Topper (TV series)

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Topper
Topper TV series video cover.jpg
Cover of Alpha Video's DVD of the Topper TV series
Genre Fantasy sitcom
Written by Thorne Smith (original novel)
Robert Riley Crutcher
Stanley Davis
Donn Mullally
George Oppenheimer
Elon Packard
Norman Paul
Joel Rapp
Stephen Sondheim
Robert Thomsen
Directed by Richard L. Bare
Leslie Goodwins
James V. Kern
Lew Landers
Paul Landres
Leslie H. Martinson
Philip Rapp
Starring Anne Jeffreys
Robert Sterling
Leo G. Carroll
Lee Patrick
Theme music composerRoy Ingraham
Charles Koff
Edward Paul
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons2
No. of episodes78
Production
ProducersJohn W. Loveton
Bernard L. Schubert
Production locations Hal Roach Studios, Culver City, Calif.
CinematographyGert Andersen
Kenneth Peach
William P. Whitley
EditorsNick DeMaggio
Chuck Gladden
Running time24 minutes
Release
Original network CBS
Picture format Black-and-white
Audio format Monaural
Original releaseOctober 9, 1953 (1953-10-09) 
July 15, 1955 (1955-07-15)

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. [1] Topper also earned an Emmy nomination for Best Situation Comedy in 1954. [2]

Contents

Synopsis

Sophisticated but stuffy Cosmo Topper (Carroll) is the vice president of City 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 ghosts of 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.

Cast

Main

Recurring

Production

Main cast in 1953. Topper cast 1953.JPG
Main cast in 1953.

The 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 three forms of the opening announcement: "Camel — America's first choice among cigarettes — presents Topper. Starring — as Marion Kerby, the loveliest ghost in town — Anne Jeffreys. As George Kerby, the liveliest ghost in town — Robert Sterling. And Leo G. Carroll as Topper [a dog bark is heard]. Oh, yes, and ahh... the deadliest ghost, Neil".

In another opening, the announcer adds, "And there are only three people in the world who can see or hear them — you and I... and Cosmo Topper".

When Topper was shown in repeats, 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."

Episodes

Season 1 (1953–54)

