Topper (TV series)
Cover of Alpha Video's DVD of the Topper TV series
|Written by||Thorne Smith (original novel)
Robert Riley Crutcher
|Directed by||Richard L. Bare
James V. Kern
Leslie H. Martinson
|Starring||Leo G. Carroll
|Theme music composer||Roy Ingraham
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||2|
|No. of episodes||78|
|Producer(s)||John W. Loveton
|Location(s)||Hal Roach Studios, Culver City, Calif.|
William P. Whitley
|Running time||24 minutes|
|Original run||October 9, 1953– July 15, 1955|
Topper is an American fantasy sitcom based on the 1937 film of the same name, itself based on the novels by Thorne Smith. The series was broadcast on CBS from October 9, 1953 to July 15, 1955, and stars Leo G. Carroll in the title role. It finished at #24 in the Nielsen ratings for the 1954-1955 season. Topper also earned an Emmy nomination for Best Situation Comedy in 1954.
Sophisticated but stuffy Cosmo Topper (Carroll) is the vice president of a bank, married to sweet (but rather clueless) Henrietta (Lee Patrick). They live in a Los Angeles house they bought from the estate of a young couple, George and Marion Kerby (real life husband and wife Robert Sterling and Anne Jeffreys), who died after being swept away by an avalanche. A St. Bernard, Neil, who attempted to rescue them also died with them. Topper discovers his new home is haunted by the former occupants as well as Neil. Strangely, he is the only one able to see or hear them. Neil, the St. Bernard, loves martinis and a running gag is the invisible dog lapping up the drink.
The Kerbys try to bring some excitement and joy into the life of stodgy and conservative Topper. The ghosts cause strange (but humorous) events to happen, which an embarrassed Cosmo has to try to explain to others baffled—and even frightened—by them.
- Leo G. Carroll as Cosmo Topper
- Lee Patrick as Henrietta Topper
- Robert Sterling as George Kerby
- Anne Jeffreys as Marion Kerby
- Kathleen Freeman as Katie (Season 1)
- Thurston Hall as Mr. Schuyler
- Edna Skinner as Maggie (Season 2)
Broadway composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim wrote eleven episodes for Topper's first season with George Oppenheimer. The show's producer was John W. Loveton, with his agent, Bernard L. Schubert, credited as co-producer.
R.J. Reynolds Tobacco's Camel cigarettes was the show's sponsor; the Kerbys were seen smoking in every episode, as required by Reynolds; the actors, along with Carroll, also appeared in integrated commercials promoting the product at the end of the show, as well as announcing where free cartons of Camels were being sent to various military bases and veterans hospitals each week. Both ABC and NBC aired repeats of these episodes (ABC in 1955 and NBC in 1956).
There were at least two forms of the opening announcement. In one, Anne Jeffries was introduced as "the loveliest ghost in town," Robert Sterling as "the liveliest ghost in town," and Neil the St. Bernard as "the deadliest ghost in town." The announcer then continued: "Three ghosts—and only three people in the world can see them: you, and I, and Cosmo Topper." In a later show opening, Anne Jeffreys was introduced as "the ghostess with the mostest"; Robert Sterling as "that most sporty spirit," and Leo G. Carroll as "host to said ghosts."
Syndication and DVD release
Topper would long be popular in syndication, with the Camel commercials and references removed, but with the characters still seen smoking.
While collections of those episodes that have passed into the public domain have been released, the series has yet to see a full DVD release.