The pre-Oscar TCM movie festival continues so I decided to re-watch Topper. This is without a doubt one of the goofiest screwball comedies of the 1930s. Cary Grant and Constance Bennett are George and Marion Kirby, a young married couple. They’re rich and they live a wild life. They stay up all night dancing and drinking and driving around in a crazy fin-backed whale of a roadster. Their banker is a middle-aged mouse of a man named Cosmo Topper. Topper has a proper wife who wants Topper to get up at 8am and go to bed by 11pm and have lamb on Sunday and steak on Tuesday and boiled vegetables on Wednesday. She expects him to be the respectable banker so she can be part of high society.
When George and Marion show up at Topper’s bank one morning for a business meeting you can tell that all three of them think that Topper’s life is not much fun compared to the Kirbys. Driving back from the meeting George is characteristically driving like a madman around some hairpin turns when he gets something in his eye and crashes them. Staggering out of the wreck George and Marion gather their senses and realize that they have died in the crash and are now ghosts. Taking stock of the situation they realize they don’t have any good deeds on their records to allow them to expect admission through the pearly gates. The scene dissolves with the ghosts themselves dissolving into invisibility.
In the next scene Topper is at home with the missus. We witness the boredom of his respectable existence. At this point a mechanic shows up with the Kirby’s repaired sports car. Both the mechanic and Mrs. Kirby remark on how mismatched this car would be for Topper. His pride is stung and he takes off with the car. The car gets the better of him and he crashes it at the same spot that the Kirbys crashed. The Kirbys make their presence known and Topper eventually gets over his fright. The rest of the film is the tale of the Kirbys trying to humanize Topper and make his life happier. This is the good deed that they hope will get them into heaven.
With a plot this frothy everything depends on the characterizations of the stars. Cary Grant and Constance Bennett are at their witty best bantering together while teaching Topper to be a man and not a mouse. Roland Young brings his characteristic upper-class Englishman’s mumbling confused manner to his portrayal of Cosmo Topper and Billie Burke as Mrs. Topper is the outraged prim and proper wife who needs to learn that a husband still needs to be a man. An uncredited part has Hoagy Carmichael playing the piano and singing for the happy couple. All in all, I’d say this is a goofy comedy that from my point of view provides good entertainment. The story sails along and even the minor characters are well done and add to the fun of the story.
I give this movie 4 out of 5 stars.