Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Still Dead -- And Loving It! -- After 60 Years

Topper (Leo G. Carroll) sees dead people.
Happy 60th anniversary to one of TV's first, and best-loved, fantasy sitcoms, Topper, which premiered Friday, October 9, 1953, on CBS. Husband-and-wife stars Anne Jeffreys (1923-  ) and Robert Sterling (1917-2006) were mischievous ghosts Marion and George Kerby -- described by the announcer as "the ghostess with the mostest" and "that most sporting spirit," respectively.* Leo G. Carroll (1892-1972) played their reluctant host, mild-mannered banker Cosmo Topper, and one of my favorite character actresses, Lee Patrick (1901-1982) was featured as his befuddled wife Henrietta. Also on hand was the Kerbys' late dog Neil, a Saint Bernard who could slurp down a martini with the best of them.

Author Thorne Smith (1892-1934) created fun-loving spooks George and Marion for a novel published in 1926; he followed that with a sequel, Topper Takes a Trip, in 1932. After being adapted for the movies and even radio (ghosts on radio?!), Topper enjoyed a two-year run on CBS, another full season of reruns on ABC, and a long afterlife (so to speak) in syndication. If you've never seen the show, head to YouTube for a sample episode, complete with vintage commercials for the sponsor's cigarettes. You can learn more about author Thorne Smith here, or check out the chapter on Anne Jeffreys in my book The Women Who Made Television Funny.

So pour yourself a drink in honor of a TV classic's anniversary -- and don't forget to save some for Neil.

*Or is that "sportive" spirit, or "sporty" spirit? Sources differ. Sounds like "sporting" to me. 

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