Thorne Smith

Last updated
Thorne Smith (mid 1920s) Thorne Smith.png
Thorne Smith (mid 1920s)

James Thorne Smith, Jr. (March 27, 1892 June 20, 1934) was an American writer of humorous supernatural fantasy fiction under the byline Thorne Smith. He is best known today for the two Topper novels, comic fantasy fiction involving sex, much drinking and ghosts. With racy illustrations, these sold millions of copies in the 1930s and were equally popular in paperbacks of the 1950s.


Smith drank as steadily as his characters; James Thurber's The Years with Ross tells the story of Smith's unexplained week-long disappearance. When asked why he hadn't called-in sick, he retorted, "The telephone was in the hall and there was a draft." [1] Smith was born in Annapolis, Maryland, the son of a Navy commodore, and attended Dartmouth College. Following hungry years in Greenwich Village, working part-time as an advertising agent, Smith achieved meteoric success with the publication of Topper in 1926. He was an early resident of Free Acres, a social experimental community developed by Bolton Hall according to the economic principles of Henry George in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey. [2] He died of a heart attack in 1934 while vacationing in Florida.


Topper was made into a 1937 film starring Cary Grant as George Kerby, Constance Bennett as Marion Kerby, and Roland Young as Cosmo Topper. Two filmed sequels followed: Topper Takes a Trip , in 1939, and Topper Returns , in 1941. The latter film was not based on a book. Young reprised the role in the 1945 NBC radio summer replacement series The Adventures of Topper . [3] The books were adapted into an American television series, Topper , beginning in 1953, with Leo G. Carroll as Cosmo Topper, and Robert Sterling and Anne Jeffreys as the ghosts. Seventy-eight episodes were made. The pilot episode and a few of the early episodes were written by Stephen Sondheim.

Skin and Bones, Turnabout, The Night Life of the Gods, The Passionate Witch, The Stray Lamb, The Bishop's Jaegers, The Glorious Pool, and Rain in the Doorway were all published by Armed Services Editions.

Related Research Articles

Topper or Toppers may refer to:

Leo G. Carroll English actor

Leo Gratten Carroll was an English actor. He was best known for his roles in six Hitchcock films including Spellbound, Strangers on a Train and North by Northwest, and in three television series, Topper, Going My Way, and The Man from U.N.C.L.E.. He is name checked in the song Science Fiction/Double Feature from The Rocky Horror Show with the line "I knew Leo G. Carroll Was over a barrel".

<i>Sartoris</i> novel by William Faulkner

Sartoris is a novel, first published in 1929, by the American author William Faulkner. It portrays the decay of the Mississippi aristocracy following the social upheaval of the American Civil War. The 1929 edition is an abridged version of Faulkner's original work. The full text was published in 1973 as Flags in the Dust. Faulkner's great-grandfather William Clark Falkner, himself a colonel in the American Civil War, served as the model for Colonel John Sartoris. Faulkner also fashioned other characters in the book on local people from his hometown Oxford. His friend Ben Wasson was the model for Horace Benbow, while Faulkner's brother Murry served as the antetype for young Bayard Sartoris.

Kai Lung (開龍) is a fictional character in a series of books by Ernest Bramah, consisting of The Wallet of Kai Lung (1900), Kai Lung's Golden Hours (1922), Kai Lung Unrolls His Mat (1928), The Moon of Much Gladness, Kai Lung Beneath the Mulberry Tree (1940), Kai Lung: Six (1974) and Kai Lung Raises His Voice (2010).

<i>Strike Force</i> (TV series) television series

Strike Force is an American action-adventure/police procedural television series that aired on ABC during the 1981–1982 television season, and was produced by Aaron Spelling Productions. The program starred Robert Stack as Capt. Frank Murphy, the leader of a special unit of specialized detectives and police officers whose job is to stop violent criminals at any cost. Mixing elements of Stack's classic television series The Untouchables from 20 years earlier with doses of Mission: Impossible and Dirty Harry, the series immediately provoked controversy over its violence – at one point the series was labeled the most violent in American TV history – though the series attempted to interject liberal amounts of humor into its regular characters and balanced the violence by focusing on the detectives' personal lives.

Roland Young Actor

Roland Young was an English-American actor. He began his acting career on the stage, but later found success and received an Academy Award nomination for his role in the film Topper (1937).

