Topper (1937)

TOMATOMETER

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AUDIENCE SCORE

Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

By 1937, producer Hal Roach was hoping to wean himself away from the Laurel & Hardy-Our Gang slapstick on which he had built his studio's reputation by delving into the "screwball comedy" genre. Roach selected the racy Thorne Smith fantasy novel Topper for adaptation, and the result was one of the most endearingly funny films of the decade. Constance Bennett and Cary Grant play Marion and George Kerby, a wealthy, freewheeling young married couple whose uninhibited lifestyle is the talk of the town. After a particularly bibulous evening on the town, the Kerbys race homeward in their gleaming new roadster. George fails to negotiate a curve, and the car plows into a tree, killing both its occupants. Seconds later, the ghosts of George and Marion emerge from the wreckage, behaving as frivolously as if nothing had happened. Upon realizing that they're dead, the Kerbys also realize that they haven't been immediately snatched up into Heaven. Determining that they're required to perform one good deed before being allowed past the Pearly Gates, George and Marion set about to "liberate" stuffy, sedate, henpecked banker Cosmo Topper (Roland Young). At first resistant to the charms of his invisible benefactors, Topper begins to loosen up and truly enjoy life for the first time. Naturally, this doesn't sit well with Topper's supercilious wife (Billie Burke) nor his long-suffering butler (Alan Mobray), especially during a climactic free-for-all at a vacation resort. Though special effects abound in Topper, most of the humor derives from the embarrassed reactions of Roland Young as he tries to fend off the flirtatious advances of the ghostly Marion and the benignly strongman tactics of the spectral George. Adding to the fun are Eugene Pallette as a flustered house detective and Arthur Lake as a pratfalling bellboy. The musical score by longtime Hal Roach composer Marvin Hatley is perfectly attuned to the zany goings-on (including snatches of background music from Roach's earlier Laurel and Hardy comedies), while Hoagy Carmichael appears briefly on screen to introduce the film's signature tune, "Old Man Moon." Topper proved successful enough to warrant two sequels, as well as a popular TV series of the early 1950s.
Rating:
G
Genre:
Comedy , Drama , Science Fiction & Fantasy
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
 wide
Runtime:
Studio:
Hallmark Entertainment

Cast

Constance Bennett
as Marion Kerby
Cary Grant
as George Kerby
Roland Young
as Cosmo Topper
Billie Burke
as Henrietta Topper
Alan Mowbray
as Wilkins
Arthur Lake
as Elevator Boy
Hedda Hopper
as Mrs. Stuyvesant
Virginia Sale
as Miss Johnson
Theodore von Eltz
as Hotel Manager
Elaine Shepard
as Secretary
Si Jenks
as Rustic
Donna Dax
as Hat Check Girl at Rainbow Nightclub
Hoagy Carmichael
as Bill, the Piano Player
Irving Bacon
as Hotel clerk
Ward Bond
as Car mechanic/salesman
Martha Tilton
as Lounge singer
Show More Cast

Critic Reviews for Topper

All Critics (17) | Top Critics (4)

Signalizes [Roach's] entry into full-length sophistication.

Full Review… | September 16, 2008
TIME Magazine
Top Critic

Cary Grant and Constance Bennett, as the reincarnated Kerbys, do their assignments with great skill.

Full Review… | September 16, 2008
Variety
Top Critic

Too gentle and leisurely to survive as a solid classic, though there's pleasure to be found in the cast's graceful way with comedy and their smooth ensemble playing.

Full Review… | June 23, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Cary Grant and Constance Bennett are Thorne Smith's continental ghosts, haranguing tired businessman Roland Young in arch screwball style.

Full Review… | December 31, 1999
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Boasting strong performances from Cary Grant and Constance Bennett, this sophisticated screwball comedy was so popular that it led to two sequels (without Grant).

Full Review… | July 28, 2012
EmanuelLevy.Com

The film is noted for making Cary Grant a major star.

Full Review… | April 26, 2009
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Audience Reviews for Topper

½

Topper, a serious minded, by-the-book sort of fellow, is in danger of being trapped in the monotony of complacency when two freewheeling buds decide to loosen him up just a little. Nothing too serious, mind you, except for ... oh, but they're dead. They're ghosts. By modern standards its hard to tell the difference much between the monotony of complacency and freewheeling depicted here, but still a grand time is had by all in this, the film that solidified Cary Grant as major star material. But this is a team effort, everyone onscreen contributing to the smiles that follow.

Kevin M. Williams
Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer

Topper (1937) This is a classic Hal Roach screw-ball comedy with a huge cast of familiar character actors. It's one of my favorite Cary Grant movies, although we really don't see that much of him. George (Grant) and Marion Kerby (Constance Bennett) are the fun-loving idle rich married couple, while stuffy, middle-aged, Cosmo Topper (Roland Young) is a stick-in-mud banker. In a car accident George and Marion are both killed and think that they can't go to heaven without doing a good deed. They take on poor Cosmo as their project to loosen him up, despite the objections of his class-conscious wife, played by Billie Burke. Maybe it's a mid-life crisis, or maybe it's just Cosmo Topper seeing George and Marion dying so early in their lives and him not feeling that he's having as much fun in his and his wife's life. Cosmo holds onto George and Marion's repaired V-12 Duesenburg despite being more than a handful to drive. Once he starts seeing George and Marion in his life, he's in for even more trouble.

Rick Rudge
Rick Rudge

I liked this movie, not just because I love Grant, but it's a very funny movie. It has a great story, uses old special effects, and has great actors. What more could you want?

Aj V
Aj V

Super Reviewer

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