Movie Mirrors Index

Topper

(1937 b 97’)

En: 7 Ed: 6

Based on Thorne Smith’s novel, a rich young couple are killed in a car accident and as ghosts decide to help a conservative banker loosen up.

         On a country road George Kerby (Cary Grant) is sitting on the back of the seat and steering with his feet while his wife Marion Kerby (Constance Bennett) lays back in her seat. He is singing, and she asks where they are going. He says they are going to a board meeting at ten in the morning. He sits down and drives normally, and they arrive in front of the Rainbow Club. He climbs out and opens the door for her.

         Inside they sit at a table. An orchestra plays, and people dance. They drink and dance. They each go down a slide. Later Hoagy Carmichael plays piano, and the three sing his “Old Man Moon.” A waiter tries to stop them by telling them he is tired. George and Marion sing as they dance out and get in the car.

         George parks the car in front of a bank. He says it is Topper’s bank, closes his eyes, and says goodnight. A policeman tells them they can’t sleep there. George says they are waiting for the annual meeting of the board of directors. Marion hands the cop a bottle, and he breaks it.

         Cosmo Topper (Roland Young) is taking a shower, and his butler Wilkins (Alan Mowbray) brings him a robe. Dressed, Cosmo kisses his wife Clara Topper (Billie Burke) at the breakfast table and sits down to eat. They converse, and she criticizes how he behaved. Wilkins says it is 8:42 and hands Cosmo his briefcase, hat, and cane. Cosmo goes out and gets in the back of his car.

         George and Marion are sleeping in their car as people walk by. Cosmo cannot see them and goes in the bank. He says good morning and sits down at his desk. His secretary tells him he is growing younger every year. She says all the directors are waiting in the board room except Mr. Kerby. Cosmo says they may need a detective to find him again like last year.

         Outside George wakes up, looks at his watch, and goes inside. In the board room he comes in as they are beginning and sits at the end of the table. Cosmo says Kerby is their largest stockholder and asks for his approval. He reads a financial report.

         In the car Marion wakes up, sees the people, and goes inside to an office.

         George hums as Cosmo reads the report. George says he cannot write his name upside and backwards without stopping. Cosmo moves to adjourn the meeting, and others agree. Cosmo goes back to his office and finds Marion laying on his couch. She gets up and tells Cosmo that she and George are fond of him. She sits in his swivel chair and puts her feet on his desk. She asks him to come to life. George comes in, and Cosmo sits in his chair. George looks in drawers and asks Cosmo where he keeps his bottle. Cosmo says there is none, and George leaves with Marion, telling Topper not to let them make a guinea pig out of him. The secretary hands Kerby’s handkerchief to Cosmo, who starts to dictate and says it reminds him of his Easter egg.

         George is driving fast in the country. He and Marion talk about boring Topper. He accelerates, and she tells him to slow down. He says something is in his eye. On a curve the car breaks through a fence and overturns. The ghosts of George and Marion and get up and talk about the curve and the car. She says he is transparent, and he says he can see through her too. He points at their bodies, and she says they must be dead. They do not feel any different. He says they will hear trumpets and then leave. She puts her head on his shoulder. He asks what they should do. He says they will tell someone their good deeds. She asks him what good deeds, but neither can think of any. She says it is too late now. He says they are stuck. She suggests they could do a good deed now.

         At home Cosmo asks Clara why they have to have lamb. She says he is moody and asks what is wrong. He says since the Kerby tragedy, he has been thinking. He says they were full of life and feels sorry for them. Clara says Marion did not think. Wilkins tells Cosmo a man is outside, and he goes out.

