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Original The Adventures of Topper header art

The Adventures of Topper Radio Program

Dee-Scription: Home >> D D Too Home >> Radio Logs >> The Adventures of Topper
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Thorne Smith, Jr. (1892-1934) created the Cosmo Topper character in 1926
Thorne Smith, Jr. (1892-1934) created the Cosmo Topper character in 1926

Smith's character Topper became immortalized with the 1937 M-G-M film starring Cary Grant, Constance Bennett and Roland Young
Smith's character Topper became immortalized with the 1937 M-G-M film starring Cary Grant, Constance Bennett and Roland Young

Roland Young returned as Cosmo Topper in Topper Takes A Trip (1938) for the Hal Roach Studio
Roland Young returned as Cosmo Topper in Topper Takes A Trip (1938) for the Hal Roach Studios

Roland Young's swan song as Topper in film came with 1941's Topper Returns
Roland Young's swan song as Topper in film came with 1941's Topper Returns

Premiere spot ad for The Adventures of Topper on June 7th 1945
Premiere spot ad for The Adventures of Topper on June 7th 1945

General Foods sponsored The Adventures of Topper featuring Post's Toasties and Maxwell House Coffee
General Foods sponsored The Adventures of Topper featuring Post's Toasties and Maxwell House Coffee

1945 Maxwell House Coffee


The cast of CBS-Television's New Adventures of Topper running from 1953 to 1955. (Robert Sterling, Anne Jeffreys, Leo G. Carroll, Lee Patrick, and 'Buck' )
The cast of CBS-Television's Topper which ran from 1953 to 1955. (Robert Sterling, Anne Jeffreys, Leo G. Carroll, Lee Patrick, and 'Buck' )

Background

(James) Thorne Smith, Jr.'s entertaining 'Cosmo Topper' character was something of a departure for the young copywriter and poet. Thorne Smith, the junior, was a product of the Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland--quite literally, rather than figuratively. His father was Commodore James Thorne Smith, Sr., who would go on to serve as a supervisor of the Port of New York throughout much of World War I.

Smith, the junior, experienced a turbulent childhood marked by the death of his mother when he was four, being raised by a succession of extended family members and boarding schools, and suffering recurring bouts of childhood pneumonia. Thorne Smith the junior enlisted in the Navy in 1917 after graduating from Dartmouth College. Working primarily as a journalist for the Navy, Smith eventually rose to become the editor of The Broadside, a popular Navy journal.

Upon his discharge from the Navy in 1919, Smith took a position as a copywriter for an advertising firm--a profession he'd return to several times during his relatively brief career. Almost immediately beset with a bout of flu lasting several months Smith continued writing mostly poetry, his principle passion in life. Living in Greenwich Village's West End, Smith eventually met and eloped with Celia Sullivan. A year later, Commodore Smith passed away, leaving the bulk of his estate to Thorne the junior.

During Smith's remaining fourteen years he and his wife were blessed with two daughters, several bouts of indebtedness, and Smith suffered recurring bouts of illness. Smith's fantasy character Cosmo Topper ushered in a series of three 'Topper' novels between 1926 and 1934, the year of Smith's death:

  • 1926 - Topper
  • 1932 - Topper Takes A Trip
  • 1934 - Topper Returns

All three of Smith's 'Topper' novels were made into popular films of the era:

  • 1937 - "Topper" for M-G-M
  • 1938 - Topper Takes A Trip for Hal Roach Studios
  • 1941 - "Topper Returns" for Hal Roach Studios

1937's "Topper" caught the imagination of North America's Cary Grant fans with Grant appearing as George Kerby, one of the two ghosts that continually bedeviled banker Cosmo Topper with their shenanigans. Marion Kerby was portrayed by Constance Bennett and Roland Young starred as Cosmo Topper. A big budget M-G-M production, Topper was an immediate hit with Topper Takes A Trip following only a year later, this time for the Hal Roach Studios--sans Cary Grant. Topper's last appearance in Film came with 1941's "Topper Returns", this time sans both Constance Bennett and Cary Grant, but introducing Joan Blondell as Topper's ghostly nemesis.

The Topper franchise airs over Radio for General Foods

Topper, originally slated for General Foods' Maxwell House Coffee sponsorship went with General Foods' Post Toasties instead [from the Billboard of June 16th 1945)
Topper, originally slated for General Foods' Maxwell House Coffee sponsorship went with General Foods' Post Toasties instead [from the Billboard of June 16th 1945)

Roland Young, having appeared in all three 'Topper' films was a natural choice for the role of Cosmo Topper in the Radio production. Young had also appeared as a regular cast member in The Dinah Shore Show. And indeed it was the summer hiatus of The Dinah Show Show, sponsored by General Foods, that brought The Adventures of Topper to Radio as a summer replacement for the Dinah Shore vehicle.