<i>Topper</i> (film) 1937 film by Norman Z. McLeod

Topper is a 1937 American supernatural comedy film directed by Norman Z. McLeod, starring Constance Bennett and Cary Grant and featuring Roland Young. It tells the story of a stuffy, stuck-in-his-ways man who is haunted by the ghosts of a fun-loving married couple.

<i>A Fable</i> novel by William Faulkner

A Fable is a 1954 novel written by the American author William Faulkner. He spent more than a decade and tremendous effort on it, and aspired for it to be "the best work of my life and maybe of my time". It won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award.Historically, it can be seen as a precursor to Joseph Heller's Catch-22.

Mark Billingham English actor and writer

Mark Philip David Billingham is an English novelist, actor, television screenwriter and comedian whose series of "Tom Thorne" crime novels are best-sellers in that genre.

<i>Topper</i> (TV series) 1950s television series based on the film series

Topper is an American fantasy sitcom television series based on the 1937 film Topper, which was based on two novels Topper and Topper Takes a Trip 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.

<i>The Ghosts of N-Space</i> audio drama based on Doctor Who

The Ghosts of N-Space is a radio drama based on the long-running British science fiction television series Doctor Who. It was recorded in 1994 and finally broadcast in six parts on BBC Radio 2 from January 20 to February 24, 1996. This was the second Third Doctor radio play, following The Paradise of Death in 1993. Plans for subsequent serials were abandoned after the death of Jon Pertwee in May of that year.

Thomas Francis Monteleone is an American science fiction author and horror fiction author.

Robert Sterling American actor

Robert Sterling was an American actor. He was best known for starring in the television series Topper (1953–1955).

<i>Star Trek: New Earth</i> Series of Star Trek novels

Star Trek: New Earth is a series of interlinked novels inspired by Gene Roddenberry's original pitch for Star Trek: "Wagon train to the stars." Created by John J. Ordover, the novels follow the crew of the Enterprise as they escort a colonial expedition into a hostile region of unexplored space.

<i>Topper Returns</i> 1941 film by Roy Del Ruth

Topper Returns is a 1941 film directed by Roy Del Ruth. It is the third and final entry in the initial series of supernatural comedy films inspired by the novels of Thorne Smith. It followed Topper (1937) and Topper Takes a Trip (1938).

<i>Turnabout</i> (film) 1940 film by Hal Roach

Turnabout is a 1940 comedy film directed by Hal Roach and starring Adolphe Menjou, Carole Landis and John Hubbard. Based on the 1931 novel of the same name by Thorne Smith, the screenplay was written by Mickell Novack, Bernie Giler and John McClain with additional dialogue by Rian James. In 1979, the screenplay was adapted for the short-lived television series with the same name.

Cosmo is a British/Italian male surname and given name. It means order, decency, and beauty; this is the English form of Cosimo, introduced to Britain in the 18th century by the Scottish nobleman the second Duke of Gordon, who named his son and successor after his friend Cosimo III de' Medici. Notable people and fictional characters with the name include:

Turnabout is an American sitcom that first aired on NBC in 1979 and was based on a 1931 novel of the same title by Thorne Smith. The plot was about a husband and wife who found themselves inhabiting each other's bodies. The series lasted seven episodes.

<i>The Adventures of Topper</i>

The Adventures of Topper is a radio situation comedy in the United States. It was broadcast on NBC June 7, 1945 - September 13, 1945, as a summer replacement for Dinah Shore's program.


  1. Thurber, James. The Years with Ross, 1959.
  2. Buchan, Perdita. "Utopia, NJ", New Jersey Monthly , February 7, 2008. Accessed February 27, 2011. "Free Acres had some famous residents in those heady early days: actors James Cagney and Jersey City–born Victor Kilian, writers Thorne Smith (Topper) and MacKinlay Kantor (Andersonville), and anarchist Harry Kelly, who helped found the Ferrer Modern School, centerpiece of the anarchist colony at Stelton in present-day Piscataway."
  4. Turnabout - at
  5. DeCandido, Keith R.A. "Star Trek The Original Series Rewatch: "Turnabout Intruder"". Tor. Retrieved 11 May 2019.
  6. Fantasy and Science Fiction: Curiosities at

Further reading


Bibliographies and checklists


Online editions