Topper Takes a Trip (1938)
Produced by Hal Roach and directed by Norman McLeod this first sequel to the successful Topper (1937) fantasy comedy has more than Cary Grant missing from it. Even though Constance Bennett as the ghostly socialite Marion Kerby Roland Young in the title role (first name Cosmo) Billie Burke as Topper’s wife Clara and Alan Mowbray as Wilkins (their butler) return from the original this one seems too focused on its Special Effects (unremarkable by today’s standards) and physical humor than any plot or dialogue. Entire sequences of this movie were contrived to exhibit the photographic talents of Roy Seawright who did receive the first of his three unrewarded Special Effects Oscar nominations (this was the first year for that Academy Award category). Based on the Thorne Smith novel with a screenplay treatment from Jack Jevne Eddie Moran & Corey Ford the cast also includes Verree Teasdale as Mrs. Nancy Parkhurst – a conniving friend of Mrs. Topper’s Franklin Pangborn in a typically fussy hotel manager role Alexander D’Arcy as the debonair (fake) Baron de Rossi Paul Hurst as a befuddled bartender and Asta “the wonder dog” (from The Thin Man (1934)series) dubbed Mr. Atlas (and wasted) in this film. Grant does appear as (Marion’s husband) George Kerby in a flashback sequence from the original in this series.
The story begins in court Nancy has convinced Clara to sue her husband for divorce because she’d caught him with a blonde. Topper testifies that the blonde was the ghost of Marion Kerby (there are two different sequences from the previous film interspersed). Naturally the judge (Spencer Charters) prosecutor (Irving Pichel) and even Cosmo’s own lawyer (Georges Renavent) are incredulous and the case is recessed. Nancy whisks Clara off to the French Riviera (in lieu of Reno) and arranges for the Baron to “court” her. So “Topper takes a trip” with Marion who’s been returned from the hereafter sans George but with a barking ghost terrier instead to fix things. Special effects sequences (several of which run on too long) include a pencil a piece of paper a martini glass a roulette wheel ball a smoking cigarette a champagne bottle some melons an automobile hotel & prison door keys a huge beach ball and a bicycle that seemingly have lives of their own in addition to the constant disappearing and reappearing of Marion and her dog. Topper himself is pushed tugged or dragged around by an invisible Mrs. Kerby (and Young performs an overly energetic dance solo with “her”). The scenes with Wilkins seem tacked on; they’re forced and unfunny. A predictable ending is given.
Followed by Topper Returns (1941)