1 9 5 3 – 1 9 5 5 (USA)
78 x 30 minute episodes
Television’s first fantasy-sitcom, Topper, was actually derived from a book and a movie 20 years old.
The Thorne Smith classic came to television with Leo G Carroll as the stuffy and befuddled well-to-do banking vice president, Cosmo Topper, whose new house at 101 Yardley Avenue in New York, was inhabited by the ghosts of the former owners, George and Marion Kerby, who had been killed in an avalanche while skiing in Switzerland.
Only he could see them, which made for some hilarious situations indeed, especially as George and Marion – not to mention their alcoholic St Bernard dog, Neil – were prone to practical joking.
Marion, an excellent cook, called Cosmo “Topper Darling” while George, a former playboy who still had an eye for the ladies, called Topper “Old Man”.
Anne Jeffries and Robert Sterling starred as the Kerbys (they were also married in real life), with Lee Patrick as the air-headed Henrietta Topper (she had a straight role in the film The Maltese Falcon).
Thurston Hall was bank president Mr Schuyler, never able to fathom Topper’s explanations of the paranormal activities surrounding him, and Kathleen Freeman was the Topper’s benumbed maid, Katie.
The early use of trick camera techniques gave George, Marion and Neil ghostly effects and objects moved seemingly of their own accord.
The series was a hit with American viewers and was also shown in Britain in the early days of ITV, although only 36 episodes were purchased.
Leo G Carroll
Mr Humphrey Schuyler
Katie the maid
Maggie the cook