Favorite things about… Topper (1937)

A note from Lindsey: This is my 500th post on TMP! Woohoo!

(Image: Ryan McCormick Film History)

(Image: Ryan McCormick Film History)

The favorite film:
Topper, a 1937 romantic fantasy-comedy directed by Norman Z. McLeod for MGM.

The synopsis:
George and Marion Kerby are a rich, fun-loving couple who care more about having a grand time than leading responsible lives. While heading home from the one corporate meeting that George attends each year, their car hits a tree… and when they wake up, they’re ghosts! George and Marion, convinced they haven’t done enough good or bad to get into heaven or hell, decide to haunt George’s co-worker, Mr. Topper, and bring some excitement to his monotonous life.

The cast:
Cary Grant as George Kerby
Constance Bennett as Marion Kerby
Roland Young as Mr. Topper
Billie Burke as Mrs. Topper
(Appearances are also made by Alan Mowbray, Eugene Pallette, Hedda Hopper and others in supporting roles.)

Fun facts:

  • Cary didn’t originally want the role of George due to the story’s supernatural aspects, but Hal Roach assured him that the screwball comedy aspect of the story would be the film’s focus.
  • Cary Grant was paid $50,000 for his performance, while Bennett willingly took less than her usual fee because she loved the script so much.
  • Jean Harlow was wanted for the role of Marion, but she was too ill to take the part.
  • Roland Young received his only Oscar nomination for this film.
  • Grant’s performance in this film helped turn him into box office gold for screwball comedies, and Bennett’s performance was also praised by critics.
  • The film spawned two sequels, two television series, a third television pilot and a TV movie remake.
  • Topper was one of the first films to fall victim of the ghastly colorization wave of the mid-1980s.
(Image: fan.tcm.com)

(Image: fan.tcm.com)

Favorite things:

  • Cary driving with his feet
  • George’s song about going to see Topper
  • Constance Bennett’s dance moves
  • The Kerbys sleeping in a car in the middle of the city
  • George humming during the meeting, and trying to draw his name upside down and backwards — He attends a single meeting each year and still can’t pay attention!
  • Super speedy veering right before the accident
  • Ghostly George and Marion trying to figure out what happens next after they realize that they’re dead — They haven’t done anything good or bad!
  • The first time the Kerbys tease Topper, telling him that he’s sitting on them and speaking to him while in their invisible forms
  • Marion zzzzzzzipping into invisibility!
  • Cary and Constance were both such great choices for this film. Their voice performances are so expressive that the viewer can visualize how their expressions and mannerisms would look if they were visible (and their performances are good when they actually ARE visible, too).

    (Image: The Guardian)

    (Image: The Guardian)

  • Marion taunting the elevator attendant
  • Topper dancing in the Kerbys’ apartment
  • Topper slowly falling to the ground when he’s drunk, only to be lifted by invisible people (much to the surprise and confusion of those around him, who have no clue he’s being helped by ghost buddies)
  • The Kerbys straightening up Topper’s appearance (fixing his tie, folding his pocket square) in the courtroom
  • Hedda Hopper and a hat that’s only half-crazy
  • Topper’s secretary looking at him with an expression of horror when his hat begins to move on its own
  • Floating undergarments scaring everyone out of the store
  • Topper trying to explain away Marion’s presence in his room, saying that it is not lipstick on the cigarette, but blood from when he cut his tongue while shaving
  • The chair chasing Topper around the hotel
  • FLYING DOG
  • Cary walking the roof – preparing for his role in To Catch a Thief, perhaps?
  • Marion and George hanging upside down in the window to say goodbye to Topper
  • Quotes:
    • Marion: “What time is it?”
      George: “Huh?”
      Marion: “I said where are we going?”
    • George: “I don’t know why he should be tired. We did all of the singing!”
    • Marion (after the accident): “Oh, look at my car…”
      George: “Look at my hat!”
    • Marion: “George, you’re getting transparent! You’re fading!’
    • George: “I suppose pretty soon there’ll be trumpets, and off we go!”
    • Topper: “Life is so very short and we get so very little out of it.”
    • George: “Do you drink?”
      Topper: “I did once, but it wasn’t much fun.”
    • Marion/George: “Poor Topper.”
      Topper: “Poor Topper.”
      George: “You stay out of this!”
    • Mrs. Topper: “I can’t stand to let you flaunt your infidelity in my face!”
    • Marion: “We’re the best-dressed couple in this hallway!”
    • Marion: “Toppy, are you falling in love with me?”
    • Hotel worker: “He got in an automobile and drove away… BUT NOBODY WAS DRIVING IT!”
    • George: “Once more around that curb, I won’t have a hat left!”
    • George: “I sure hope Mrs. Topper doesn’t gum up our good deed.”
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14 thoughts on “Favorite things about… Topper (1937)

  1. I do remember seeing this movie when I was 8 years old and I really liked it then. I may have to check this one out again. Im thankful that the version I saw on TV was the black and white one

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    • You should definitely give it another watch! It was revived out of the PD so I’m not sure where it’s available online anymore, but it’s been released on DVD a few times (packaged up with one of the sequels, Topper Returns). It shouldn’t be too difficult to track down somewhere.

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  2. It’s such a fun movie, partially because the two of them looked like they were having so much fun as well. Congrats on your 500th post!

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  3. The first sequel, “Topper Takes A Trip” (also based on a Thorne Smith story), is nearly as good — while Cary Grant, by now a big star, appears only in flashbacks, Constance Bennett is back, again making for one sexy ghost, and the great canine star Skippy (Asta in “The Thin Man” films, Mr. Smith in “The Awful Truth”) plays “ghost dog” Mr. Atlas. Lots of fun.

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    • I haven’t seen either of the sequels — I’ve been afraid to watch them because I love this one so much! I’ll track it down on your recommendation. :) Thanks for reading!

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