AFI Catalog of Feature Films
Movie Detail
Name Occurs Before Title Offscreen Credit Print Viewed By AFI
Topper
Director: Norman Z. McLeod (Dir)
Release Date:   16 Jul 1937
Production Date:   late Mar--late May 1937
Duration (in mins):   95 or 97-98
Duration (in reels):   10
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Cast:   Constance Bennett (Marion Kerby)  
    Cary Grant (George Kerby)  
    Roland Young (Mr. [Cosmo] Topper)  
    Billie Burke (Mrs. [Clara] Topper)  
    Alan Mowbray (Wilkins)  
    Eugene Pallette (Casey)  
    Arthur Lake (Elevator boy)  
    Hedda Hopper (Mrs. [Grace] Stuyvesant)  
    Virginia Sale (Miss Johnson)  
    Theodore von Eltz (Hotel manager)  
    J. Farrell McDonald (Policeman)  
    Elaine Shepard (Secretary)  
    Doodles Weaver (Rustic)  
    Si Jenks (Rustic)  
    Three Hits and a Miss (Themselves)  
    Hoagy Carmichael (Piano player at The Rainbow Room)  
    Irving Bacon (Desk clerk)  
    Ward Bond (Cab driver)  
    Syd Saylor (Man who delivers the Kerby's car)  
    Grace Hayle (Woman on stairway)  

Summary: Middle-aged New York banker Cosmo Topper's wife Clara insists that they live a staid, well-ordered existence, the complete antithesis of bank owners George and Marion Kerby, who live for fun and excitement. After a board of directors meeting, the Kerbys try to convince Topper to stop doing what his wife says and "live." On the drive back to their country home, just after Marion says that she wants to do a good deed and make Topper over, George loses control of their speeding car and they crash. Though they feel all right, George and Marian quickly realize that they are transparent and, in fact, died in the crash. Some time later, as Topper mulls over the Kerbys' fate, he receives delivery of their newly repaired car and takes it for a drive after the mechanic says that he is not the type for the car and Clara forbids him to buy it. Speeding along, Topper swerves off the road in the very spot where the Kerbys died. Although initially shocked to see the Kerbys' partially "de-materialized" spirits, Topper soon becomes interested in Marion's ideas to make him a new man. The Kerbys then take Topper to their New York apartment, where he dances, then passes out from drinking. Deciding that Topper needs a Bromo Seltzer, George and Marion de-materialize and help the reeling Topper to their car, then cause a near riot when some chauffeurs get into an altercation with the stupified Topper. A policeman stops the commotion and takes Topper off to court where he is charged with drunken and disorderly conduct. Reporters recognize his name, and news of the incident hits the papers. The next day, Clara is more hurt than angry, and is certain that her dream of socializing with the prominent Mrs. Grace Stuyvesant is now impossible. To her shock, however, Mrs. Stuyvesant is dying to meet Clara's now notorious husband and invites them to a party. At the bank, Topper's employees look at him with new respect, and Marion appears to get him to take her for a soda. Instead she stops to shop at a lingerie store that is disrupted by a pair of apparently flying lace underpants. Topper stuffs them in his pocket then accidentally drops them in front of Clara back home. When she accuses him of infidelity, Topper packs a bag and drives off. Marion then appears in the car and suggests that they check into the Seabreeze hotel and have some fun. Meanwhile, George materializes and looks for Marion at the Topper home, where he tells Clara that she forced Topper away. Back at the hotel, Marion's constant appearing and disappearing gets Topper into trouble with house detective Casey. When George arrives, the situation worsens until Topper finally begs to leave. On the way home, George suddenly speeds up the car and says he can't stop, and the care crashes at the same spot again. Topper's shade appears, but he is not dead, only unconscious. He says that he would rather be with George and Marion than back home, but they convince him not to spoil their good deed. Topper awakens in his own bed and Clara goes to him, wearing the lace underpants. Knowing that Topper will now be all right, George and Marion say goodbye, as Clara and Topper embrace. 

Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp. (Loew's, Inc.)
  Hal Roach Studios, Inc.  
Distribution Company: Loew's Inc.  
Director: Norman Z. McLeod (Dir)
Producer: Hal Roach (Pres)
  Milton H. Bren (Assoc prod)
Writer: Jack Jevne (Scr)
  Eric Hatch (Scr)
  Eddie Moran (Scr)
  Thorne Smith (Orig story)
Photography: Norbert Brodine (Photog)
Art Direction: Arthur I. Royce (Art dir)
Film Editor: William Terhune (Film ed)
Set Decoration: W. L. Stevens (Set dec)
  A. I. Royce (Set dec)
  Alex de Sakhnoffsky (Spec sets)
Costumes: Samuel M. Lange (Gowns)
Music: Marvin Hatley (Mus dir)
  Arthur Morton (Mus arr)
Sound: William Randall (Sd)
  Elmer Raguse (Sd dir)
Special Effects: Roy Seawright (Photog eff)
Country: United States
Series: Topper

Songs: "Old Man Moon," music and lyrics by Hoagy Carmichael.
Composer: Hoagy Carmichael
Source Text: Based on the novel Topper by Thorne Smith (New York, 1926).
Authors: Thorne Smith

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number Passed By NBR:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Distributing Corp. 14/7/1937 dd/mm/yyyy LP7315 Yes

PCA NO: 3272
Physical Properties: Sd: Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording
  b&w:

 
Genre: Comedy
  Fantasy
  Comedy
 
Subjects (Major): Automobile accidents
  Bankers
  Ghosts
  Good Samaritans
  New York City
  Transformation
 
Subjects (Minor): Hotel bellmen
  Butlers
  Drunkenness
  Elevator operators
  Hotels
  Jealousy
  Lingerie
  Prudes
  Social climbers

Note: A LAT article just prior to the film's production noted that the film's proposed budget was $500,000. Scenes set at the entrance to the Seabreeze Hotel were shot at the exterior entrance to the Bullocks Wilshire department store on Wilshire Blvd. in Los Angeles. A HR news item noted that actress Claire Windsor was to appear in the film, her first in more than three years, but her appearance in the completed film has not been confirmed. A production still for the film included actress Natalie Moorhead in the film, but she was not in the viewed print and her role may have been cut from the released film. Roland Young received a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for his performance in the picture. The film was also nominated for an Oscar in the sound recording category.
       According to a news item in HR on 15 May 1985, Topper , originally shot in black and white, was the first film to be fully "colorized." The colorized version, made for television and video release, was produced by Hal Roach Studios Film Classics and Colorization, Inc. Two sequels were made to Topper : Topper Takes a Trip in 1939, also directed by Norman Z. McLeod and starring Constance Bennett, Roland Young and Billie Burke, and Topper Returns in 1941, directed by Roy Del Ruth and starring Young, Burke and Joan Blondell. A television series based on the Thorne Smith characters was shown on the CBS network from 1953 through 1956. The series starred Anne Jeffries and Robert Sterling as "George" and "Marion," Leo G. Carroll as "Topper" and Lee Patrick as "Mrs. Topper." A Topper television movie, made in 1979, was shown on the ABC network, starring Kate Jackson and Andrew Stevens. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   17 Jul 1937.   
Daily Variety   8 Jul 37   p. 3.
Film Daily   12 Jul 37   p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter   15 Mar 37   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   20 Mar 38   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   23 Mar 37   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   29 Mar 37   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   24 May 37   p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter   8 Jul 37   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   18 May 85   p. 3.
Los Angeles Times   19 Nov 1936.   
Los Angeles Examiner   18 Mar 1937.   
Motion Picture Daily   9 Jul 37   p. 2.
Motion Picture Herald   26 Jun 37   p. 83.
Motion Picture Herald   17 Jul 37   , 13713
MPSI   Jul 37   p. 46.
New York Times   20 Aug 37   p. 21.
Variety   14 Jul 37   p. 20.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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