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The Kerbys in purgatory
jotix10030 August 2005
"Topper", the delightful and original film directed by Norman Z McLeod, should be seen more often. It is one of the best things Hollywood ever produced at the height of the madcap comedy craze of the thirties. In fact, just to watch Roland Young, Constance Bennett and Cary Grant in the same film is a dream come true.

"Topper" has always been an old time favorite. We were treated the other night to watching it again, courtesy of TCM. The film's great black and white cinematography by Norbert Brodine looks good, even after these many years.

Constance Bennett and Cary Grant made a fabulous couple. Ms. Bennett had the uncanny gift of blending with all her leading men well. She was a charming actress with such a sense of style and an amazing figure to boot that made her an irresistible presence on the screen. Cary Grant is also seen at his best in the film as the careless and fun loving George Kerby.

Roland Young, in our humble opinion, steals the show! He plays the staid banker Cosmo Topper, who is all business until he starts being made the object of the Kerby's antics. Cosmo Topper's wife is the incomparable Billie Burke, one of the most gracious actresses of that era.

The rest of the cast is not too shabby. Alan Mowbray, Eugene Palette, Ward Bond, Hoagy Carmichael, and as an extra, Lana Turner could be seen backing the principals with their usual elegance and enormous screen presence.

"Topper" is a film that should be "rediscovered" by new audiences, as it shows how great Hollywood could be when it wanted to be original. But above all, "Topper" should be seen for the fantastic Roland Young, who is nothing short of perfection in the film!
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Ghostly Encounters--Act One
Ron Oliver28 June 2004
Cosmo TOPPER has his stuffy, henpecked life turned upside down by the interference of two recently deceased friends.

The folks at Hal Roach Studios fashioned this popular supernatural comedy. Intended to be at the opposite extreme from the typical ghost thriller, there are no sudden chills or eerie ectoplasms here--just lots of good humor and a few (well done) special effects.

Owlish Roland Young plays the bemused recipient of his dead friends' good deeds. No matter how drastically the intentions backfire, leading to arrest & scandal, Young remains a decent chap bent on regaining some equanimity in his life. (What is most impressive about his performance are his hilarious physical contortions when under the invisible influence of the ghosts.) Dear Billie Burke is wonderful, as usual, as Young's slightly bewildered wife, who has relinquished the role of lover to be mother hen to her husband -- hoping her control over him assures their acceptance by high society.

As the Kerbys--living and dead-- Constance Bennett & Cary Grant have plenty of star power & charm to spare and their spirits are certainly blithe, but a frank examination of their characters reveals some flaws. There is nothing funny about alcoholism or reckless driving, both of which contribute to their demise, and they are fortunate they kill only their own silly selves and not anyone else. That being said, they certainly do make a pair of great-looking spooks.

The rest of the cast adds to the fun: Alan Mowbray once again plays a butler with an attitude; young Arthur Lake appears as a hapless hotel employee; elegant Hedda Hopper does well with her single scene as an unstuffy society doyenne; J. Farrell MacDonald plays a no-nonsense cop; and corpulent Eugene Pallette has fun with his role as a suspicious hotel detective.

Composer Hoagy Carmichael appears as himself and Ward Bond plays a taxi driver, both uncredited.

This was the first of a 3-film series and was followed by TOPPER TAKES A TRIP (1939) and TOPPER RETURNS (1941).
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Introducing George and Marion Kirby, ghosts
blanche-225 November 2006
A dead couple is determined to loosen up their friend in "Topper," a 1937 comedy starring Constance Bennett, Cary Grant, Roland Young, and Billie Burke. Cosmo Topper (Young) is a bank president whose wife (Burke) has him on a strict schedule and, though unhappy, Cosmo complies.

When bank stockholders George and Marion Kirby are killed when their car crashes into a tree, the two become worried about what St. Peter will have to say to them. They were, after all, two fun-loving, hard-drinking, partying kooks. They decide they must do a good deed before approaching the pearly gates so they make loosening up Topper their project.

