Tonight I've got a great Saturday Night Special for you from 1937 called "Topper!" I can't tell you how much I like this film, but it's a lot! It's just that good!!!
In the 50's, "Topper" was turned into one of my favourite TV series, with real life married couple Anne Jeffreys as Marion Kerby and Robert Sterling as George Kerby, and with the always amazing Leo G. Carroll as Cosmo Topper! Of course on the TV show, you had the added bonus of Neil the ghost St Bernard who died with the Kerbys! How could you not like a big lovable ghost dog?
This original version stars Constance Bennett and Cary Grant as the rich and fun loving couple Marion and George Kerby! As evidenced here as George drives with his feet, the Kerbys are one of the funnest pair of party monsters you're ever going to come in contact with!
George and Marion are out for another one of their nights on the town, and the hi-jinks never stop!
The Kerbys go non-stop from one club to another with each club having a different theme, but the music is the same song over and over just done in a number of different styles! The song in question is titled "Old Man Moon"
and was written by the incomparable Hoagy Carmichael, who among his many accomplishments wrote the haunting "Georgia On My Mind!" Yeah!
Still my favourite is the club where the entrance is a slide! Are there any clubs in the whole world that still utilize this concept, if not, I want to know why!
Hoagy Carmichael himself plays the piano player in the last club the Kerbys go to, and sing their own drunken version of his tune as they close the whole town down!
This is where the story really starts, driving home, the Kerbys have a fatal crash!
But since this is a comedy, it's not a really horrible thing! They come back as fully interactive ghosts, and now the fun just really begins!
The over the top fantastic Kerby car was in reality a one of a kind modified 1936 Buick Roadmaster! In 1939 it was sold to the Gilmore Oil Company, re-modified and re-painted to promote "Red Lion" gasoline! In 2006, it was sold again for $132,000.00!!!
The Kerbys come back to haunt the super straight and severely henpecked Cosmo Topper. They only know Cosmo because he's the President of the bank that the Kerbys are major stockholders in! It seems the Kerbys are in a sort of Purgatory because they've never done any good deeds in their life, so they've chosen Topper as a likely candidate since he's so square! Cosmo Topper is played by Roland Young. His first role was in the 1922 film "Sherlock Holmes" as Dr. Watson! Roland would reprise the Topper role in "Topper Takes A Trip," and "Topper Returns!"
Before he met the Kerbys, Cosmo had never had a drink in his life, but all that is about to change! In case you're wondering, the Kerbys can morph back and forth from ghost to solid, but they can only remain solid for a limited amount of time before it uses up all their ectomorph energy!
Cosmo's wife is beside herself with the embarrassment her husband is bringing to the stoic Topper name! The local socialite ladies have a different opinion and are more than happy to meet the wife of the newest wild man about town! Mrs. Topper was played by Billie Burke! Billie was also Glinda in "The Wizard Of Oz"!
In a wild and sexy scene, a completely nude Marion Kerby takes a shower!
Marion, and now Topper's drink of choice was the once very stylish, but not that popular any more Pink Lady! I think it's time for a revival! The Pink Lady was made of gin, grenadine, and a bit of egg white that gave it a frothy meringue like head! In the 1930's, it was the choice of socialites everywhere! I'll be trying it out some time soon, you can bet on that!
An outstanding reprise of "Old Man Moon" is performed by the vocal quartet "Three Hits and a Miss!"
Before we go, we have to have at least one more look at that beautiful car! It's almost sacrilegious what they did to it later, except for the fin in the back, it's almost unrecognizable today!
Anybody that loves old movies and hasn't seen this classic has a real thrill in store for them. If I was you, I'd go out of my way to find a copy, and it won't be too difficult because there are copies available on Amazon for a couple of bucks, so give yourself a cheap treat, and tell 'em Eegah!! sent you!
Topper is a wonderful film, and I too was raised on and loved the TV series.
Having been a Topper fan all my life, naturally I was appalled to see that you've called Marian Kerby "Miriam" throughout this column. It's Marian Kerby.
Yet I waited until my 50s to read the novel Topper by the great comedy writer Thorne Smith. Don't make my mistake. Read Topper. The movie follows the novel fairly well, except for watering it down. Smith was a very ribald writer, and the novel is a lot bawdier than anything they could film in the 1930s.
This is true for all of Thorne Smith's hilarious books, including Turnabout (Made into a funny movie by Hal Roach that was even more cleaned-up for the movies than Topper was) and the hysterical Nightlife of the Gods. (Which was also filmed but good luck finding a print of it. I've never been able to.)
Topper Takes a Trip was also a Thorne Smith novel first, though the book differs more greatly from the novel than the first movie because they couldn't get Cary Grant back, so George Kerby is written-out of the movie, when he's just as important to the second book as he was to the first.
Topper Returns was an original story for the movies, which is why it's such an unimaginative rehash of every b-movie haunted-house/murder mystery comedy of the 1930s-'40s.
Yeah, I just did that to get your attention! In my defense. according to IMDB, you're not exactly correct either! It's Marion, not Marian! I'll fix it, thanx!
There's sometimes a difference of opinion as to whether it''s Kerby or Kirby, but in the novel, it's Kerby.
That's actually funnier than Hell, because not having read the book I questioned the spelling of Kerby with an e, since I have never seen the name spelled that way before, and it just doesn't look right! Weirdsville!
I actually got out of my chair, crossed the room, and checked how Smith spelt "Kerby" in the novel, which sits on a bookshelf next to other books of his in my home. He spelt it with the "e". I should have checked the spelling on "Marion." (In the new book I have out, Tallyho, Tallulah!, I have a character known as "Darian the Librarian," ala Marion the Librarian in The Music Man. I was so used to typing "Darian" when I wrote the book that I slipped up and spelt "Marion" wrong.)
Read the book. (It's in print.) It's even funnier than the movie.
You know Doug, it just so happens I have been looking for a new book to read, now I have to make the difficult decision whether to buy the copy for a penny or the one for 199 dollars that is available on Amazon!! Thanx for the recommendation! I'm ordering it right now!
Well, not to put too fine a point on it, if you're looking for a book to read, my new one is pretty damn funny also. It's considerably less than $199, though more than a penny.
That's not a bad idea Doug, I do enjoy your writing, so I'll have to pick me up a copy! Lord knows I could use a laugh or two!
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