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Topper (Modern Library) Paperback – February 2, 1999

4.4 out of 5 stars 68 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

"[Thorne Smith] created the modern American ghost. A ghost with style and wit. A ghost that haunts us still."
--The New York Times
Thorne 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 based.
It 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.

From the Back Cover

Thorne 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 based. It 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.
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Product Details

  • Series: Modern Library Paperbacks
  • Paperback: 218 pages
  • Publisher: Modern Library; New edition edition (February 2, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375753052
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375753053
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #881,097 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Robert S. Clay Jr. on January 17, 2002
Format: Paperback
Thorne Smith's fantasy of Cosmo Topper and ghostly George and Marion Kerby is more thought provoking than one might expect. Although rich with humor, the story has pensive undertones. The story is of Topper's rebellion against his dull life and marriage. After the wild and crazy Kerby's perish in a road accident, middle-aged Topper buys their repaired sporty automobile. He discovers their ghostly presence, and joins the playful spirits in a road trip that takes up much of the novel. His flirtation with the delectable Marion Kerby may have seemed racy 'way back when, but it is mild stuff today. George Kerby is absent for part of the story. While George is away, Topper and Marion play, mostly at Marion's instigation. The snickering references to drinking, ladies lingerie, and compromising positions offers amusement. One needs to understand the old term "step-ins." Typical of the TV and movie versions, Topper deals with a number of awkward situations when ghostly happenings occur before bewildered onlookers. This evokes chuckles, but there is more of yearning in the book than laugh-out-loud comedy. This book is a beguiling relic of the 1920s. It's worth a look. To enhance your appreciation of the book, avoid the pitfall of preconceived notions based on the films and TV versions. Multiple readings are recommended. ;-)
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Format: VHS Tape
Topper movies have been some of the best clean cut comedy ever. These are the types of movies you can watch over and over and still continue to laugh. More comedy movies of today should be made this way. I know there are "Topper" lovers as myself and would enjoy being able to see them on the American Movie Classic channel or just on regular tv from time to time. The only move I own is Topper Returns and would love to have these others. I grew up watching these movies and will continue to watch them. Please bring them back.
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Format: Paperback
Who hasn't fallen in love with a ghost at least once in their life?
Topper is absolutely delightful. While in some ways it was considered scandalous at the time, it certainly seems innocent today. It has a lightness and freshness lacking in his later works. Some contemporary readers may be unused to fiction that lacks violence and overt sex, but the appeal of this story is Cosmo's mid-life crisis and its sucessful resolution with the supernatural assistance of a carful of hard-drinking, carefree spirits.
Whoever coined the phrase 'witty repartee' probably had this book in mind. It's a fun read that kept me entertained all the way from Seattle to Virginia.
One word of advice before you start. Smith uses an interesting motif in this book over and over again. Keep your eyes open for it.
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By A Customer on September 6, 2000
Format: Paperback
The movie and TV versions of "Topper" have always emphasized the trick of ghosts appearing and disappearing... but the novel is really about Mr. Topper's love/hate relationship to middle-class conformity, and how he's drawn toward love and death. As with many of Smith's books, there's an undertow of sadness about how brief and unsatisfying life can be, and a true satirist's rage at hypocrisy and repression. Set in the same period as "The Great Gatsby," this is almost a companion piece -- another story about longing and belonging, fast driving and fast living, and dropouts living a very different life than those around them.
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Format: VHS Tape
it would do all of us good if more movies were being made today that can make us laugh just by it being funny not by it being an effort to hurt or humiliate a person place or thing. maybe someone someday will look again at these old classics and see how refreshing it was to be entertained not by seeing people or places blowing up or being destroyd but just being allowed to sit back relax and enjoy the fact that what your watching can entertain you your grandmother and your kids all at the same time.
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By A Customer on August 27, 2002
Format: VHS Tape
This follow-up to the highly successful TOPPER - which was made earlier that year (1939) - picks up where the last film left off. After reestablishing the auto accident which killed the drunken Bennett and Grant in the first film and turned them into ghosts, we are treated (sans Cary Grant) to a hilarious 85 minutes. Clara Topper (Burke) spots Marion Kirby (Bennett) in her husband Cosmo's room. Clara goes to Paris - with Cosmo following - in order to get a divorce because she believes her hen-pecked husband has been seeing another "woman". Unable to explain to Clara that Marion is only a ghost, Cosmo tries to fast-talk Burke into a reconciliaton. Several floating martinis later, Bennett manages to reconcile the couple, and is now able to join her husband in their celestial home. The trick photography by Roy Seawright is astonishing for its day. Cushions which deflate when invisible figures sit on them, cigarettes being smoked in mid-air and pencils writing notes by themselves are all executed with great skill. The sight of the Kirby's dog Skippy - also a ghost - is hilarious when only his tail fails to become invisible or when he bites the ankles of totally flabbergasted men! A third film, TOPPER RETURNS is a surprisingly pleasant diversion from 1941: it stars Joan Blondell as Marion Kirby.
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