This is a wonderful film that inspired the Leo G. Carroll TV series with real-life marrieds Anne Jeffreys and Robert Sterling as Marion and George. The special effects in the 1937 film are groundbreaking and ingenious. Mores have changed over the years - driving drunk is no longer acceptable. I'm afraid George and Marion would be heartily disapproved of today. Nevertheless, they're a gorgeous, glamorous couple and the real stuff of fantasy. Bennett only has a couple of years of big stardom left and, with his second billing, Cary Grant is still on the ascent. They're both hilariously madcap, Grant blasting into a stockholders' meeting and trying to take notes, and Bennett flirting with poor Topper in her silky voice.

Roland Young is the perfect Topper - henpecked, confused, and a nervous wreck. He's a man dying to break free of his shackles, and he's always envied George and Marion's lifestyle, even though it killed them. His frustration and unhappiness make him sympathetic, and the audience is with him all the way.

Very enjoyable, with some effects that were eye-popping in 1937. Don't miss "Topper." It's a classic.
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Great film that set the standard for all supernatural comedies to follow
robb_77220 April 2006
Influential box office hit finds a couple of free spirited, newly deceased ghosts inspiring a dull banker to live life to the fullest. The simple, straightforward story is given a fresh approach by a witty script and terrific performances from the entire cast - Roland Young is divine in an Oscar-nominated performance in the title role, and Cary Grant and Constance Bennett are terrific as the dearly-departed couple. The film was followed by two sequels, a long-running television series, a made-for-TV remake, and a whole slew of imitators - although none of which ever approached the quality of the original. A delightful good time that remains arguably the best supernatural comedy that Hollywood has ever produced.
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Host To Said Ghosts
bkoganbing7 July 2007
Roland Young's portrayal of stuffy banker Cosmo Topper was so well received that it spawned two sequel films and a television series during the Fifties. It's a great example of that genre that was done best in the Thirties, the screwball comedy.

Cary Grant and Constance Bennett are George and Marion Kerby, a pair of rich dizzy socialites for who life is a non-stop party. Every now and then we have to tend to business, such as Cary showing up for Board of Directors meeting of the bank where Roland Young is president.

One find day while driving at a high speed Cary totals his car and he and Constance wind up ectoplasm. Stuck between this world and the next Connie concludes that a good deed must be done if they're to gain entrance through the pearly gates. Who to bestow this good deed on, but Roland Young.

Though this is now classified as a Cary Grant film, Cary has a lot less to do here than either Bennett or Young. He has his moments, but it's really their show. Though physical consummation is impossible, Bennett and Young run off to a resort hotel for a wild fling. That sets the stage for a lot of physical type comedy which Bennett does well and Young is properly maintaining dignity at all costs.

Billie Burke plays Young's wife who doesn't quite know what to make of her husband's rebellion against their well ordered life. Butler Alan Mowbray is equally nonplussed. However the best performances here among the supporting cast are Eugene Palette as the house detective and Arthur Lake as a bellboy at that resort.

Topper is one of those films that probably could do with a remake. I can see Julia Roberts in Connie Bennett's part and possibly Tom Hanks in the Cary Grant role.

But they'd have to go some to beat this one.
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The MADCAP antic's of one Cosmo P. Topper Stuffy Banker "I Loved It"
alphaspace18 August 2001
Two stock holders in a bank that loved living it up, real posh social folk used to living the life in the fast lane snag the BIG Detour, as their car misses a hairpin turn and crashes killing both of them. They having committed no particularly good or bad deed are in purgatory limbo caught between heaven and, earth thus existing as ghosts here.

They are charged to do one good deed. With that the object on their road to salvation becomes their former banker and friend Cosmo P. Topper. Cosmo a quiet shy hen pecked little man of respect and dignity in social circles that count in his community has a trappy motherly sort of wife who has a funny voice that simply cannot be duplicated in this film.

The ghosts act to make Cosmo Topper a changed man a person more real more free and open which yet he still remained plenty respectable a person given by today's measures of morality given the standards of the world when this film was made. Cosmo is thrust unwillingly into one mad cap adventure after another until the poor dear was numb. He became more free simply because these two ghost unable to give up their wild party lifestyle dragged poor topper with them wherever they went.

