stereotype running around. He does find a couple of plot points, and that's handy. I just don't understand why he had to be the one who did it. And, of course, Mrs. Topper is herself pretty much a caricature. And then there's Ellen, the maid, played by Patsy Kelly, who would go on to be the surly housekeeper in [i]Freaky Friday[/i] and the delightful Mrs. Rafferty in [i]North Avenue Irregulars[/i]. I guess sans Cary Grant and Constance Bennett, they just had to work harder to make it funny.
The odd thing is how little the various characters' deaths seem to affect anyone. Mrs. Topper outright disliked the Kerbys. However, aside from the bank and the people in their apartment building, they didn't really seem to have much of anyone else to care one way or another. Clearly, they had no children; apparently, they didn't have any other family or friends, either. As for Gail, she did have a best friend, or at least so it seems, and while I do understand that Ann had a lot on her mind during that night, she seems awful fast to drown her sorrows in Bob (Dennis O'Keefe), the taxi driver they met just that day. Oh, he's the strong, handsome, dashing type, but seriously! Is Gail just not that interesting? She seems to make more of an impact on Topper dead than she did on Ann alive, at least you'd think so to see Ann fail to grieve.