August 30th, 2014: Topper Returns

Topper Returns

Cast and Crew:  Hal Roach (Producer); H.B. Warner, George Zucco

What It’s About: Cosmo Topper (Roland Young) is drawn into a mystery by the ghost of Gail Richards (Joan Blondell), murdered when she trades rooms with her  heiress girlfriend Ann Carrington (Carole Landis).  Can Topper and Gail protect Ann and find the murderer?

Why Watch it Today?: Star Joan Blondell, who excelled at playing the wise cracking, often long-suffering best friends of lead actresses, was born on this date in 1906. Third sequels are not usually well-loved, nor are sequels that abandon most of the original cast, but somehow Topper Returns manages to be a very amusing film in its own right despite carrying over only Young’s Topper and his wife (played hilariously by Billie Burke) from the first film, and making Topper into a medium of sorts.  Blondell is a big reason this Old Dark House spoof works, as are Eddie “Rochester” Anderson as Topper’s chauffeur and Donald MacBride as an incredibly incompetent policeman.  Fans of 1940s comedies and Old Dark House mysteries should get a kick out of this one. Just as a heads up, this is a 1940s Hollywood movie, so while Anderson’s chauffeur might be better than some African-American characters from the time, he’s still playing within the stereotypical scared servant character (though if you’ve ever heard Jack Benny you know that he often gives as good as he gets and that Anderson is a great comedian working under the constraints of his time).

Other Choices:  Joan Blondell also appears in Desk Set and Grease.

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