Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Topper (Second Review)


I first came to the weird world of Thorne Smith’s Topper by way of the television series that was spun off from this movie. There was something strangely attractive to me about people who could vanish and re-appear at will. I was a faithful viewer. The movie is much superior. There were two sequels, but neither of them had the star power of Constance Bennett (who got top billing) and Cary Grant. They are quite good, but the movie belongs to Roland Young as the hen-pecked, meek milquetoast Cosmo Topper. His friends, dissolute socialites George and Marion Kerby, get themselves killed in a car wreck, and find they can’t move on to wherever one goes after death until they have done a good deed, something they have never done before. They decide to bring Topper out of his shell. Their method is to get him drunk. (In Thorne Smith stories most of the characters are dipsomaniacs, as was Smith himself.) And this is where Young really shines. He really looks as if he is being supported by two invisible people as he staggers through an apartment house lobby. It is an amazing feat.

It was the first film to be vandalized … sorry, I mean colorized. There is a cameo by the great Hoagy Carmichael. And one must mention the car. It was a custom-made body made to resemble a Cord or a Duesenberg, with fake exhaust pipes coming out of the hood. It is fabulous to look at.