That's not to say Topper was a hostage. Oh no far from it Cosmo Topper genuinely enjoyed his new found party life drinking pink ladies, a alcoholic drink swooshing down sliding boards to enter trendy night spots, watching floor shows oh Topper was living it up. Oh yes Topper was a reluctant but willing accomplice in his own undoing. As the party life went on a more and more disturbed Mrs. Cosmo P. Topper grew concerned as she watched her mouse of a grow in self confidence. I could tell you more of the plot but won't get it on VHS or DVD yourself its awesome.

I will say that the music is so totally hot in this movie providing you like big band music. Old Man Moon is Particularly good. The whole movie is sweet. It has a little mystery in it some intrigue but its always light and gay. The movie has what I consider a sweet tearjerker ending that is only really meaningful if you watch the film from beginning to end.

This film was a product of the HAL ROACH studios and, all the trick photography you saw in this film was all done in the camera via technical means. This was a real ground breaking bit of FX technology for its day. You also get to see the actor who played Dagwood Bumstead at a very early age as the elevator dude in this film. Mergatroids the man was still a pup.

I have this one in my collection and I treasure it. I love old movies more than most of the new stuff. This movie is just good clean innocent fun. If you want sex and, naked bodies thrust so close up into your face you can see their skin cells devide this movie is not for you. If ou like a fun movie that makes you laugh at snootty upper crust posh folk of a bygone era then this movie is all that. The time is set in the distant past by todays standards but zanny people never change see this movie for yourself to see why.
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Solid Fantasy Feature With A Fine Cast & Some Good Camera Tricks
Snow Leopard16 June 2005
With a fine cast and some good and occasionally impressive special effect camera tricks, this is a decent fantasy feature. It makes its main gimmick work well, while also telling a light but interesting story about the main characters. The idea of ghosts returning to interact with the living is a simple and familiar idea, but in this movie it works pretty well.

Cary Grant is always entertaining in this kind of role, and Roland Young fit right into the role of "Topper" and made it his own, in this and the sequels. Constance Bennett gives a very lively and engaging performance that also drives much of the action. Billie Burke is well-cast as Topper's wife, and Eugene Palette makes very good use of his scenes as a grouchy hotel detective.

The 'ghost' effects are very good technically for their time, and they are used effectively in the story. There is a lot of variety in the various visual effects, and they show some clever ideas and careful planning. Only a couple of times do the seams show.

The story is kept very simple, probably by design, allowing the cast and the camera effects to carry the load. Although things move a little slowly at times, most of it is entertaining, and as light entertainment it works well.
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Constance, Cary and The Car
ccthemovieman-124 November 2005
Some great sight gags made this a big hit in its day, enough that two sequels were made (although not nearly as good.)

Cary Grant and Constance Bennett certainly are a handsome leading couple but it's Roland Young, as "Cosmo Topper," who steals the show. He's a stiff old man who quickly loosens up and the transformation is fun to watch.

Bennett was a legitimate 1930s glamor girl who looks just great in here and pairs off well with the handsome Grant. The two of them also exhibit a good comedic touch. They had a lot to offer besides good looks. Even more handsome than those two was the automobile - wow, what a great-looking sports car! I''m glad to see other reviewers comment on it. It was awesome.

By the way, I know Hollywood liked to preach in some of these classic films that everyone gets into heaven, but this was "topped" them all. In here, the theology was that "all it takes is ONE good deed" during your lifetime.

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God Bless Their Happy Home
theowinthrop1 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Thorne Smith is one of those novelists who were really popular for a decade or so and then either prematurely died (like Smith) or faded with their popularity. Today he is recalled for the creation of banker Cosmo Topper, and the ghostly couple of George and Marion Kirby, but they are remembered (probably) more for the movies and television series where they appeared, then for the actual novels. I'm not even sure if the original TOPPER or TOPPER TAKES A TRIP or THE NIGHT LIFE OF THE GODS is still in print.

Basically Smith took normal sex and twisted it by adding the supernatural to it - such as the original story to I MARRIED A WITCH. In TOPPER the Kirbys are a fun-loving young couple who are the wealthiest depositors in Topper's bank. George has stock in the bank too, and at the start we see him attend a stockholder's meeting of the Board of Directors. As Topper drones on about banking matters we see George writing down something in front of him. When he gives up at last he explains it is impossible for a person to write his signature backwards and upside down at the same time. The director sitting next to him starts trying to do the same thing, and them remembers why he and the others are still there and throws down his pencil in disgust.