In an even more ironic twist, the two products that General Foods promoted throughout the Summer run of The Adventures of Topper over NBC-Radio were Post's Toasties Corn Flakes and Maxwell House Coffee. Thorne Smith, Jr.'s mother was the granddaughter of Don Jose Maxwell, the namesake of Maxwell House Coffee. And so it was that Thorne Smith's maternal great-grandfather would in a round about way end up sponsoring Thorne Smith's most memorable character over Radio twelve years after Smith's death.

The Adventures of Topper premiered over NBC on June 7th, 1945 starring Roland Young as Cosmo Topper, Hope Emerson as Topper's wife Malvina , and Paul Mann and Frances Chaney as the ghosts of George and Marion Kerby, Topper's twin nemeses. The series was originally scheduled for the thirteen weeks that The Dinah Show Show was on vacation. Directed by Kirby Hawks and written by Stanley Wolf, the Radio version of the Topper franchise capitalized on the popularity of the original Topper film starring Roland Young as Topper and Cary Grant and Constance Bennett as The Kerbys. Also appearing as recurring performers were Ed Latimer and Tony Barrett.

The Radio version of Topper was bright, cleverly written and well performed. Stanley Wolf's scripts were an equal mix of slapstick, irony, and smart dialogue. Roland Young, nearing his 60's at the time, wore the role of Cosmo Topper like a comfortable old suit. Hope Emerson brought a somewhat more stern and impatient flavor to the role of Cosmo's wife and Paul Mann and Frances Chaney were both delightful as The Kerbys.

Though initially planned for only thirteen weeks, the series was well enough received that after Dinah Shore returned to her regular Fall timeslot, 'Topper' was extended for two more episodes to cover the last two weeks of the Summer hiatus of The Burns and Allen Program, for a total of fifteen episodes of The Adventures of Topper in all. The last two programs of the series simply aired an half hour earlier.

The Topper franchise makes the jump to Television

The Adventures of Topper over Radio enjoyed a brief Summer run of fifteen episodes. While thoroughly entertaining the series wasn't picked up for NBC's Fall Season of 1945.


Enjoy 'Henrietta Sells the House' from April 9th 1954

But in 1953, CBS Television brought Topper to the small screen, running for two seasons of 39 episodes each between 1953 and 1955. The Television series starred Leo G. Carroll as Cosmo Topper, Lee Patrick as Cosmo's wife Henrietta, Anne Jeffreys as Marion Kerby, Robert Sterling as George Kerby, Kathleen Freeman as Katie, the Toppers' housemaid, and 'Buck' as the Kerbys' St. Bernard, Neil. The series was sponsored nationally by Camel Cigarettes.

Series Derivatives:

Maxwell House Coffee Time
Genre: Anthology of Golden Age Radio Situation Comedy
Network(s): NBC; The AFRS
Audition Date(s) and Title(s): Unknown
Premiere Date(s) and Title(s): 45-06-07 01 Title Unknown
Run Dates(s)/ Time(s): 45-06-07 to 45-09-13; NBC; Fifteen, 30-minutes programs
Syndication:
Sponsors: General Foods [Maxwell House Coffee; Post Toasties]
Director(s): Kirby Hawks
Principal Actors: Roland Young, Hope Emerson, Paul Mann, Frances Chaney, Ed Latimer, Tony Barrett
Recurring Character(s):
Protagonist(s): None
Author(s): None
Writer(s) Stanley Wolf
Music Direction:
Musical Theme(s): Unknown
Announcer(s): Ron Rawson, Richard Kollmar [Commercial spokespersons]
Estimated Scripts or
Broadcasts:
15
Episodes in Circulation: 4
Total Episodes in Collection: 4
Provenances:

RadioGOLDINdex, Hickerson Guide.

Notes on Provenances:

The most helpful provenances were the log of the RadioGOLDINdex and newspaper listings.

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[Date, title, and episode column annotations in
red refer to either details we have yet to fully provenance or other unverifiable information as of this writing. Red highlights in the text of the 'Notes' columns refer to information upon which we relied in citing dates, date or time changes, or titles.]







The Adventures of Topper Program Log

Date Episode Title Avail. Notes
45-05-31
--
--
45-05-06 Sunday Times Signal
Stanley Wolf will supervise the scripting of the summer replacement, "Adventures of Topper" when the Dinah Shore crew moves out in June. Kirby Hawks will direct.

