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Topper by Thorne Smith
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Topper (1926)

by Thorne Smith

Series: Topper (1)

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In Topper, or, The Jovial Ghosts, by Thorne Smith, we meet Cosmo Topper, a bland banker in 1920s New England; his life is dull, and his wife Mary wants to keep it that way. Indeed, Cosmo's only real connection is to his cat, Scollops - until, that is, he takes a notion to buy a refurbished car, an automobile that was damaged in an accident that took the lives of its previous owners, George and Marion Kerby. No sooner does he get behind the wheel, however, than Cosmo realizes that while dead they might be, the Kerbys are very active ghosts indeed! And they are bent on, first of all, having fun and secondly, turning Cosmo's world upside down....Topper was published in 1926 and as such it has the faults of its time in terms of sexism, racism (of which there is actually very little, but that's mainly because there are very few scenes involving non-white characters) and basic mayhem, fueled by copious amounts of liquor, Scotch in particular. At the same time, it's very funny and makes some very arch observations about American society at that time, most of which aim to point up the hypocrisy of the era. Smith wrote a second Topper book, and in the 1930s there were three quite successful movies (which, if I recollect, typified the "screwball comedy" of that decade) based on his tales, but this is where his characters get their start. Keep in mind that the casual "-isms" of its time didn't generate the outrage then that they do now, and you may quite enjoy it. I found the constant drinking a bit wearing, but otherwise would recommend it. ( )
1 vote thefirstalicat | Feb 20, 2015 |
very funny whimsical fantasy. ( )
  SChant | Apr 26, 2013 |
Cosmo Topper, nearing 40, functions staunchly as a banking officer in the big city, and a volunteer fireman in the little town where he lives. But then he buys a used and infamous car, comes under the delinquent influence of a couple of ghosts, and goes on an extended debauch in this charming 1920s classic.

"Topper" (1926) is widely credited with establishing the current comic thread in treatment of ghosts. It led directly to the 1937 movie of the same name, starring Cary Grant, and the 1950s TV series, starring Leo G. Carroll. It led hardly less directly to endless TV and movie treatments too numerous to name. The ghost comedy, with all its permutations, is a hardy staple, with us to this day.

It’s easy to see why this slender work has all the credit. One could call it a harmless fantasy of rebellion, except that Topper doesn’t come out of it unscathed. He has frequent – near daily – hangovers, spends one night in jail that we know of, and flees the law through unfamiliar wildernesses in the wee hours, on numerous occasions. All through this, he tries without success to explain or hide, the boisterous and mischievous behavior of his ghost friends. His head, his liver, and his reputation all take a beating, and he winds up crashing the car and nearly dying.

But Mr. Topper’s near-fatal vacation expands his life, his opinions, and his social experience. He becomes enamored with, and loses forever, the comely and obliging Marion Kerby, but emerges with a renewed appreciation of his wife. This engaging, light piece completely deserves its place as the seminal ghost comedy. Pick it up and be charmed, like generations of readers before you.

http://bassoprofundo1.blogspot.com/2013/04/topper-by-thorne-smith.html ( )
  LukeS | Apr 22, 2013 |
Cosmo, a banker stuck in a rut, buys a car on a whim, despite being the car in which a young couple died in a few months before after crashing into a tree.

Little does he know, but the car is haunted by the dead couple, and soon the three are having a whale of a time. Topper escapes from his humdrum life (and wife), spends most of his time excessively drunk, getting into trouble and hanging around with a lot of dead people - and Oscar the dog.

I do vaguely remember the film with Cary Grant and I can just imagine the special effects being created for this - such as when Oscar can only (back) half appears.

Think the book would best be described as "screwball" which is a type of book - and film - which has fallen out of fashion, especially in early 21st century England. We like our humour different now I think. Whilst mildly amusing, this is not the funniest book I've read ( )
  nordie | Jun 30, 2012 |
It took me quite a while to get into this. I'm not sure old-school slapstick humour comes across well on the page. But I did quite like it in the end so I'm glad I didn't give up. ( )
  annesadleir | Jun 30, 2011 |
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To Celia - to say the least
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For some minutes now Scollops had been gazing searchingly at Mr. Topper.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375753052, Paperback)

"[Thorne Smith] created the modern American ghost.   A ghost with style and wit. A ghost that haunts us still."
--The New York Times

Thorne Smith is a master of urbane wit and sophisticated repartee. Topper, his best-known work, is the hilarious, ribald comedy on which the hit television show and movie (starring Cary Grant) were based.

It all begins when Cosmo Topper, a law-abiding, mild-mannered bank manager, decides to buy a secondhand car, only to find it haunted by the ghosts of its previous owners--the reckless, feckless, frivolous couple who met their untimely demise when the car careened into an oak tree. The ghosts, George and Marion Kerby, make it their mission to rescue Topper from the drab "summer of suburban Sundays" that is his life--and they commence a series of madcap adventures that leave Topper, and anyone else who crosses their path, in a whirlwind of discomfiture and delight.

As enchanting today as it was when first published in 1926, Topper has set the standard in American pop culture for such mischievous apparitions as those seen in The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, Heaven Can Wait, Beetlejuice, and Bewitched.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:28:10 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

After a playboy and his wife are killed, as ghosts they haunt a staid banker and try to put some fun into his life.

» see all 2 descriptions

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