That situation is what is developed in TOPPER. Cosmo (Roland Young - possibly in his signature role, as he repeated it twice afterward) is married to Clara (Billie Burke) and they are a staid, childless couple, whose only other "family member" (to stretch a term) is their butler Wilkins (Alan Mowbray). Cosmo's wife organizes his life around an unbreakable timetable, and Cosmo (although following it) is reaching a midlife crisis.

George and Marion (Cary Grant and Constance Bennett) try to encourage him to experiment with some occasional fun. But they get killed in a car accident, and Cosmo feels that that is the conclusion of their influence. But after an argument with Clara (she feels the Kirbys got what they deserved), Cosmo buys the car they got wrecked in, and takes it for a drive. He gets into a minor accident, and while recovering discovers that the ghosts of the Kirbys are still around - and they are determined to rescue Cosmo from his middle aged rut. It seems that the Kirbys have never helped anybody, and to enter heaven they have to rescue someone.

The comedy of the film follows how the two ghosts get Topper into a series of odd circumstances and adventures, including a visit to night court for causing a public disturbance (Topper punches a cab driver in the nose - the driver is Ward Bond, by the way - and causes a massive fight). As he is reported as being accompanied by a pretty woman (Marion, before she dematerializes), Clara gets upset about the scandal. Subsequently she gets upset that Cosmo is flaunting his infidelities in their home. And then he flees to just get away from it all.

It's a weird tightrope, with Topper trying to enjoy himself with Marion (and hide the fact he is accompanied by a woman who is not his wife), and also avoid a jealous George who is threatening to break his neck. The supporting characters are as good as the four leads, with special notice for Mowbray as a staid, proper butler who finally does break character to push Clara into a more proper frame of mind towards her husband. Also note Arthur Lake as a befuddled elevator operator, and later a hotel bellboy, bedeviled by Topper and "those crazy Kirbys", and the marvelous Eugene Palette as a good hotel detective who just cannot get the goods on Topper and his two friends.

TOPPER was interesting for another reason. It was one of the films that producer Hal Roach Sr. created in the late 1930s in his attempt to expand from just being the producers of Laurel & Hardy, the Little Rascals, and several other comedians in short subjects. It was a great success for him, leading him to produce two sequels, but it helped create the frictions that led to his eventual split with Laurel & Hardy by 1940. As the only non-TOPPER film that he produced of note was ONE MILLION B.C. it looks like Roach made a tactical mistake here, even if the TOPPER films were pretty good ones.
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Ghosts in purgatory try to save souls by corrupting prudish banker.
STD30 July 1998
Hysterical movie, great characters, and watch for ghosts carrying Roland Young through lobby of hotel. Plenty of social commentary -- totally politically incorrect. My all-time favorite comedy.
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Roland Young Is Wonderful
drednm29 August 2005
Constance Bennett and Roland Young as superb in this charming comedy. Cary Grant is in it too. George and Marion get killed in a car wreck but hang around to change the life of stuffy banker, Cosmo Topper.

Nice performances by the stars and some OK 1937 special effects. Not quite a screwball comedy, but things get going toward the end. The film is rather too staid for the first hour.

Billie Burke is fun as are Eugene Palette and Arthur Lake. Alan Mowbray seems miscast. Virgina Sale is good as the secretary but Hedda Hopper is wasted.

