Thorne Smith, Creator of Topper

Thorne Smith Topper

The Jovial Ghosts

The Misadventures of Topper

Thorne Smith was one of the most successful authors of American humor in the late 1920s. There wasn’t a lot to smile about during the Depression era. Millions of readers embraced Thorne Smith’s lively tales.

He is most famous for Topper, which producer Hal Roach brought to the silver screen in 1937. The film featured superb performances by Cary Grant, Constance Bennett, Roland Young, and Billie Burke. Two sequels followed—Topper Takes a Trip in 1938 and Topper Returns in 1941.

In 1953 Thorne Smith’s books were adapted into a Topper TV series starring Leo G. Carroll as banker Cosmo Topper, Lee Patrick as his wife, and the husband and wife team of Robert Sterling and Anne Jeffreys as the mischievous ghosts, George and Marion Kerby. In 1979, another husband and wife team, Andrew Stevens and Kate Jackson, executive produced and starred in a made-for-television movie, but it never resulted in a series. A new Disney film featuring Steve Martin as Cosmo Topper is reportedly slated for production.

I Married a Witch

Based on a Story by Thorne Smith (Completed by Norman Matson)

Thorne Smith may not be a household name, but his literary works have definitely had a lasting influence on the American entertainment industry. Thorne Smith’s book The Passionate Witch (published posthumously) was made into the 1942 film I Married a Witch, starring Fredric March and Veronica Lake. That film inspired the long-running television comedy series, Bewitched, starring Elizabeth Montgomery and Agnes Moorehead. Bewitched developed a loyal following and 254 episodes were produced between 1964 and 1972. Supernatural comedies like I Dream of Jeannie, The Munsters, The Addams Family, and Mister Ed also enjoyed popularity with viewers in the 1960s.

Thorne Smith’s stories combined satire and wit with a touch of humor, and often included liberal doses of alcohol and sexual innuendo. His works have been imitated in print and on film, but no writer has yet mastered Thorne Smith’s signature style.

American Author Thorne Smith

Born March 27, 1892 in Annapolis, Maryland
Photograph Courtesy of


Thorne Smith

Creator of the Topper Series

Thorne Smith Triplets

James Thorne Smith Jr. was a prolific writer with a talent for humorous fiction. Although he is best known for creating the supernatural sensation Topper, Thorne Smith’s comic fantasies were extremely popular with readers anxious to escape their Depression woes.

Thorne Smith’s stories were spiked with alcohol. Readers could depend on endless martinis and plenty of sex to keep them entertained and anxious for more. The Thorne Smith Topper books featured mischievous partying ghosts. The author was known for drinking with the same zeal as his characters, and once raised eyebrows when he disappeared for a week.

Thorne Smith was born in Annapolis, Maryland where his father served as a Navy commodore. He later attended Dartmouth College and worked at an advertising agency in Greenwich Village. With the success of Topper in 1926, Thorne Smith turned to writing full time. His books were also known for their racy cover illustrations, a testament to the author’s knowledge of advertising and marketing to his target audience.

Thanks to the popularity of e-book readers and tablet computers, many of Thorne Smith’s out-of-print books are readily available.

Haunts and by-Paths: And Other Poems (Classic Reprint)

by J. Thorne Smith Jr.

Haunts and by-Paths: And Other Poems

Topper (1937) Official Trailer

A Hal Roach Production
Starring Constance Bennett, Cary Grant, Billie Burke, Alan Mowbray, Eugene Pallette, and Roland Young as Cosmo Topper

Topper Lobby Card

Produced by Hal Roach Studios
Starring Cary Grant, Roland Young, and Constance Bennett

Thorne Smith Topper

Topper Movies

Produced by Hal Roach Studios

Topper (1937)
Topper Takes a Trip (1938)
Topper Returns (1941)

Based on Thorne Smith’s Novels

Thorne Smith Kindle Editions

Topper (Kindle Edition)Topper Takes a Trip (Kindle Edition)Thorne Smith Topper

Topper TV Series

Produced by CBS Television

The Adventures of Topper

Topper TV Series (1953-1955)

Celebrate Halloween

Get Ready for a Ribald Adventure with Thorne Smith’s Topper

Thorne Smith Topper