Classic Woman-Centric Movie Review: “Topper”

Happy Friday, Persephoneers! It’s been a long week for me, and let’s cut to the chase and get a good movie going. Since we’re getting close to October, I wanted to do something that’s good for Halloween but not too scary. This can only mean a comedic ghost film, so this week I decided to do Topper, which was made in 1937 and directed by Hal Roach, and stars Cary Grant, Constance Bennett, Roland Young, and Billie Burke.

Topper movie poster
Poster from the movie.

George and Marion Kerby (Grant and Bennett) are a freewheeling, fun-loving, wealthy couple. They are quite the contradiction to their Wall Street banker Cosmo Topper (Young), who feels trapped in his rather mundane job and in a marriage in which his wife, Clara (Burke), seems only dedicated to social climbing and keeping up with the Joneses. After a brief visit to see their friend at the bank, the Kerbys climb into their flashy sports car for a night of drinking and nightclubbing. Unfortunately, they make the mistake of drinking and driving, and George loses control of the car, resulting in an accident that kills them both. But they don’t end up in the afterlife; instead, they remain earthbound as ghosts and can’t progress to heaven until they do one good deed. For them, it’s simple: they decide to show their old friend Topper what it’s like to have a good time and break him out of his ho-hum rut.

Topper buys the Kerbys’ sports car at auction on a whim, and when he discovers that their ghosts are bound to the car, it’s only the beginning of a series of scandalous adventures that culminates in Cosmo’s arrest and the near break-up of his marriage.

The Kerby's sit on either side of Topper, who looks a bit disturbed to be talking to ghosts
A still from the film.

Topper was a favorite when my sisters and I were growing up. It was just so funny, more along the lines of a screwball comedy. But really, it’s all about struggle to maintain a good balance between work and life and getting a little bit of fun in while doing it. While it’s important to be dedicated to adulating like Topper is, it’s also okay to have a life outside of work and to let loose once in awhile. Topper and the Kerbys, though, present the two extremes of all work and no play and all play and no work, and you can see how their attitudes change a little bit during their adventures with each other.

So for something light and slightly Halloween-y, you’ll like this one, because sometimes straight horror is just a little too much.


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