TOPPER - a classic sit-com from the 1950s

TOPPER

TV Series: 1953

Genre: Comedy, Fantasy

Black & White / 30 minutes

Directed by: Leslie Goodwins, James V. Kern, and more.

Written by: Stanley Davis and Donn Mullally.

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Main Characters:

Leo G. Carroll as Cosmo Topper, the hosts to the ghosts.

Anne Jeffreys as Marion Kerby, the ghostess with the mostest.

Robert Sterling as George Kerby, the most gentlemanly ghost around.

topper

Overview:

"Topper" is a classic 1950's black and white comedy that features Leo G. Carrol as the lead, Cosmo Topper. Playing the role of a courteously proper, albeit sometimes stuffy and uptight banker, Topper and his wife Henrietta, played by Lee Patrick, move into a lovely new estate where, all of a sudden the two are joined by company; dead company. Allegedly the former residents, Marion (Anne Jeffreys) and George Kerby (Robert Sterling) died tragically young one night in an automobile accident, along with their beloved martini sipping St. Bernard, Neil. Unprepared to leave their earthly delights of the tangible world Marion and George decide to linger around their former stomping ground, frolicking in the gaeties of surprising the unsuspecting Toppers. However, there is a catch; only Cosmo Topper, save for the audience and the narrator, can hear or see his ghostly colleagues.

As a comedy most of the humor in the show comes from the fast dialogue that exploits the use of pun and cliche. However, as familiar as the pat phrases may seem, the delivery, particularly by Robert Sterling, is fresh and always funny. So too is Anne Jeffreys a refreshing delight as the exuberant, albeit over-helpful, one might say meddling, in Topper's affairs in good earnest. Though Lee Patrick plays the conservative wife successfully, at times either her character, or her delivery comes off as almost too desperate, too whiny, and, in effect, I most often found her to be the most disagreeable of the quartet of main characters. Another character adding to the comedic aura of the series if the maid, Katie, played by Kathleen Freeman, whose role as the unknowing yet suspicious housekeeper provokes many of Topper's trite, comedic, albeit ridiculous excuses to account for the supernatural phenomena blatantly pervading the house.

Among some of the best episodes in the series are 'Redecorating'; a funny stint on how Mr. Topper, with the help of Marian and George Kirby of course, avenge Mrs. Topper's injustice after she gets scammed by a modern interior decorator, 'George's Old Flame'; in which one of Topper's clients contrives a way to trick her aunt into acquiescing her marriage to a famous movie star by the name of John Hartford. Of course as comedy would have it, John Hartford was the icon of Marion Kerby's youthful lust just as, coincidentally, Topper's client, Ellen Baskerville, was a former fling of Georges. As petty marital rivalry provokes a mayhem of ghostly interference during a very important dinner, Topper does his best to contrive logical explanations for the illogical phenomena occurring. Meanwhile a depressed Niel, the martini sipping St. Bernard, has taken to closet drinking and exploited the supply of canned beer while his mom and dad go at it like rivaling siblings. Another classic episode is 'Proposal'; feeling lackluster and in need of some attention, Marian Kirby does her best to catch George's eye so as to feel appreciated. But when she begins to think that George's love may be waning she finds a way out; "'til death do us part'. Realizing that their status as ghosts terminates the marital clause Marian insists that she and George separated and, pending his desire to court her again, and of course, propose. As George stumbles through the mechanical process of courting tension mounts as Marian eagerly awaits, and George dreads... the proposal.

"Topper" is a witty comedic series that reflects the temperaments of both British and American humor; the former particularly personified in Cosmo and Henrietta Topper. A marvelous extended adaptation of the 1937 film starring Cary Grant as George Kerby, "Topper" is a refreshing, comedic flavor of the great television series of old. With witty word play, great chemistry between Jeffreys and Sterling as husband and wife, a solid and consistently entertaining performance by Leo G. Carrol, "Topper" promises to entertain sitcom lovers of old and modern audiences alike. In recognition of its respectable status "Topper" was nominated for an Emmy in 1954 for Best Situation Comedy.

Awards:

Nominated for a 1954 Emmy for Best Situation Comedy Series.

Minor Characters and Credited Cast:

Lee Patrick plays Henrietta Topper, the non-believing wife.
Buck plays Neil, the ghost dog with a penchant for Martinis.
Thurston Hall plays Mr. Schuyler, Topper's grumbling boss.
Kathleen Freeman plays Katie (1953-1954), the curious housemaid.
Edna Skinner as Maddie (1954-1955)

Regular Guests:

Nolan Leary as Satcherell/Quimby
Mary Field as Thelma Gibney
Lillian Bronson as Miss Erskins

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