I fondly remember the TV series but I imagine it doesn't hold up. This was a huge hit and helped establish Grant as a comedy star, revived Bennett's career, and put Young on the map with an Oscar nomination.
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"Why don't you stop being a mummy for a few minutes and come to life?"
utgard1410 December 2014
A carefree couple (Cary Grant, Constance Bennett) are killed in a car crash. They come back as ghosts to help their bank manager friend, Cosmo Topper (Roland Young), break out of his stuffy little rut and find happiness. I first saw this years ago and I remember being disappointed that Cary Grant isn't really the star of it, Roland Young is. This is probably the role Young is best remembered for, although it's very similar to some of his other roles. Namely that of a meek little man who mumbles and has funny deadpan reactions to things. He's likable and easy to root for. For their parts, Grant and Bennett are a lot of fun. They sing "Old Man Moon" with Hoagy Carmichael in one delightful scene. The supporting cast includes Billie Burke, Alan Mowbray, and a very funny Eugene Palette. The film was a success and led to two sequels and a TV series. It's a light screwball comedy with enjoyable performances and a good script. People expecting it to be a vehicle for Cary Grant might be disappointed but hopefully they'll give it a shot anyway.
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A wonderful movie
richard-178719 February 2014
This is a faultlessly wonderful movie. The chemistry between Grant and Bennett is captivating. But even more captivating is Roland Young as the middle-aged man trapped in a boring life and yearning to be free. It's hard not to envy the Kirbys their wonderful, carefree and madcap life, and to sympathize with Topper and his feeling of having lost his life. So, of course, you root for him - and against the wonderful Billie Burke - in his efforts to recover his freedom and LIVE. Yes, it's not unlike another great comedy, Auntie Mame, the story of the magical woman who frees young Patrick Dennis, and those who will listen, from their routine world of Babcocks.

If you've never seen this movie, treat yourself. Like the Kaufman and Hart classic "You can't take it with you," you will feel better for having watched it.
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SmileysWorld5 September 2013
Warning: Spoilers
This is the film that got the ball rolling for Cary Grant in all of those screwball comedies we loved him for throughout the late 30's and into the 40's.There is typical Cary Grant charm throughout,though the show is nearly stolen from him by Roland Young,who,despite the fact that he plays the title character,is listed as a supporting player rather than star.This story of a recklessly irresponsible rich couple meeting their fate in an auto accident and trying to earn their way to the pearly gates by adding flair to the dull life of another is a charmer worth revisiting again and again.A must see for fans of Cary Grant and the comedy genre.
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Jovial ghosts in pleasant purgatory.
Spikeopath22 March 2008
George & Marion Kerby like to live life to the max, they party hard and pursue the good time with carefree abandon. During one devil may care drive home fuelled with excess, they crash into a tree and are instantly killed, yet strangely their spirits are still on earth, and it would seem they need to achieve something of value before they can hit the big house in the sky. Enter regimental prig Cosmo Topper, a friend and colleague of the Kerby's, and someone who is about to become their pet make over project!

Based on Thorne Smith's novel, The Jovial Ghosts, this is a truly delightful picture, it steams along at a fair old clip, and clocking in at just one and half hours in length, it never outstays it's welcome. It would have been very sad if this had become a one joke movie, I mean just how many ghost gags can you pull off before it gets tiresome? Thankfully the makers of this breezy romp have pulled it all together to consistently tickle the ribs. The spooky effects for 1937 certainly hold up well, for sure they are far from perfect, but with the tone of this particular piece being one of mirth and cheekiness, I find that the effects carry a decidedly uplifting charm.

The film boasts a wonderful turn from Roland Young as Cosmo Topper, as he lurches from one incredulous situation to another, he carries the film with consummate ease. As the Kerby's we get the bright Constance Bennett and the irrepressible comic talent of Cary Grant, with Bennett only bagging the role of Marion when the already cast Jean Harlow sadly passed away a month before the shoot. Grant stepped into the role of George after W.C. Fields vacated it, and we can only guess what sort of picture we would have got with the original cast choices. Yet I simply can't envisage the film being improved upon because Grant & Bennett literally do bounce of each other with cracking results.

From one spooky set up to the next, Topper is a cure for the blues, be it fisticuffs with cops, or turning a hotel inside out, it is quite simply a delicious piece of 30s comedy pie. 8/10
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Classic Screwball needs major re-mastering on DVD to make it sparkle once more
movieman-20030 August 2005
Warning: Spoilers
"Topper" is the supernatural screwball comedy about a pair of fun-loving ghosts who wreak havoc on the conservative life of henpecked banker, Cosmo Topper (Roland Young). Cary Grant and Constance Bennett simply glow as George and Marion Kirby, a couple of devil-may-care free spirits - literally - who accidentally kill themselves by wrapping their car around a tree. Determined to introduce George's boss, Cosmo to the good life, or at the very least, the high life - the two have some spooky good fun in the process. Billie Burke costars as Cosmo's stuffy and hilarious bubble-head wife. The sequel, "Topper Returns" is a much darker film, sans Grant or Bennett and with Joan Blondell tripping the invisible fantastic. Although she's amply cast, she doesn't quite eclipse the memory the original production. Roland Young returns, but is awkwardly fitted into an engaging murder mystery. With its sumptuous Gothic sets and elegant cinematography to compensate, particularly in the surreal and brooding depiction of Blondell's haunting death and ghostly reincarnation, "Topper Returns" is amply entertaining.