No.
overall
No. in
season
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date
11"Topper Meets the Ghosts" Philip Rapp George Oppenheimer and Philip Rapp October 9, 1953 (1953-10-09)
With Lyle Talbot as Mr. Moulton
22"The Movers"Philip RappGeorge Oppenheimer,
Stephen Sondheim
October 16, 1953 (1953-10-16)
33"Hiring the Maid" Philip Rapp George Oppenheimer and Stephen Sondheim October 23, 1953 (1953-10-23)
With Barbara Knudsen as Lola     /     Kathleen Freeman as Katie
44"The Hypnotist" Philip Rapp George Oppenheimer October 30, 1953 (1953-10-30)
With Maude Prickett as Amelia
55"Reducing" Philip Rapp George Oppenheimer November 6, 1953 (1953-11-06)
With Steve Reeves as Joe Manurki
66"The Spinster" Philip Rapp George Oppenheimer November 13, 1953 (1953-11-13)
With Mary Field as Thelma Gibney    /    Hugh Beaumont as Ed Merrill    /    Lewis Martin as Dr. Lang
77"Bank Securities" Philip Rapp George Oppenheimer November 20, 1953 (1953-11-20)
With Thurston Hall as Mr. Schuyler    /    Clancy Cooper as Upperson
88"The Kid" Philip Rapp George Oppenheimer November 27, 1953 (1953-11-27)
With Kathleen Freeman as Katie    /    Ann Doran as Mrs. Welch    /    Billy Chapin as Timmy Welch
99"Burglar" Philip Rapp George Oppenheimer     /     Stephen Sondheim
and Hendrik Vollaerts     /     Story by Robert Thomsen
December 4, 1953 (1953-12-04)
With Ed Dearing as Chief McGraw     /     Jess Kirkpatrick as The Burglar
1010"Uncle Jonathan"Philip RappGeorge OppenheimerDecember 11, 1953 (1953-12-11)
1111"The Car Story" Leslie Goodwins George Oppenheimer,
Philip Rapp,
Stephen Sondheim
December 18, 1953 (1953-12-18)
1212"Christmas Carol" Paul Landres George Oppenheimer December 25, 1953 (1953-12-25)
With Kathleen Freeman as Katie     /     Mary Field as Thelma Gibney     /     Frank Ferguson as Dr. Lang     /    uncredited: Billy Chapin as Neighborhood Boy and Tiny Tim in Dream
1313"Masquerade" Lew Landers George Oppenheimer,
Robert Thomsen
January 1, 1954 (1954-01-01)
1414"Second Honeymoon" Philip Rapp George Oppenheimer     /     Story by Donn MullallyJanuary 8, 1954 (1954-01-08)
With Mary Field as Thelma Gibney     /     Guy Wilkerson as Luke     /     Juney Ellis as Miss Loomis
1515"The Socialite" Philip Rapp George Oppenheimer and Stephen Sondheim January 15, 1954 (1954-01-15)
With Natalie Schafer as Mrs. Vance     /     John Eldredge as Mr. Vance
1616"The Surprise Party"Lew LandersGeorge OppenheimerJanuary 22, 1954 (1954-01-22)
1717"Decorating" Lew Landers George Oppenheimer and Stephen Sondheim January 29, 1954 (1954-01-29)
With Kathleen Freeman as Katie     /     Mary Field as Thelma Gibney     /     Paul Bryar as Mr. Charles
1818"Astrology"Lew LandersGeorge Oppenheimer,
Stephen Sondheim
February 5, 1954 (1954-02-05)
1919"Trip to Lisbon" Lew Landers Stephen Sondheim and George Oppenheimer February 12, 1954 (1954-02-12)
With Thurston Hall as Mr. Schuyler    /    Hugh Sanders as Mr. Devon    /    Angela Greene as Mrs. Devon    /    Lillian Bronson as Miss Erskine    /    William Walker as The Porter
2020"The Proposal" Lew Landers George Oppenheimer February 19, 1954 (1954-02-19)
With Kathleen Freeman as Katie    /    James Parnell as The Policeman
2121"Katie's Nephew"TBAGeorge OppenheimerFebruary 26, 1954 (1954-02-26)
2222"College Reunion"Lew LandersNorman PaulMarch 5, 1954 (1954-03-05)
2323"Economy"TBATBAMarch 12, 1954 (1954-03-12)
2424"The Diamond Ring"Leslie GoodwinsPhilip RappMarch 19, 1954 (1954-03-19)
2525"Topper Runs for Mayor"Paul LandresPhilip RappMarch 26, 1954 (1954-03-26)
2626"The Painting"Paul LandresGeorge OppenheimerApril 2, 1954 (1954-04-02)
with Raymond Greenleaf as Dr. Remington     /     Tom Browne Henry as Mr. Simeon     /     Steve Darrell as Guard     /     Robert Pike as Curator
2727"Henrietta Sells the House" Lew Landers Philip Rapp April 9, 1954 (1954-04-09)
