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Thorne Smith created the modern American ghost   A ghost with style and wit A ghost that haunts us still The New York TimesThorne 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 basedIt 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

10 thoughts on “Topper

  1. says:

    This is a product of its day written in 1926 and the Roaring Twenties was in full bloom nothing seemed serious since the carnage of the Great War everything is fun and games until the delugeCosmo Topper a staid and dull banker with an nagging wife who has perpetual indigestion she needs Pepto Bismol he an aspirin A drastic change happens in his boring life good or bad you decide after buying an old repaired sports car the auto was previously owned by a very irresponsible glamorous rich young couple that Cosmo Topper secretly admired not surprisingly they died in it While driving in the country he the banker begins to think deep thoughts starts seeing things which can't possibly be there and maybe going a little insaneYes George and Marion Kerby the young dead pair have come back as ghosts to haunt the distraught Mr Topper and the fun begins at first not so much for the distinguished president of a powerful bank The always seeker of amusement the beautiful Marion wants to drive and bystanders give a strange look at the apparently driverless vehicle traveling speedily down the road everyone else be advised They visit an inn and get into a drunken brawl with fellow dinners a no holds barred fight which the invisible couple cherish image getting struck by something that isn't there only the air visible this is living well almost Cosmo with the help of George and Marion are tigers during the ferocious struggle the townspeople cannot comprehend this have never seen anything like it Spooks unbelievable the result put in jail the gentleman Cosmo's picture in the local newspaper which will be seen in New York City he a respectable man has some explaining to do Imagine what his high society wife and friends think of Topper and intoxicated too the scandal will cause irreparable harm So naturally Topper takes a vacation after getting out of confinement further madcap adventures for the trio of course occurs Cosmos enjoys the excitement the thrills he's having the time of his life not so dull a person after allFor those of us that like silliness and are in the mood this is an lighthearted read and what's wrong with that the world is constantly in upheavals and the public needs to escape a pleasant trip in the land of the unashamedly nonsensical is just the ticket I second the motion

  2. says:

    It is by this time a cliche boring business dude meets a manic pixie dreamgirl who shakes up his days keeps him up all night teaches him about love and then passes into the great beyond What makes this book still feel marvelously fresh is that the MPDG isn't all that wacky she's married and she's already dead at the start of the book Other than drinking mind bending Prohibition era uantities of booze the adventures themselves are amazingly simple Topper and his ghost companions enjoy several good meals but otherwise they spend the summer mostly sleeping rough swimming in rivers and the Atlantic canoeing reading Ulysses aloud and just digging the beauty of nature There is singing and dancing even a little brawling but it's so charmingly bucolic After all if Topper gets up to 25 MPH in his car it feels fast and dangerous and it no doubt was since roads were iffy and there were still a lot of farmers with horses aboutI was worried about Topper's wife Needlessly Smith is a writer who can produce the banter of Coward and also spend a lot of time telling us how Topper feels about his cat I knew it was going to have a happy ending but I didn't know the ending would be so perfect The overall effect is charming but never twee Highly recommended

  3. says:

    Hmm Better than Night Life of the Gods but it leaves me feeling a bit uncomfortable I think it's because I feel a slight edge of desperation in all the consumption of alcohol the book is set during Prohibition I suspect this was because apparently the author was a heavy drinker and he certainly died far too youngIn my distant youth I certainly had too much to drink a few times and I enjoy an occasional glass of wine with my dinner to say nothing of a GT before dinner But the sort of drinking that happens in Thorne Smith's books would probably kill me and I suspect it killed himHaving said that the premise is funny and there are some amusing passages in the book But I doubt I shall read any Thorne Smith for entertainment from that era For me James Thurber cannot be surpassed

  4. says:

    Mr Smith pens a funny story of a middle aged mid level bank manager's encounter with the husband and wife ghosts whose car he bought Although dead the two still manage to get howlingly drunk every night and befriend Topper and try to put a little laughter in his life It was made into a wonderful movie with Cary Grant as the dead husband

  5. says:

