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Poster: Mr. Television
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Leo G. Carroll, Lee Patrick, Ann Jeffries Robert Sterling,and Neil
Topper appeared on the CBS Television Network from October 1953 until September 1955.
When Amos McCoy moved into his house, he found Pepino., a Mexican farmhand living there. When Wilbur Post inhabited his home, he inherited a talking horse named Ed. Mrs. Muir found herself living with Captain Daniel Gregg, and when Cosmo Topper moved into his new house, he discovered it was haunted by 2 live-in-spirits, George and Marian Kirby who used to reside there before they died. Of the 4 choices, most people would go with the talking horse.
On a skiing vacation in Europe, George and Marian Kirby ( Robert Sterling, Anne Jeffreys who were married in real life ) were trapped in an avalanche along with their would be rescuer, a st. bernard named Neil. All 3 of them died-only to return to the United States to haunt their former home, now occupied by banker Cosmo Topper ( Leo G. Carroll), who was the only one who could see or hear them. Topper was TV's first fantasy sitcom. Based on 2 successful stories by novelist Thorne Smith-Topper and Topper Returns from the early 1930's-the TV series also had its roots in 3 Topper movies ( also in the '30's), the first of which starred Cary Grant, Constance Bennett, and Roland Young ( as Topper in all 3), produced by Hal Roach Sr.
In 1953 Topper took to the tube, with his wacked out wife, Henrietta (Lee Patrick) and comical ghosts who used to sit on top of picture frames. George and Marian developed quite an affection for the very propper Mr. Topper, but felt that he needed to be a little less stuffy. They did everything in their powers and those powers were considerable, to help Cosmo loosen up. Between their antics and the wanderings of the ghostly Neil who had a penchant for oversized, brim-ful brandy sniffers, life in the Topper household was kept very chaotic.Stuffy Topper was a terrific target for their schemes. He was a silly, but likeable middle-aged man who was vice-president of the National Security Bank in New York.
The reviews were not terrific ( the New York Times called Leo G. Carroll's performance of Topper "in questionable taste" because he seemed to imitate the voice of Roland Young, the movie Topper who had recently died) but that didn't seem to matter to its fans. Especially beloved was Neil, the alcholic st. bernard. Weighing in at 165 ponds, he was billed by the show's producers as the grandson of the canine who Co-Starred with Clark Gable in the 1935 film classic, Call Of The Wild. Whatever his theatrical roots, he rehearsed each scene 3 or 4 times and seemed to enjoy wearing an ice bag on his head for those weekly hangovers.
This half hour series ( which made effective use of trick photography my making the ghosts appear transparant in scenes in which Topper was present with other mortals), was canceled by CBS in 1955 after a 2 year run. It then showed up in reruns for a full season on ABC and a summer on NBC. The one member of the TV cast that had not appeared in Mr. Smith's novels or the movies was Neil. In the original Smith story, the Kirby's had died in an automobile accident, not while skiing. Since no dog died with them, their was no dog to haunt with them.
Here is Leo G. Carroll's Obituary from The New York Times
LEO G. CARROLL, ACTOR, 80, DEAD
SPECIAL TO THE NEW YORK TIMES OCT. 19, 1972
Leo G. Carroll, the versatile British‐born actor known to millions for his portrayals of Cosmo Topper in television's Topper series and as the spymaster Mr. Waverly on the Man from U.N.C.L.E. series, died after a long illness Monday at Presbyterian Hospital in Hollywood. He was 80 years old.
In a show‐business career that began with grammarschool Gilbert and Sullivan productions, the droll, urbane Leo Grattan Carroll found a ready market for his characterizations on the stage, in films and on television.
When I go to sleep, he said once, I count plays and movies instead of sheep. Admitting that his count was inexact, he nevertheless estimated nearly 20 years ago that he had been in more than 40 movies and more than 300 plays since making what he listed as his debut in 1908, when at the age of 16 he played an old man in Liberty Hall.
To Broadway audiences, he was perhaps best known for his depiction of Inspector Rough in Angel Street and the title role in The Late George Apley.