45-06-03 Kingsport Times-News
Whimsical Roland Young will bring his own special brand of humor to the air as the star of
The Adventures of Topper, which makes it debut Thursday (NBC-WKPT 8:30 p. m.). The late Thorne Smith, who wrote the Topper books about those pixies, the Kerbys, was a close personal friend of Young's and had him in mind for dramatization of his novels. Young subsequently appeared in two Topper films and will play the lead in a Topper drama planned for fall production on Broadway. The series will he heard for 13 weeks while Dinah Shore vacations.
45-06-07
1
Title Unknown
N
[Premiere; Summer replacement for Dinah Shore]

45-06-07 Lowell Sun
ROLAND YOUNG in "Adventures of Topper."
new series, with Hope Emerson as Mrs. Topper: WBZ. 8:30.

45-06-07 The New York Times
8:30-9--Adventures of Topper, With Roland Young and Others--WEAF
(Premiere).
8:30-WEAFAdventures of Topper, with Roland Young, Hope Emerson, Frances Chaney, Paul Mann and Ed Latimer (Premiere)
45-06-14
2
Topper the Realtor
N
45-06-14 Wisconsin State Journal
7:30 p.m.--Topper (WIBA):
sells a house and buys a bag of trouble.
45-06-21
3
Topper and the House Guests
N
45-06-21 Wisconsin State Journal
7:30 p.m.--Topper (WIBA):
discovers guests and ghosts don't mix.
45-06-28
4
Topper Goes to the Track
N
45-06-28 Wisconsin State Journal
7:30 p.m.--Topper (WIBA):
takes a fling at horse racing.
45-07-05
5
Topper and the Psychiatrist
Y
45-07-05 Wisconsin State Journal
7:30 p.m.--Topper (WIBA):
outwits a psychiatrist.
45-07-12
6
Topper the Shopper
N
45-07-12 Wisconsin State Journal
7:30 p.m.--Topper (WIBA):
finds a bargain in blondes, but is involved in store's cash and carry rules.
45-07-19
7
Topper and the Ghostly Guests
N
45-07-19 Wisconsin State Journal
7:30 p.m.--Topper (WIBA):
discovers two of the guests at a party are ghosts.
45-07-26
8
Topper and the Beauty Contest
N
45-07-26 Wisconsin State Journal
7:30 p.m.--Topper (WIBA):
upsets a bathing beauty contest.
45-08-02
9
Topper and The Blonde
N
45-08-02 Wisconsin State Journal
7:30 p.m.--Topper (WIBA):
rents a house for a beautiful blonde.
45-08-09
10
Topper the Farmer
N
45-08-09 Wisconsin State Journal
7:30 p.m.--Topper (WMAQ):
Roland "Topper" Young thinks farming depends on quality of farmerette.
45-08-16
11
Topper the Furniture Salesman
N
45-08-23 The Athens Messenger
8:30 — Roland Young; as "Topper"
encounters difficulties as a furniture salesman, NBC-WLW.
45-08-23
12
Topper Is A Nursemaid to Neil
N
45-08-23 Wisconsin State Journal
7:30 p.m.--Topper (WIBA):
serves as nursemaid for the Kerbys' dog.
45-08-30
13
Topper's Mother In Law Visits
Y
45-08-30 Wisconsin State Journal
7:30 p.m.--Topper (WIBA): has double trouble when his mother-in-law visits.
45-09-06
14
Topper and the Spiritualist
Y
[Moves to 7:00 to make way for the return of Dinah Shore in the 7:30 timeslot ]

45-09-09 Wisconsin State Journal
7 p.m.--Adventures of Topper (WIBA):
Topper visits a medium as program changes time.
45-09-13
15
Title Unknown
N
[Last Program; replaced by the return of Burns and Allen from summer hiatus]

45-09-13 Wisconsin State Journal
WIBA 7:00 NBC Adventures of Topper
45-09-20
--
--
45-09-20 Wisconsin State Journal - 7 p.m.--Burns and Allen (WIBA): return with Meredith Willson, musical director; Bill Goodwin, actor-announcer; and Les Paul, guitarist.






The Adventures of Topper Radio Program Biographies




Roland Young
Stage, Radio, Television and Film Actor
(1887-1953)

Birthplace: London, England, U.K.