with Kathleen Freeman as Katie     /     Thurston Hall as Mr. Schuyler     /     Don Beddoe as Mr. Newby     /     Katherine Warren as Mrs. Newby     /     Anthony Sydes as Orville     /     Isa Ashdown as Arabelle
2828"Legacy" Paul Landres Robert Riley CrutcherApril 16, 1954 (1954-04-16)
With Kathleen Freeman as Katie     /     Arthur Space as Mr. Jackson     /     Douglas Wood as Judge     /     James Parnell as Delivery Man
2929"Topper Goes to Las Vegas" Lew Landers Stanley Davis and Elon PackardApril 23, 1954 (1954-04-23)
The episode opens with Topper coming down the stairs of his house, about to leave for work as he, Marion and George are clearly engaged in conversation, but the soundtrack only consists of descriptive narration [by uncredited Sandy Becker]: "This is Cosmo Topper, bank vice-president, loving husband and... no, he's not a magician — George and Marion Kerby are doing that — ghosts — yes, a handsome couple who were swallowed by an avalanche and came back to spread a little joy into a sedate businessman's life... and that's their ghost dog, Neil, the St. Bernard who couldn't save them — that's what you get for drinking on the job, old boy. Aren't they a wonderful bunch? And just think — Topper is the only person in the whole world who can see or hear them — except you and I, of course. Well, it's off to the bank for Topper. What a way to start the day".
with Thurston Hall as Mr. Schuyler     /     Paul Bryar as Lafferty     /     Lee Roberts as Martin     /     G. Pat Collins as Olaf Larsen     /     Arthur Lovejoy as Clerk
3030"Topper Goes West" Lew Landers Philip Rapp April 30, 1954 (1954-04-30)
With Thurston Hall as Mr. Schuyler     /     Harry Shannon as Foreman     /     Frank Sully as Charley     /     William Cottrell as Van Horn     /     John Dierkes as Cowboy
3131"Sweepstakes" Paul Landres Robert Riley CrutcherMay 7, 1954 (1954-05-07)
With Thurston Hall as Mr. Schuyler     /     Charles Lane as Mr. Kittler     /     Nana Bryant as Woman     /     Charles Williams as Harlon
3232"The Package"Paul Landres Joel Rapp May 14, 1954 (1954-05-14)
3333"Neil Disappears"TBAPhilip RappMay 21, 1954 (1954-05-21)
3434"The Picnic"Lew LandersGeorge OppenheimerMay 28, 1954 (1954-05-28)
3535"The Wedding"Lew LandersRobert Riley CrutcherJune 4, 1954 (1954-06-04)
3636"Preparations for Europe" James V. Kern George Oppenheimer,
Stephen Sondheim
June 11, 1954 (1954-06-11)
The episode opens with Topper, about to leave for work, entering the living room to say goodbye to Henrietta, but the soundtrack only consists of descriptive narration [by uncredited Sandy Becker]: "Morning, Topper! Seen your two ghost friends yet? There they are, folks... George and Marion Kerby... you'd never believe it, but they were swallowed by an avalanche on their fifth wedding anniversary... That's Neil the alcoholic Saint Bernard... he went with them... Ain't love grand? You see, the Kerbys and Neil have come back to spread a little joy into Topper's rather sedate life... and he's the only one who can see or hear them... outside of you and I, naturally. Well, I... I guess Topper's off to the bank. Uh oh... that's a sure sign something's cooking... when a woman gets on the phone, there's no use talking... let's listen...
3737"The Boat" Richard L. Bare George OppenheimerJune 18, 1954 (1954-06-18)
3838"Theatricals"Lew LandersGeorge Oppenheimer,
Stephen Sondheim
June 25, 1954 (1954-06-25)
3939"George's Old Flame" Lew Landers George Oppenheimer and Stephen Sondheim July 2, 1954 (1954-07-02)
with Kathleen Freeman as Katie     /     Mira McKinney as Mrs. Baskerville     /     Thurston Hall as Mr. Schuyler     /     Frances Rafferty as Ellen Bates     /     James Seay as Larry Hartford     /    uncredited (in order of appearance): Lillian Bronson as Miss Erskine     /     Renny McEvoy as Waiter     /     Roland Varno as Maitre'd

