Topper Returns (1941): Third, Oscar-Nominated Panel of Hal Roach Series, Starring Rold Young

The third and last chapter of the “Topper” film series made by the venerable producer Hal Roach, Topper Returns, is less of a light screwball comedy and more of a dark house mystery.

Roland Young is back as banker Cosmo Topper who offers a lift to hitchhikers Gail Richards (Joan Blondell) and Ann Carrington (Carole Landis), a gesture that his jealous wife Clara (Billie Burke) resents

Gail and Ann are heading to a mysterious mansion inherited by Ann and populated by the sinister and strange Dr. Jeris (George Zucco) and Lillian (Rafaela Ottiano). The only trustworthy person is Ann’s father (H.B. Warner).

Unable to sleep, Gail and Ann exchange bedrooms, which proves to be a mistake, when an assailant intending to murder Ann kills Gail instead.

As a result, Gail’s ghost appears in the summer house where the Toppers are staying. Topper wants nothing to do with Gail’s spirit, but she convinces him to help her identity her killer and to rescue Ann.

Eddie “Rochester” Anderson plays well Young’s frightened chauffeur.

Contrived and too broad, this is the weakest of the Topper films, which may explain why it was the last; the narrative possibilities were simply exhausted.

Oscar Nominations: 2

Sound; Elmer Raguse
Special Effects: Roy Seawright, Elmer Raguse

Oscar Context:

The winner of the Sound Recording was Jack Whitney for “That Hamilton Woman.”
“I Wanted Wings” won the the Special Effects Oscar.

Credits
Running time: 86 Minutes.
Directed by Roy Del Ruth
Written by Thorne Smith, Jonathan Latimer, Gordon Douglas
United Artists

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