Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Watch us on Youtube Join the Archive Mailing List Read our Blog

Topper Takes a Trip

Actors Roland Young, Constance Bennett and Asta the dog sitting around a table.
April 7, 2024 - 11:00 am
Introduction by Patrick Loughney, director of the Packard Humanities Institute Stoa Film Archive.

Admission is free. No advance reservations. Seats are available on a first come, first served basis. Hammer Museum members will have reserved seating available at the box office. The box office opens one hour before the first program of the day.

The Lighter Side of Hearst Newsreels #4: “Home”

Delightful inventions that one might use at home! A solar oven (demonstrated on Venice Beach) and an ex-marine’s self-feeding baby bottle are among these creations meant to improve domestic life.—Jeffrey Bickel

Lucky Millinder and His Orchestra

U.S., 1946

Restoration world premiere  

This jazzy gem is an early example of a mainstream multiracial band led by the charismatic Lucky Millinder. Around the time of this production, Millinder had deliberately decided that it was time to integrate his band, which was extremely popular with African American audiences. The bandleader introduces three numbers that include tenor saxophonists Sam “The Man” Taylor, Clarence “Bull Moose” Jackson (also a singer), and Annisteen Allen. Blues vocalist Allen is presented as the “Hot Tamale” from close to the Mexican border (Champaign, Illinois, was her actual home); her rendition of the hit “I Want a Man” is a highlight.—Todd Wiener

DCP, b&w, 10 min. With: Lucky Millinder and His Orchestra, Annisteen Allen, Sam Taylor, Clarence Jackson.

Restoration funded by a grant from the GRAMMY Museum®. Restored by the UCLA Film & Television Archive from 16mm prints. Laboratory services by Roundabout Entertainment, Inc. Special thanks to the Library of Congress, Mark Cantor.

Topper Takes a Trip

U.S., 1938

Restoration world premiere  

Cosmo Topper (Roland Young) is back in this first sequel to 1937’s hit Topper. Now he’s in marital trouble with his wife, Clara (Billie Burke), for the shenanigans caused by the ghostly Marion Kerby (Constance Bennett) in the original film. When Clara ships off for the French Riviera, Marion appears (and disappears and reappears) to prod Topper and reunite the couple. It will take all of Marion’s tricks to ward off Clara’s would-be suitor, Baron de Rossi (Alexander D’Arcy), and earn her ticket to the afterlife! Alan Mowbray also returns as Topper’s butler, Wilkins, but swap out Topper breakout Cary Grant — who appears only in a few scenes reused from the first film — for “ectoplasmic pup” Mr. Atlas, played by Asta of The Thin Man (1934) fame, and you have all the ingredients for this ribald martini.

Norman Z. McLeod again directs this supernatural farce for studio head Hal Roach. Once an animator, McLeod established himself as a comedic filmmaker with the Marx Brothers (Monkey Business, 1931) and W.C. Fields (It’s a Gift, 1934) before a run of late ’30s films for the Roach Studios as the company moved from shorts (Harold Lloyd, Laurel & Hardy, Our Gang) into features. For spectacular displays like a cocktail glass drinking itself and flying casino games, Topper Takes a Trip was nominated for the first Academy Award for Best Special Effects in 1940.

The first two Topper films were adapted from popular novels by Jazz Age humorist Thorne Smith, the “literary patron saint of hard liquor” (Modern Library) known for spoofing middle-class mannerisms. Young and Burke would reprise their film roles in Topper Returns (Roy Del Ruth, 1941, 2022 UCLA Festival of Preservation), before handing off the lead to Leo G. Carroll for TV’s Topper (1953-1955).—Brian Belak

35mm, b&w, 80 min. Director: Norman Z. McLeod. Screenwriters: Jack Jevne, Eddie Moran, Corey Ford. Based on the novel by Thorne Smith. With: Constance Bennett, Roland Young, Billie Burke, Alan Mowbray, Alexander D’Arcy. 

Restoration funded by The Packard Humanities Institute. Restored by the UCLA Film & Television Archive from the 35mm nitrate original picture negative and a 35mm nitrate master positive. Laboratory services by The PHI Stoa Film Lab, Audio Mechanics and Simon Daniel Sound. Special thanks to Sonar Entertainment.