Pros: Silly, funny, light fare that holds up with time.
Cons: You can see the strings.... but this was 1941!
This third and last of the “Topper” movies opens with two friends, Ann Carrington and Gail Richards, on their way to Ann’s ancestral home. Their cab suddenly spins out, ending up on its side. What the viewer sees (but not the girls) is that a mysterious figure in black has shot at their cab and hit a tire. This isn’t the last the viewer will see of the figure in black.
After several unsuccessful attempts at hitchhiking while the driver has gone to get help, the girls park their bags in the middle of the road and sit on them. Along come Cosmo Topper and his chauffer, Eddie. The car is so crowded that Gail sits on Cosmo’s lap. They drive by Topper’s residence where Mrs. Topper sees a comely young woman in her husband’s lap. Then they arrive at the Carrington place. The household staff greeting them are right out of “Young Frankenstein:” Lillian, the housekeeper; Dr. Jeris, who looks are Ann’s father; and Rama, the butler.
Ann is demure, Gail whistles to the inside of the mansion. Ann will soon come into her inheritance upon turning 21. The girls are shown to her rooms, but Gail doesn’t like hers. They switch. In the middle of the night, Gail gets up to close a window that has blown open and is knifed to death by a figure in black who has entered by way of a secret passage.
Her ghost arises and finds Topper. Not knowing who killed her, she enlists his help. Cosmo drags poor Eddie out of bed to chauffer him over to the Carrington place, but not before alerting his ditzy wife that there’s something going on. She’s right to be suspicious of him, but it’s not what she thinks. It’s rarely what she thinks. When she realizes he’s gone, she calls the police to report a missing husband, telling them, “He looks like a banker, because that’s what he is.”
The best and silliest lines are given to Mrs. Topper and Eddie the chauffer. There is some slapstick. Invisible Gail consoles herself, pouring glass after glass at the bar. Only Eddie seems to be taken aback at the extra set of footsteps in the snow. And all the while, there are glares from the household staff, and more secret passageways, moving walls and bookcases that you could shake a stick at in that gloomy mansion.
This is 1941, however and the movie light, silly fare. It remains funny, even with passage of time. The special effects may not wow anyone now, but they were about as good as they got for the time. The writing is smart. One regret is that Eddie Anderson didn’t get a better role. Highly recommended.
Director: Roy Del Ruth
Writers: Thorne Smith (characters), Jonathan Latimer (screenplay)
Joan Blondell ... Gail Richards
Roland Young ...Cosmo Topper
Carole Landis ... Ann Carrington
Billie Burke ... Mrs. Clara Topper
Eddie “Rochester” Anderson … Eddie