Saturday, October 07, 2006


1937, US, directed by Norman Z. McLeod

Rating: **

A featherweight comedy, Topper was a huge hit in its day (though it's a little hard to understand why Depression-era audiences enjoyed the antics of some not-always-sympathetic representatives of the moneyed classes), but it hasn't aged especially well. While there are a few sharp exchanges, and some of the banter-between-the-sexes that characterized the best of the screwball comedies, the very slight plotting and excessive length bog the film down. Cary Grant is adequate, but he's still in the process of developing his onscreen persona, and he's offscreen far too much. By contrast, Roland Young (like Grant, another English transplant) as the eponymous Topper steals most of his scenes, most especially one where he tipsily dances around the room (showcasing, not incidentally, the kind of light stage-comedy skills employed so smoothly by many of the Golden Age's actors). In the smaller roles, Eugene Pallette pops up as a hotel detective (a role much beloved of Old Hollywood that you rarely see these days), while Hedda Hopper appears briefly as a socialite; her gossip-mongering career was taking off around this time, although she had regular acting gigs for another five years. In the unlikely event this one gets a 21st-century remake, you can be sure that there won't be such blithe drunk-driving in the opening scenes.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States