Topper: The Television Series


Topper: The Television Series (Original)

(Oct 1953-Sep 1955)

Topper, CBS (Oct 1953-Sep 1955), ABC (Oct 1955-Mar 1956), NBC (Jun 1956-Oct 1956), 9 Oct 1953-14 Oct 1956 Based on characters created by fantasy novelist Thorne Smith who later appeared in a series of feature films. George and Marion Kirby die of exposure after being trapped in a ski-trip avalanche. Besides their two deaths, their attempted rescuer perishes too -- the St. Bernard Neil. All three somehow return as ghosts from Europe to haunt the Kirby's American home, which is now the residence of Cosmo Topper, a stolid banker.

George, Marion, and Neil (who likes a huge snifter of brandy whenever possible) make a concerted effort to get Topper to unwind and have fun. Nobody but he can see the ghosts, and so his behavior is taken to be, at best, eccentric by his wife Henrietta, his co-worker Mr. Schuyler, and his maid and cook. In the television series (but not the novel or films) the dog Neil appears; in Thorne Smith's story, the Kirbys were killed in a car crash rather than on a ski trip.
Interestingly enough, the pilot episode and a few of the early episodes were written by Stephen Sondheim.

The Cast

Marion Kirby: Anne Jeffreys (The Delphi Bureau 1972-3, Finder of Lost Loves 1984-5, Love That Jill 1958, The Merry Widow on Max Liebman Presents 1954-6.
George Kirby: Robert Sterling (Ichabod and Me 1961-2, Love That Jill 1958, host of The 20th Century Fox Hour 1956-7).
Cosmo Topper: Leo G. Carroll (The Billy Rose Show 1950-1, The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. 1966-7, Going My Way 1962-3, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. 1964-8, NBC Repertory Theatre 1949). Katie, the maid (1953-54>: Kathleen Freeman (The Beverly Hillbillies 1969-71, Funny Face 1971, It's About Time 1966-7, Lotsa Luck 1973-4).
Mr. Schuyler: Thurston Hall
Maggie, the cook (1954-1955): Edna Skinner

Here is a great link to the episodes: The Classic US TV Archive.

NBC broadcast "Topper" from November 18, 1956 to May 19, 1957; however, these episodes were repeats from the original series presented on CBS, October, 1953 to September, 1955.

Topper Returns: Television Pilot

NBC, March 19, 1973

The Cast:

Cosmo Topper, Jr.: Roddy McDowell
Marian Kirby: Stephanie Powers
George Kirby: John Fink
Producer: Walter Bien
Director: Hy Averback
Writer: A.J. Carothers

Topper: Television Pilot

ABC, November 9, 1979

The Cast:

Cosmo Topper: Jack Warden
Clara Topper: Rue McClanahan
Marian Kirby: Kate Jackson
George Kirby: Andrew Stevens
Executive Producers: Kate Jackson & Andrew Stevens
Producer: Robert Papzin
Director: Charles S. Dubin

I recall this adaption. Many feel it was wasn't very good, but nostalgia plays a big role in my fondness of it. Kate Jackson and Andrew Stevens played Marion and George Kirby while Jack Warden played Cosmo Topper. Warden was much older than Thorne had intended him to be in the book, but ABC was basing this on Roland Young's original portrayal of a stout, older Topper.

It did not fare well in the ratings and never made it beyond the original pilot. It has occassionally aired every few years. From other reviews I've seen, the plot is basically the same, but updated for a late 70's/early 80's crowd. I'm sure if I saw it again, I'd be disappointed.