         In front a man shows Cosmo the refurbished Kerby car. Cosmo says he never wanted a car like that but considers it. He gets in and toots the horn. Clara comes out and calls it horrible. Cosmo says he is thinking of buying it. It might be fun to drive his own car. He says they could drive up to a boathouse. She is aghast and goes back in. Cosmo starts the car and drives off. He drives wildly and pulls off the road to avoid cars. A tire blows out, and he goes off the road at the same curve where the Kerbys died. He sits on the log and hears George’s voice tell him to get off his wife’s lap. Cosmo asks who said that and asks who they are. Marion says he does not know them. George introduces her. He realizes who they are and suddenly can see them. He faints, and George revives him. Cosmo touches them and says it cannot be. Cosmo says Mrs. Topper does not like the car. George says he is complaining. Marion suggests that George change the tire. He says he will but will not waste ectoplasm doing it. She explains they have limited ectoplasm to be seen. She and Cosmo watch while the invisible George changes the tire. She asks Cosmo why he bought their car. He says he was mad. She asks if he minds if she saves her energy and disappears. He asks her to make a noise so he can talk to her. Cosmo tells the story of his drive, and two men watch him. He sees them and says he is explaining something to his friend. The two men watch the tire being changed and run off. George and Marion persuade Cosmo to get in the car to go with them. Cosmo gets in the car which drives off.

A husband sees no one is driving the car and stops his. Cosmo says he will drive, and George lets him. George says they are going to his penthouse.

         Cosmo gets out of an elevator and tells the operator not to push him. Cosmo is bothered he cannot see them, and George appears. They go in the penthouse, and George gets two bottles and two glasses. He pours champagne, and they drink. Cosmo says if his wife came in, he would have to speak to her sharply to prevent a row. George asks if he beats her, and Cosmo says no. Cosmo asks George if he feels like dancing and singing. George tells him to relax. Cosmo asks permission to dance and dances around and sits down again. They hear Marion, and Cosmo sees her on top of the bookcase. George tells her to come down. Cosmo catches her, and they roll on the floor. Cosmo dances with her. George says he is stealing his wife. She tells George she is completing their experiment. Cosmo passes out on the floor in fetal position. Marion says his soul is crying out for self-expression. George says he will change his clothes and tells her to get him a bromo. George comes back in a suit and lifts up Cosmo. They help him walk out the door, but he tends to collapse. They disappear, and Cosmo staggers into the elevator.

         On the main floor Cosmo walks like a puppet on strings. The elevator man runs after him, and his boss fires him.

         Cosmo walks on the street and opens the car door. Drivers comment, and he slurs his words. They start fighting him. George, Marion, and Cosmo manage to get in the car. A policeman arrives and sees only Cosmo in the car. People say there were two others, but they are gone. Cosmo says he wants to sing.

         Police take Cosmo into a court of law. A judge says he is charged with being drunk and disorderly. Cosmo has his clothes straightened and his hair combed. He says he wants to plead guilty. The judge says he will fine him $100, and George says that is outrageous. Cosmo leaves the courtroom.

         At home Clara sees a picture of Cosmo coming out of court on the front page. Wilkins tells Cosmo that she read about him. Cosmo kisses his wife good morning at the breakfast table and says he is late. She shows him the newspapers. She says she has been a good wife to him. She says they no longer will have any friends, and she is afraid the Stuyvesants will never ask them to their big party now. He realizes she always wanted that. He goes out, and she cries.

         Mrs. Stuyvesant (Hedda Hopper) tells Wilkins who she is and is let in. He tells Clara who is surprised. Mrs. Stuyvesant invites Mrs. Topper and her husband to her party after reading about his “delightful escapade.” Two other ladies come in and introduce themselves to Mrs. Topper.

         Cosmo walks into the bank, and several people say good morning. He goes into his office where his secretary has put on lipstick. He wonders why everyone wants to be his friend. He dictates a letter about a proposition. His hat floats on to his head, and his secretary is aghast. Cosmo tells her to take the day off, and she leaves. He tells George that he wins. Marion appears and asks him for a soda. She says she is lonely. She likes him and kisses him on the cheek. He tells her not to do that again. She persuades him to leave with her and disappears so that he won’t be embarrassed. As he walks through the bank, papers are scattered in the air.

         Cosmo drives the car and hears Marion tell him to stop there. She informs him he has lip rouge on his cheek. Cosmo goes into a store where Marion is being a nuisance. He comes out and says he saw nothing unusual. He gets in the car and drives off.

         Cosmo enters his house, and Clara calls to him. She asks why he is home at this time. He says he ran away. He asks her to forget about what the newspaper said. He says he is an old faithful dog. She gets upset at the clothes he bought for her. She goes in her room and cries, telling him to go away. Wilkins helps him pack a bag. Cosmo says he is going away.