Mr. Carroll from this point on will be Mr. George Apley, and a credit to the name, wrote Lewis Nichols of The New York Times. His performance is a wonderful one. The part of Apley easily could become caricature, but Mr. Carroll will have none of that. He plays the role honestly and softly; with a few gestures he suggests the disasters which constantly threaten the peace of Beacon Street.
Besides the Topper and U.N.C.L.E. series, Mr. Carroll also starred on television in the Going My Way series.
His screen credits, dating back to 1934, included such films as Wuthering Heights, Suspicion, The House on 92d Street, Rebecca, Spellbound, Father of the Bride and North by Northwest.
From a Military Family
Mr. Carroll, who was born in 1892 in Weedon, England, was a member of a military family and the son of a British Army officer. Although he served for four years in World War I, he spurned a military career afterward to continue with the acting he had taken up before the war.
He first came to this country in 1912 as stage manager for Rutherford and Son, in which he also played a small role.
In 1924, he made the United States his home, and began dividing his time between New York and London, later adding Hollywood.
Once, looking back over his career, he said: It's brought me much pleasure of the mind and heart. I owe the theater great deal. It owes me nothing.
Surviving are his widow, Mrs. Edith Nancy Carroll; son, William M., and three grandchildren.
A requiem mass will be offered today at the Blessed Sacrament Church in Hollywood.
Here is Robert Sterling's Obituary
Robert Sterling, 88, of 'Topper,' Is Dead
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: June 1, 2006
LOS ANGELES, May 31 (AP) Robert Sterling, the handsome star of 1940's movies who appeared with his wife Anne Jeffreys in the television series "Topper," died on Tuesday at his home here. He was 88.
He died of natural causes after a decade-long battle with shingles, said his son Jeffrey Sterling.
Although he appeared in dozens of movies, Robert Sterling was best known for the 1953-1956 television series "Topper," based on a novel by Thorne Smith and on the 1937 film starring Cary Grant and Constance Bennett.
Mr. Sterling and Ms. Jeffreys played George and Marion Kerby, a fun-loving couple killed in an accident who return as ghosts to haunt the new occupant of their home, a sober banker named Cosmo Topper, played by Leo G. Carroll.
Mr. Sterling was born William Hart in November 13, 1917, in New Castle, Pa. He attended college in Pennsylvania and worked as a clothing salesman before breaking into movies.
He proved a versatile player, especially in romantic roles, and appeared in five films in 1941, including the romantic comedy "Two-Faced Woman" with Greta Garbo and "The Penalty" with Lionel Barrymore.
After "Topper," Mr. Sterling became a businessman and worked in the early stages of computers.
He was married to the actress Ann Sothern from 1943 to 1949, and they had a daughter, the actress Tisha Sterling, who survives him, along with Ms. Jeffreys, his wife since 1951; their three sons, Jeffrey, Dana and Tyler; and six grandchildren.
Here is Anne Jeffries Obituary from the New York Times
Anne Jeffreys, Glamorous Ghost of ’50s TV, Is Dead at 94
By Anita Gates
Sept. 28, 2017
Anne Jeffreys, the sophisticated blond actress and singer who played a glamorous ghost in the 1950s television series “Topper,” died on Wednesday at her home in the Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles. She was 94.
Her death was confirmed by her son Jeff Sterling.
“Topper,” seen on CBS from 1953 to 1955, was based on the 1937 film of the same name starring Cary Grant and Constance Bennett as a young couple, George and Marion Kerby, who die in an accident and come back to haunt their old house, now occupied by a stodgy banker, just for fun.
Ms. Jeffreys starred opposite her dapper real-life husband, Robert Sterling. The banker, Cosmo Topper (played in the movie and its sequels by Roland Young), was played by Leo G. Carroll.
Although the series lasted only two seasons, it was praised for its smart comedy, largely thanks to its stars as well as to the young man who wrote many of the first-season episodes: Stephen Sondheim.