THE TRANSFER: "Topper" is much more worse for the wear than "Topper Returns". After years of being a late night television fav', the rights to this classic, produced by Hal Roach at MGM, have fallen into public domain. It would be nice to see Warner Home Video (heirs to the MGM classic library) take a crack at re-acquiring the rights to give film buffs the opportunity to see this classy classic as it was intended. Currently, age related artifacts are more heavy and noticeable on "Topper". Over all, black levels are generally good on both movies. But an incredible amount of edge enhancement is present throughout the transfer, making it unwatchable. The audio is mono for both films. "Topper" suffers from slight hiss and popping but "Topper Returns" is generally more natural sounding on the ears.


BOTTOM LINE: "Topper" is an outstanding Cary Grant comedy with few equals – save "Bringing Up Baby." Perhaps one day we'll see the release of that classic on DVD!
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When is Ectoplasm Wasted?
tedg16 April 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I don't know how many movies have been made around the notion of leaving an "up tight" life and "going with the flow." Perhaps tens of thousands. That's even without counting the few regular character types that are there just so that as a story moves, it can throw mud in the face of some staid person. Usually the target is someone in authority or privileged who clearly doesn't deserve their station. But as often it is someone who should be tortured merely because they are too tightly wound.

I'm not sure why this is so prevalent in films. Obviously, there's a class appeal, and in the thirties that was in the US drawn pretty clearly during the depression. Though the income disparity now is far worse than then, the floor has been lifted by various government programs. Perhaps that's it. For me it remains mostly a mystery. But the fact is that there is a big story, a meme you can trace through many films.

Its at one of its early — and therefore influential — peaks here.

The story is that a rich, completely irresponsible couple die. They cannot be sent either to heaven or hell because although they haven't done anything bad, they haven't done anything good either. They simply haven't done anything in the entire lives that will matter. They have to do a "good deed" before they are released. (They figure this out by themselves.)

Of all the things they choose to do, of all the things that could justify a live of wealth, privilege and carefree pleasure... The one thing they find among all options is to help a staid banker become less staid. Milestones are: getting him to smoke, drink, dance, fight and sing. The key turning point is when his social climbing wife who is obsessed with orderliness is talked into wearing sheer panties "that only a fallen woman would wear."

Its an odd story indeed.

The thing that interested me was the way cinema was exploited. As far as the very beginning, film was used to make people appear and disappear. That's the key gimmick here, part of the joke being that when visible they are very attractive folks. There are several effects used, some rather well. The better ones include the actual fading in and out which has all sorts of image nuance. Less well done are objects that are manipulated by the invisible; these are obviously strings or stop motion. These are little better than in the "Invisible Man" of 4 years earlier.

Jokes that only could exist in film.

Of secondary interest is the girl, Constance Bennet. She's supposed to be incredibly desirable, the ideal sexy blond. She's married to Cary Grant's character and engages in a "Thin Man" inspired banter. The mechanism by which she performs the good deed is to have an affair with the banker. On success, she happily is reunited with Grant who smiles and says "This was our best fight ever!"

An odd framing for the odd story.

Ted's Evaluation -- 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.
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Not quite the screwball comedy classic that I remembered...
Doylenf13 April 2006
Considering that this was made in 1937, the special effects are amazingly well done throughout...and the fact that CARY GRANT is billed beneath CONSTANCE BENNETT in the credits is a reminder that this was made long before Grant emerged as a superstar.

But there's a stale quality to the whole screwball comedy that has ROLAND YOUNG as a henpecked husband of BILLIE BURKE who gets a chance at becoming less stuffy due to the machinations of two friendly spirits who were recently killed in a fancy sports car. That about sums up the plot--and nothing much happens that can be considered memorable--nor is it any kind of morality fable.