    Seize the day Grab life by the cojones And if you can get a pair of alcohol fueled mischievous and conveniently randy ghosts to help you on your swift descent from the dead crater of suburban virtue all the betterA touch of British farce but ultimately all American screwball comedy is what is at hand here This is the basis for the old Cary Grant film of the same name And this very same writer is also responsible for the source material for the wonderful Bewitched TV show Clearly he's interested in life on the other side as long as it brings a chuckle or freuently a loud guffaw as I found myself doing while reading thisI'm guessing this book was on the risué side when it first came out in the 20's but it's pretty tame by today's standards mostly innuendo If anyone can tell me what step ins are I would be most grateful I'm guessing by context that they are women's underwear as they are made of silk and cause poor old Topper much grief with his wife when she discovers a pair in his pocket Ah yes they are just found it in my computer's dictionarySo if you should be one of the unfortunate who has a large stick wedged firmly up their bum or maybe you're just reading too much Proust or Tolstoy you know who you are then you need to read this book NOW Because too much virtue will sour the sweetest character

  6. says:

    Thorne Smith's pixilated novels go down like a glass of bubbly champagne Remember those heady 40's films like Bringing Up Baby and The Thin Man full of snappy dialogue and women in slinky designer gowns? Take that sort of witty cocktail fueled repartee add even improbable plot elements usually involving some sort of supernatural happening and you have a Thorne Smith book In this case a car is haunted two irrepressible high living er dying? ghosts who met their untimely end by drunkenly crashing it into a tree Cosmo Topper the poor fellow who buys the car secondhand is a rather dull and conventional soul but his life is about to change drastically when the two ghosts make it their madcap mission to 'reform' him The irony of course is that the dead are teaching the living how to live The ensuing hi jinks were probably considered scandalous back in the twenties when this book was published but today it seems like rather innocent fun There's a lightness and zaniness to Smith's dialogue that seems both dated and fresh They just don't write screwball comedies like this any 's the pity

  7. says:

    I have long loved the Cary Grant film version of this book but this is my first time reading it While the characters and basic premise is the same the novel is much about the title character of Topper Topper a stodgy New York banker is suffering through a mid life crisis aggravated by the intrusion of some ghosts including one of a dog who only partially materializes While less farcical than the film it is a better story

  8. says:

    I first read the Topper books as a child and was rather startled to come across them again in new editions in the 1980s the ghosts of past years slyly rematerialisedBoth books do in fact deal with ghosts—this one was originally titled The Jovial Ghosts Smith's ghosts are uite untraditional he used the idea of ghostliness to supply him with a set of cheerfully immoral characters who being dead have the convenient ability to dematerialise at will Convenient for them that is rarely so for anyone who gets in their wayThey choose from time to time to inflict their company on an innocent banker with the unlikely name of Cosmo Topper who having the misfortune to be alive can less easily escape the conseuences of their frolics although he seems well enough euipped with money to buy his way out of most trouble Smith evidently detested American middle class suburban society with a fierce loathing; he uses Topper's viewpoint to describe it and his intermittently substantial companions to tear it apartHis books are most concisely described as escapist fantasy and yet there's a peculiarly distinctive uality to the writing and in places an engaging wistfulness that raises them out of the ordinary Expect nothing of the plot it's merely an excuse for high jinks and bizarre observations The characters living as Smith did in the Prohibition era display an insatiable thirst for alcohol and a distinctly casual attitude towards theft and adulteryI sympathise with Topper; I think there's something of him in many of us Recommended to anyone suffering from a secret desire to be naughty

  9. says:

    Thorne Smith is a brilliant writer of the 30's Imagine Dorothy Parker and F Scott out in the town during thier worst drinking period and somewhere in that taxt home is Thorne SmithAs F Scott is under a blanket of gloom Thorne is very much happy with his life In fact he's carefree in a world that is totally insaneMost of his stories has to deal with the afterlife ghosts witches Bewitched is based on one of his novels and it's MADCAP with a revenage The fact that he's now out of print really sucksTopper is about a conservative banker who is haunted by a couple who recently died in a car crash The male ghost is jealous because his wife has a thing for Topper It has a weird angle on afterworld sexuality that's for sure So it's fantasy but set in 1930's NYC Amazing work and I would give all of his work ten stars

  10. says:

    If I had to pick one 20th century author who has been mostly forgotten and long overdue for a revival it would be Thorne Smith He was a master at the satiric both criticizing and adoring the staunch American upper class I would say he is the closest thing to an American Oscar Wilde In fact when I first read this book years ago I thought Mr Smith was British Those of us old enough to remember the TV series with Leo G Carrol or the Gary Grant film may have some idea of the humor and fun in this story about a starch collared banker and his scandalous pair of ghosts but they pale in comparison to the novel Considered racy for its time in fact Smith's characters do tend to drink and fool around a lot Smith has a light touch that is a little Victorian is style yet totally American in tone