Ms. Jeffreys’s television fame was preceded by a few busy years of moviemaking. She was in the musicals “I Married an Angel” (1942), with Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, and “Step Lively” (1944), with Frank Sinatra. She played the virtuous Tess Trueheart in “Dick Tracy” (1945) and its 1946 sequel; the lady in red who led a criminal to his death in “Dillinger” (1945); and the newcomer Robert Mitchum’s girlfriend in “Nevada” (1944).
Low-budget westerns became a big part of her film career; in 1943 and 1944 she starred with Bill Elliott and Gabby Hayes in at least eight, including “Wagon Tracks West” and “Death Valley Manhunt.”
Between the movies and her television success, she appeared in four Broadway shows: “Street Scene” (1947), a musical drama by Elmer Rice, Kurt Weill and Langston Hughes; “My Romance” (1948), an operetta-style musical; “Kiss Me, Kate,” in which she replaced the original female lead, Patricia Morison, in 1950 as Lilli Vanessi, a tempestuous actress who finds herself cast opposite her ex-husband in a musical version of “The Taming of the Shrew”; and “Three Wishes for Jamie” (1952), a musical comedy that also starred John Raitt.
In her later years, Ms. Jeffreys reached new audiences with her work on the daytime soap opera “General Hospital” and its spinoff, “Port Charles.” Between 1984 and 2003, on both shows, she played Amanda Barrington, a society widow who — soap plots of the time tending toward the extreme — came under a vampire spell.
Annie Jeffreys Carmichael was born on Jan. 26, 1923, in Goldsboro, N.C., a small city 55 miles southeast of Raleigh, to Mack Carmichael and the former Kate Jeffreys. She attended Anderson College in South Carolina and planned an opera career.
She went to New York to work as an operatic soprano and as a model with the John Robert Powers agency. But with her mother’s guidance she quickly switched to the movie business, making her film debut in “Billy the Kid Trapped,” a 1942 western starring Buster Crabbe.
Ms. Jeffreys worked mostly onstage and on television in the 1950s. When she returned to feature films after almost 15 years, it was as Howard Duff’s suspicious wife in the racy-for-its-era Kim Novak comedy “Boys’ Night Out” (1962).
She continued working in television until she was 80, in guest roles, as a series regular on “Finder of Lost Loves” (1984-85) and in a recurring role as David Hasselhoff’s mother on “Baywatch” in the 1990s. She was back on the small screen one last time when she played a patient in a 2013 episode of “Getting On,” the dark HBO comedy series set in a hospital’s extended-care ward.
Ms. Jeffreys married twice. Her marriage to Joseph R. Serena in 1945 was annulled. She married Mr. Sterling in 1951; they had met that year when she was starring in “Kiss Me, Kate” at the Shubert Theater in New York and he was in “Gramercy Ghost” at the Morosco, a block away. He died in 2006.
In addition to her son Jeff, Ms. Jeffreys is survived by two other sons, Dana and Tyler; five grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
In a 1993 interview with The Toronto Star, Ms. Jeffreys attributed her career not to her own drive but to her mother’s.
“She heard me sing along with the phonograph when I was 6,” she said, “and I guess that started things.”
Daniel E. Slotnik contributed reporting.
To watch episodes of Topper go to http://www.solie.org/alibrary/Topper.html
For more on Topper go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Topper_(TV_series)
To go to Tim's TV Showcase go to https://web.archive.org/web/20100103231659/http://www.timstvshowcase.com/topper.html
For a Page dedicated to Topper go to https://web.archive.org/web/20090114183442/http://www.squidoo.com/topper-tv-series
For an episode Guide go to http://epguides.com/Topper/
For an episode guide go to http://ctva.biz/US/Comedy/Topper.htm
For a Page dedicated to Robert Sterling go to http://www.tvparty.com/50topper.html
For the Official Anne Jeffries Website go to http://www.annejeffreys.com/index.htm
For a great review of Topper go to https://web.archive.org/web/20040312005310/http://www.televisionheaven.co.uk:80/topper.htm
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Keywords: The Cast of Topper