Interesting too is to note some of the key players among the supporting cast--Eugene Palette as a bumbling hotel detective, Arthur Lake (who became Dagwood Bumstead) as an equally bumbling hotel porter, Alan Mobray as a butler who sometimes forgets his place in society, and an uncredited Ward Bond who shows up in just about every film made in the '30s.

The art deco sets are very handsome and modern looking, but the whole film has the feel of a late night movie that's been shown too often to have any lasting effect now. As the two spirits, Constance Bennett is just a wee bit too frivolous to be believable as the ultimate playgirl and Cary Grant has little opportunity to be more than a decoy for Roland Young--who, in the title role, manages to steal the film from both of them. As his wife, Billie Burke is her usual fluttery self.
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props and sets
chpdgls79 August 2004
My fascination with this film began with seeing the marvelous set created for the Kerby's apartment, which is full of wonderful curved walls and staircases. At first glance it looked so realistic that I wanted to move in right away! Upon closer examination, I began to notice how it was indeed a movie "set" who's walls are not parallel, but angle outwards from one another at 45 degrees or so.

In the nightclub scene, a beautiful Art Deco lamp is on the table where Cosmo and Marion Kerby are sitting having cocktails. I noticed that this very same lamp also appears in a nightclub scene in 1937's "The Awful Truth", with Cary Grant and Irene Dunne. One can only wonder if this prop was a particular favorite of Mr. Grant's.
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KyleFurr212 September 2005
This movie doesn't seem to be as well known as some of other Cary Grant films and the other screwball comedies in the late 30s. This is from a good comedy director who also directed a Marx brothers and a W.C. Fields film. This was made before Grant was a main star and Constance Bennett has as much screen time as him. Bennett and Grant play a young married couple who are friends with Roland Young, who is Grant's boss at the bank and he is very shy and that is because of his wife, played by Billie Burke. Grant is driving down the road too fast and he and Bennett are killed immediately. They both became ghosts and they can become invisible anytime they want. They decide to help Young and wind up making his life better. It's a pretty good comedy and should be more well known.
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Like a Sitcom
kenjha26 January 2008
Enjoyable fluff about a stuffy banker who loosens up a bit after meeting the freshly-minted ghosts of a couple of fun-loving bank stockholders. Grant and Bennett (in her most notable role) seem to be having fun as the ghostly couple who don't let death cramp their style and Young is perfectly cast in the title role of the banker. Burke, the good witch from "The Wizard of Oz," plays Topper's overbearing wife. The cast also features Palette as a hotel detective and Lake, who would go on to play Dagwood Bumstead in "Blondie" films, as an elevator boy. While the antics of the invisible ghosts lead to some amusing scenes, the film rarely rises above the level of a sitcom.
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Mildly amusing,...but it should have been a lot better
MartinHafer9 October 2006
Considering that this film supposedly starred Cary Grant, I sure was expecting a lot more from the film. That's because during the later 30s and early 40s, he was the best screwball comedy actor--period. These movies such as THE AWFUL TRUTH, BRINGING UP BABY, MY FAVORITE WIFE, ARSENIC AND OLD LACE and HIS GIRL Friday are all classics and I expected TOPPER to be in the same league as these other wonderful films. However, being a HUGE Cary Grant fan, I was very disappointed to see that special effects and Roland Winters as well as Constance Bennett strongly overshadowed his performance--not just because the focus was mostly on them but because they also got a lot more screen time. It's odd, as the movie began with plenty of Grant, but midway through it seemed as if he got sick or went on vacation and they finished the movie by including him only here and there. Now Winters and Bennett were kind of amusing, but using them instead of Grant is sort of like eating Spaghetti-Os instead of Fillet Mignon! Now as for the plot, I am sure that many found it funny. However, I was NOT one of them. After a short time, all the ghost gags and hi-jinx just seemed forced and dopey--sort of like a movie just for kids. Seeing Bennett and Grant as ghosts was funny for a little while (though very contrived) but just wasn't enough to sustain a film. So, overall it's a mildly amusing film and that is really all. Fans of Grant will no doubt feel a little let down.
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Amusing, but Don't Look Beyond the Surface
dougdoepke23 February 2014
A ghostly husband and wife show a stodgy Wall Street banker how to have a good time.