         Cosmo in the car tells  Wilkins he does not know where he is going. He drives off. Inside Wilkins tells Clara that Cosmo has gone. She cries and says he left her. Wilkins says he will come back to see if she missed him. She says she could never hold him. She says Cosmo is mad about another woman who wears such things.

         While Cosmo is driving, Marion appears next to him eating an ice cream cone. She suggests they go to a hotel. He says he is a married man. He pulls up in front of the hotel and tells her he is angry. He hands his bag to the bellboy (Arthur Lake), who says he cost him his last job. Casey (Eugene Palette) tells the bellboy there is something funny about that guy, and he will take charge of it.

         Inside Cosmo signs in at the desk. He and Casey see a pen write. The bellboy takes him to 314, and Cosmo tips him. In the hall Casey asks the bellboy what is wrong with him. The bellboy says he is going nuts. Casey listens at the door.

         In the room Cosmo hears the shower running and talks to Marion. She says she ordered cocktails. He asks if she is dressed and wants to see her. She says she is dressed and appears.

         George asks Wilkins if Topper is home and walks in. Clara asks what is wrong. George asks her where her husband is. George says he is looking for his wife and suspects they are together. He tells her she should go out dancing with him sometime. She says it is too late now and cries. George walks off, and Wilkins sees him disappear. He asks Clara for an aspirin.

         The bellboy knocks, and Marion says come in. Cosmo warns her and tells him to come in. He leaves the tray of drinks, and Cosmo tells him to get out. In the hall Casey questions him, and the bellboy says he is goofy. Casey tells him to get the manager. The manager arrives, and Casey says he has a woman in there who is not registered. The manager demands that he open the door.

         Marion disappears, and Cosmo lets them in. The manager asks the lady to leave, and Cosmo asks what lady. Casey says they heard her, but she is gone. The manager calls Casey a fool and apologizes to Cosmo. The three go out, and in the hall they hear a couple laughing. Marion and Cosmo leave the room, and he suggests they pretend they are not together.

         Marion and Cosmo enter the dining area and sit at a table. She orders pink ladies. On stage three men and a woman sing “Old Man Moon.” Cosmo and Marion dance. George picks up Cosmo and tells Marion he wants to talk to her. She asks him about Westchester and offers him a pink lady. Casey asks what is wrong and confronts George. Then he notices that Marion is gone. Then he asks where George is. People react, and he is blamed for a table being moved. George tells Topper to go home to his wife. The bellboy tells Casey that he quit. Cosmo hears George telling him to sit down. He gets up, and the chair follows him. A fur flies, and a woman calls Cosmo a witch. Casey tells Cosmo that the manager wants to see him.

         Marion tells George she wants to make up and kisses him. George tells her to put Cosmo’s bag in the car. She agrees and goes. A policeman questions Casey and the manager as unusual things happen. Six policemen walk across the room, but George is above them on a lamp. They go behind the desk and grab Casey. A bellboy says the car drove away with no one driving.

         The car is going fast, and Cosmo says to slow down. The car crashes again in the same place. Marion tells George they are there again. Cosmo sees them, and George says he is too solid to be in their club. They try to persuade Cosmo to go back. They hear a siren, and Cosmo lays down.

         Cosmo wakes up in a bed. A nurse tells him he had an accident, but he is safe at home. He wants to talk to Marion, and she asks who she is. He says he saw her in the ethers. The nurse tells Clara that Cosmo is fine. Wilkins whispers to her.

         George is walking on the roof and tells Marion he is practicing to be an angel. She mocks him, and he says he is her angel. They kiss. He hopes that Mrs. Topper does not gum up their good deed.

         Clara goes in and tells Cosmo he is the sweetest husband. She shows her new clothes, and he says he understands. He wonders if she knew everything. She does not want to understand but just love him. Cosmo sees George and Marion hanging down from the roof. They say they will not be seeing him anymore. Cosmo tells Clara to love him and never question. Wilkins looks in and says, “Bless our happy home.”

         This fantasy shows how souls live on outside the body and may appear to some people. The dead couple loves fun, and they help a rather staid couple come more alive. The fantasy is that the ghosts are able to move physical things and be heard physically by others, and this becomes farcical.

Copyright © 2010 by Sanderson Beck

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