Education: The Sherbourne School; University of London; The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art

Military Service: United States Army, World War I

Radiography:
1935 The Magic Key
1937 Monster Benefit For the American Red Cross
1939 Gulf Screen Guild Theater
1939 Radio Tribute To the King and Queen
1940 Good News
1941 Information Please
1942 Texaco Star Theater
1943 Suspense
1943 The Dinah Shore Program
1944 Columbia Presents Corwin
1944 Arthur Hopkins Presents
1944 It Pays To Be Ignorant
1944 Lux Radio Theatre
1944 Christmas Stocking 1944 (AFRTS)
1945 The Adventures Of Topper
1946 Radio Hall Of Fame
The Barry Wood Show (AFRTS)
Hollywood's Open House
Roland Young
Roland Young
From the June 7th 1953 edition of the Wisconsin State Journal:

Roland Young, Famed as 'Topper,'
Dies after 45-year Stage Career

     NEW YORK (AP)--Roland Young, veteran stage and screen star who was "Topper" to millions of Americans, died at his home here Friday night.  He was 65.
     No cause of death was announced.  His wife, the former Patience May du Croz, was in seclusion.
     The Frank E. Campbell Funeral Church, Inc., said Saturday night the body had been cremated.
              
Came Here In 1912
     Young first came to the United States in 1912, four years after his debut on the London stage, to star in "Hindle Wakes" on the New York stage.  He became a citizen in 1918 as his star rose with appearances in "Beggars on Horseback," "Devil's Disciple," "The Queen's Husband" and others.
     He made his Hollywood debut in 1929, becoming a familiar figure on motion picture screens as a mild and puzzled, mustached man in a dinner jacket.
     The series of three "Topper" stories, based on novels by Thome Smith, topped his screen career.  He also appeared in "Ruggles of Red Gap" with Charles Laughton, the story of an English butler imported by a western family, "David Copperfield," in which he played Uriah Heep, and last in "And Then There Were None."
              
Played on TV
     Young began a radio series in 1945 with Cornelia Otis Skinner.  Later, he opened a television program of the same series, "William and Mary," playing a suburban husband.
     Young's first marriage, to Marjorie Rummer, ended with a divorce in 1940.  He married his second wife, Patience May du Croz Young, in 1948.
     In spite of his triumphs there, Young never brought himself to like Hollywood or the trappings of film industry.
     "The dominant trouble with pictures," he once said, "is the lack of unity and cohesion in them.  You can't hope for good results when, in as complicated a business as the making of a picture, the executives complicate it further by putting 15 writers on one script besides all the director's yes-men, and the rest."
     In 1934 he returned to the Broadway stage, swearing that his decision to forsake films was "a coming to, as if I were recovering from a spell of unconsciousness."
     Later, however, he returned to the West Coast to make some of his most famous films, including the "Topper" series.
              
Born In London
     Young was born in London in 1887.  The son of a prominent English architect, he was trained first lo follow in his father's footsteps but broke away to find a career in the theater.
     Young, whose style of comedy was faintly fatalistic and self deprecatory, was best known for the series of three "Topper" movies. He had appeared, however, in nearly a hundred other films during his career which started in 1929.
     Young recently had quit the movies to appear on television.
     He became an American citizen in 1918.




Hope Emerson
Stage, Radio, Television and Film Actress
(1897-1960)

Birthplace:
Hawarden, Iowa, U.S.A.

Education:
West High School, Des Moines, Iowa

Radiography:
1943 Meet the Colonel
1944 The Sportsmen's Club
1945 The Adventures Of Topper
1945 Atlantic Spotlight
1946 Leave It To Mike
1947 Theatre Guild On the Air
1948 Casey Crime Photographer
1949 The Railroad Hour
1949 The Great Gildersleeve
1951 George Fisher Interviews the Stars
1951 Hedda Hopper's Hollywood
1951 Screen Directors' Playhouse
1954 Stars Over Hollywood
1954 The Cobbs
Hope Emerson circa 1949
Hope Emerson circa 1949
From the April 25th 1960 edition of the Long Beach Press Telegram:

Noted Video
and Movie
Actress Dies

     HOLLYWOOD (if) — Actress Hope Emerson, who played the TV roles of "Mother" in the Peter Gunn series and "Sarge" on the Dennis O'Keefe show, died Sunday night of a liver ailment.  She was 62.
     The 6-foot-2, 190-pound actress had been in ill health for some time but entered a hospital only three days ago. She drove home alone April 17 from a visit to Phoenix, Ariz.
               * * * *
     A FEW YEARS ago she was nominated for an Academy Award for her role as women's prison matron in "Caged," one of numerous movies she made after leaving the New York stage.
     Born in Hawarden, Iowa, she appeared on Broadway in "Lysistrata," " Smiling Faces," "Swing Your Lady," "Chicken Every Sunday" and "Street Scene."
               * * * *
     HER FILMS included "Cry of the City," "House Strangers," "Adam's Rib," "Dancing in the Dark," "Copper Canyon," "Westward the Women" and "Untamed."
     Besides the two series, Miss Emerson appeared in television's Playhouse 90, Studio One, Medic and the Danny Thomas show.
     She was noted for her "hot" piano playing and her large figure hovering over a small piano became a popular act in supper clubs.  She continued it here at parties
.




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