Oct 111938
 
2.5 reels

The good deed performed by the recently deceased George and Marion (Constance Bennett) Kerby in the previous¬† Topper movie, is being undone.¬† Conniving Mrs. Parkhurst (Verree Teasdale) has convinced Mrs. Topper (Billie Burke) to divorce her husband Cosmo (Roland Young), because he checked into a hotel with a women (and explaining that it was the ghost of Marion Kerby isn’t helping).¬† So Marion has returned to Earth in ghostly form, minus her husband but now with a dog (Asta), to set things right.¬† With Mrs. Topper in France where divorces are easier to get, Cosmo and Marion travel together to win her back, and stop Mr. Parkhurst (Franklin Pangborn), a corrupt hotel manager, and a fake Baron (Alexander D’Arcy) who are after Topper’s money.

Topper, the 1937 comedy ghost story, benefited from a near perfect cast, amusing and engaging characters, and invisibility gags that were fairly new to cinema. It is a classic screwball comedy that has been copied many times. This is the first copy.

The opening credits for Topper Takes a Trip contain a thank you to Cary Grant for allowing footage from its predecessor to be used.¬†Was that part of Grant’s contract or just a way to get his name on the screen?¬†Certainly his absence leaves a hole in the film.¬†Luckily, the rest of the cast returns which, is primarily responsible for the movie being worth your time.

Roland Young, who plays the much abused title character, is an amazing physical comedian, spending much of the movie dancing, fighting, and holding conversations with thin air.¬†A short man who gave the impression of being round although he wasn’t overweight, Young could express confused bemusement no matter what he was doing and equally, could be funny no matter the circumstances.¬†He never had a better role than Cosmo Topper (although he was in a better picture, playing Uncle Willie in the classic The Philadelphia Story).¬†Billie Burke (Glinda, the Good Witch in The Wizard of Oz) is once again the flighty, shallow, Mrs. Topper.¬†With her and Young together, it would be nearly impossible to make a film that wasn’t at least watchable.¬†Constance Bennett doesn’t have the personality of the others, and without Grant, is positively anemic, but she is adequate if over shadowed.¬†And I would be derelict not to mention Asta, a wire-hair terrier that became famous in the Thin Man movies staring William Powell and Myrna Loy.¬†Few animals have been as popular, and for good reason.¬† He has the indefinable quality that makes some animals more fun to watch than others.

Unfortunately, the script has little for these comedians (and the dog) to do.¬†It starts with an eight minute recap of the first film, and then settles into a stream of slapstick gags and no-longer-impressive special effects jokes.¬†Yes, glasses float, but it isn’t enough to base a film around.¬†Most of the better material is retreads of bits from Topper.¬†This is like taking a group of Olympic athletes and putting them on a junior high football team.

While Topper Takes a Trip is based on Thorne Smith’s novel of the same name, there isn’t much of Smith’s work on screen.¬†The novel brought back not only Marion’s ghost, but George’s as well. Losing a major character is a rather large change.¬†I sympathize with the producers.¬†You can’t replace Carry Grant, but perhaps they should have tried, or given up on the project and put the actors together in something new.

Oh well.¬†There’s still a ghost (two if you count the dog), and some great character actors.¬†If you are a fan of silver screen comedies, Topper Takes a Trip is a fine way to wile away a Saturday afternoon.