Topper Returns (1941)

“It isn’t every day a girl gets murdered!”

Topper Returns Poster

Synopsis:
When the friend (Joan Blondell) of an heiress (Carole Landis) is accidentally murdered, her ghost enlists the help of Cosmo Topper (Roland Young) in identifying the killer.

Genres:

Review:
Roy Del Ruth directed this final installment in the inexplicably popular Topper trilogy, which banks on much of what made the first two so successful: plenty of ghostly special effects and tedious slapstick humor. While it’s no masterpiece, the presence of Joan Blondell as the ghost de jeur (replacing Constance Bennett’s “Mrs. Kirby”) adds a much-needed touch of sass and vigor to the proceedings, and the Old Dark House “whodunit” plot at least provides viewers with a welcome narrative hook (I’ll admit the ending caught me by surprise). Best of all: Billie Burke as Cosmo’s airhead wife is given mercifully few scenes!

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Joan Blondell as Gail
    Topper Returns Blondell

Must See?
No. As noted previously, the Topper sequels are certainly not must-see viewing — though Blondell makes this one more bearable than its predecessors.

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One Response to “Topper Returns (1941)”

  1. First viewing – a tentative once-must, mainly for the performances.

    I’ve not yet seen the second part of this trilogy but I’d be willing to bet that this film can work as a stand-alone piece; it’s not essential that the viewer understand the basics set-up in the original film (which, as I’ve noted, is of such little substance that it can be skipped altogether).

    Reading the assessment above, I approached part 3 with some trepidation…so imagine my surprise when I found myself entertained, and more than reasonably so. Del Ruth, as it turns out, is a wonderful choice as director and he has assembled a very game cast; they appear to be enjoying themselves to a considerable degree.

    Not only is Blondell a plus-factor (she plays off Landis and Young rather well) but we have here a number of effective actors in the supporting cast: Patsy Kelly – who should have been given more to do – Dennis O’Keefe, H.B. Warner, Eddie ‘Rochester’ Anderson, George Zucco, Donald MacBride, and Rafaela Ottiano.

    Ottiano (who, alas, passed away the following year) is particularly good as the Mrs. Danvers-inspired housekeeper Lillian. (I would imagine Cloris Leachman used Ottiano for inspiration as well, for ‘Young Frankenstein’. In fact, I think Mel Brooks included this film in his own preparation for ‘YF’.)

    Though there are some fun lines in the film’s first half (“Good night, Miss Richards. I hope you rest in peace.”), the second half of the film gets a major lift when the script rises to a funnier and more farcical level.

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