Season 2 (1954–55)

No.
overall
No. in
season
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date
401"Topper Tells All"Philip RappGeorge Oppenheimer,
Philip Rapp
October 8, 1954 (1954-10-08)
412"Topper's Ransom"Philip RappRobert Riley CrutcherOctober 15, 1954 (1954-10-15)
423"County Fair"Philip RappPhilip RappOctober 22, 1954 (1954-10-22)
434"The Seance"Leslie GoodwinsRobert ThomsenOctober 29, 1954 (1954-10-29)
445"Topper Strikes Gold"Lew LandersPhilip RappNovember 5, 1954 (1954-11-05)
456"The Chess Player"TBA Sig Herzig November 12, 1954 (1954-11-12)
467"Topper Goes to Washington"Leslie GoodwinsPhilip RappNovember 19, 1954 (1954-11-19)
478"Jury Duty"TBARobert Riley CrutcherNovember 26, 1954 (1954-11-26)
489"Topper Lives Again"Leslie GoodwinsRobert Riley CrutcherDecember 3, 1954 (1954-12-03)
4910"The Army Game"TBADonn MullallyDecember 10, 1954 (1954-12-10)
5011"Topper's Accident"Lew LandersRobert Riley CrutcherDecember 17, 1954 (1954-12-17)
5112"Topper's Quiet Christmas"Leslie GoodwinsRobert Riley CrutcherDecember 24, 1954 (1954-12-24)
5213"Topper's Happy New Year"Lew LandersRobert Riley Crutcher,
Philip Rapp
December 31, 1954 (1954-12-31)
5314"Topper's Deception"Leslie GoodwinsRobert Riley CrutcherJanuary 7, 1955 (1955-01-07)
5415"Topper's Guest"Leslie GoodwinsStanley Davis,
Elon Packard
January 14, 1955 (1955-01-14)
5516"Topper's Rejuvenation"Lew LandersStanley Davis,
Elon Packard
January 21, 1955 (1955-01-21)
5617"Topper in Mexico"Lew LandersRobert Riley CrutcherJanuary 28, 1955 (1955-01-28)
5718"Topper Hits the Road"Leslie GoodwinsStanley Davis,
Elon Packard
February 4, 1955 (1955-02-04)
5819"Topper at the Races"Lew LandersNorman PaulFebruary 11, 1955 (1955-02-11)
5920"Topper's Racket"Leslie GoodwinsPhilip RappFebruary 18, 1955 (1955-02-18)
6021"Topper's Amnesia"Leslie GoodwinsRobert Riley CrutcherFebruary 25, 1955 (1955-02-25)
6122"Topper's Arabian Night"Leslie GoodwinsRobert Riley CrutcherMarch 4, 1955 (1955-03-04)
6223"The House Wreckers"Leslie GoodwinsPhilip RappMarch 11, 1955 (1955-03-11)
6324"Topper Makes a Movie"Lew LandersPhilip RappMarch 18, 1955 (1955-03-18)
6425"King Cosmo the First"Lew LandersPhilip RappMarch 23, 1955 (1955-03-23)
6526"Topper's Double Life"TBAPhilip RappMarch 30, 1955 (1955-03-30)
6627"Topper Fights a Duel"Lew LandersPhilip RappApril 8, 1955 (1955-04-08)
6728"Topper's Egyptian Deal"Leslie GoodwinsRobert Riley CrutcherApril 15, 1955 (1955-04-15)
6829"Topper's Uranium Pile"Leslie GoodwinsDonn MullallyApril 22, 1955 (1955-04-22)
6930"Topper's Spring Cleaning"Leslie GoodwinsRobert Riley CrutcherApril 29, 1955 (1955-04-29)
7031"Topper Goes to School"Leslie GoodwinsPhilip RappMay 6, 1955 (1955-05-06)
7132"The Blood Brother"Lew LandersStanley Davis,
Elon Packard
May 13, 1955 (1955-05-13)
7233"Topper's Highland Fling" Leslie H. Martinson Robert Riley CrutcherMay 20, 1955 (1955-05-20)
7334"Topper's Desert Island"Leslie GoodwinsRobert Riley CrutcherMay 27, 1955 (1955-05-27)
7435"The Neighbors"Leslie GoodwinsGeorge OppenheimerJune 3, 1955 (1955-06-03)
7536"Topper's Counterfeiters"Leslie H. MartinsonRobert Riley CrutcherJune 10, 1955 (1955-06-10)
7637"Topper's Insurance Scandal"Lew LandersSig HerzigJune 17, 1955 (1955-06-17)
7738"Topper's Other Job"Lew LandersPhilip RappJune 24, 1955 (1955-06-24)
7839"Topper's Vacation"Lew LandersRobert Riley CrutcherJuly 15, 1955 (1955-07-15)

Broadcast and syndication

Topper was popular in syndication for more than a decade. Camel commercials and their references were removed but the characters could still be seen smoking them.

The pilot episode, "Topper Meets the Ghosts", and the second episode, "The Movers", were broadcast on the Decades network on August 11, 2018.

Home media

Collections of episodes in the public domain have been released on DVD but the series has not been given a full release.

See also

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References

  1. "TV Ratings: 1954-1955". ClassicTVHits.com. Retrieved 3 October 2016.
  2. "Topper". Television Academy. Retrieved 3 October 2016.