The cast is superb. Bennett deserves to be rediscovered for her expert comedic talents and slinky gowns. Ditto Roland Young, minus the slinky gowns. And while this is early Grant, his sophisticated flair still shines through. So I found myself laughing even when I shouldn't. That's because as an ambulance attendant in my younger days, I don't really find anything funny about drunk drivers, even Grant and Bennett.

In my view, the cast has certainly worn better than the bibulous material. Then too, the effects that may have wowed them back then seem obvious now. Besides, I never could figure out how ghosts become solid bodies for no apparent reason, as they do here. Plus those background process shots through the windshield aren't up to standard. Okay, that last gripe is a kind of carping. Still, there're the bouts of amusement in frivolous Park Avenue showing uptight Wall Street how to loosen up. And if the results don't wear as well as Bringing Up Baby (1938), for example, it's still entertaining to watch an expert cast go through their paces.
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The Frolicking Dead
nycritic13 April 2006
Warning: Spoilers
It lay the groundwork for Tim Burton's 1987 film BEETLEJUICE. The story caused its own controversy back when it was released in 1937 because those concerned thought that the subject matter was too occult-friendly for its own good. The truth of the matter is, TOPPER is a movie as heavy-handed as a feather and a visual feast in the way it blends the effects of the leads -- who are ghosts -- on the physical world.

TOPPER is a screwball comedy from first to last scene. Forget the ghost elements -- it's precisely this that makes it one funny movie to watch. Constance Bennett and Cary Grant play the Kerby's, Marion and George, who are irrepressible and seem to be living in the previous decade's hedonism. After a night of drinking pink ladies like they were water, they race home in his snazzy new car, he misses a turn, and they smash into the embankment.

They emerge from the wreck without a scratch and wonder about their situation. Then it seems that they can see through each other. Of course, neither of them can believe such a thing, but it dawns on them: they're dead. Do they go to Heaven? Not really. Reaching a conclusion that they have to do One More Thing before they're allowed to go back up to meet their Maker they decide to rattle up the life of Cosmo Topper, a stuffed shirt of a man.

Topper, the title character of the movie, at first is horrified that they're dead, but eventually begins to live life at its fullest while his wife mopes around. Here is when the movie really takes off, playing with its special effects with a crackle. Who would have guessed it was made with 1937 technology? Seeing Topper's world go to pot as Marion and George blithely make their presences (pun intended) known to everyone who has eyes and can see is what makes Topper such a fun ride of a movie. It's never mean spirited, or dark like Tim Burton's BEETLEJUICE is, but a great 90-plus minutes well spent in front of the television set.

TOPPER generated two sequels, one with Constance Bennett returning as Marion Kerby (Cary Grant by this time was a top star and only loaned out archive footage of himself from this film) in TOPPER TAKES A TRIP (1939) and TOPPER RETURNS, sans Bennett. It would also generate a television series in the 1950s.
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Don't overthink it, and you'll enjoy this one
gbill-7487729 November 2017
'Topper' is a fun and playful movie which has several things going for it, starting with Cary Grant and Constance Bennett, who play a sophisticated married couple who enjoy staying out all night carousing. They are both delightful. Grant gets a little too reckless behind the wheel of his expensive sports car, and they end up ghosts, but there's no sadness here, and the only difference seems to be that they can now become invisible. They still have appetites (e.g. for alcohol) and can make physical contact with things. Does that make sense? I don't know, but who cares. The film works as a romantic comedy and relationship film, as Grant and Bennett are contrasted by a wealthy banker (Roland Young) who is stifled by his prim wife (Billie Burke), who has him on a tight leash and schedule. She needs to loosen up, and he needs to assert himself, and Grant and Bennett help that along in their own odd ways.

There are solid performances all around, and you'll recognize Burke from her role as Glinda the Good Witch in 'The Wizard of Oz'. The special effects are nice, including seeing Grant and Bennett fade in and out, and float various objects in the air (the tire changing scene is brilliant). It's also nice to see Hoagy Carmichael perform a catchy song, 'Old Man Moon'. Don't overthink it, and you'll enjoy this one.
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