Grant and Bennett play George and Marion Kerby, a madcap, hard-partying married couple who seem to take special delight in irritating Cosmo Topper (Young), the director of the bank that George owns a piece of. One day they party a little too hard and George crashes their car, killing both of them. The Kerbys re-materialize as ghosts, and after figuring out that they're dead, they realize that they need to do a good deed to get into heaven. The good deed is livening up the humdrum life and stale marriage of Cosmo Topper. The Kerbys promptly start messing around with Cosmo, causing much consternation to him and his wife Clara (Burke). Wacky hijinks and comic misunderstandings ensue.
Topper was followed by the sequel films Topper Takes a Trip (with Bennett, Young, and Burke but not Grant) and Topper Returns (with only Young and Burke), as well as a TV sitcom with a different cast.
- The Alcoholic: George and Marion are out all night drinking, and pass out in front of the bank. After the board meeting George starts rooting around the place looking for liquor.
- British Stuffiness: Cosmo is this to the max, always going to bed at the same time, waking up at the same time, working at the bank, coming home. The lawyer who's in possession of George's car simply assumes that Cosmo won't want it, because Cosmo's so stuffy. An irritated Cosmo buys the car, which is the start of him coming out of his shell.
- Character Title
- Dead to Begin With: George and Marion are killed before the end of the first act.
- Discovering Your Own Dead Body: George and Marion are only mildly annoyed to find out that they died in a car wreck.
- Driving a Desk: Used for every scene where either the Kerbys or Topper are driving around in that fancy car.
- The Film of the Book: Adapted from the 1926 novel of the same name by Thorne Smith.
- Friendly Ghost: The Kerbys are Manic Pixie Dream Ghosts who dedicate themselves to livening up their old friend Cosmo Topper's previously stuffy existence.
- Ghostly Goals: The Kerbys have to do a "good deed" to get into Heaven.
- Gilligan Cut: Marion wants to go to the Seabreeze Hotel. Cosmo refuses, saying "We're not going!" Cut to the car pulling up in front of the Seabreeze Hotel.
- Happy Ending: The Toppers have reaffirmed their love, and Mrs. Topper is loosening up by wearing the more daring underwear Cosmo brought home. The Kerbys go off to heaven.
- Henpecked Husband: Clara Topper exercises pretty strict control over her husband's life, regimenting his schedule and his habits.Cosmo: What if I want to eat something different?
- Invisibility: The Kerbys can appear and disappear at will. However, even when they are invisible, they are tangible and interact with their environment, like when an invisible Marion is holding up a bar of soap in the shower.
- Love Dodecahedron: There's the Kerbys, and Topper who clearly has a thing for Mrs. Kerby, and Topper's neglected wife, and the butler who clearly has a thing for Mrs. Topper.
- Male Gaze: Before she's dead, Mrs. Kerby is calling Topper out for this. After she's dead she seems to encourage it.Marion: Why don't you stop being a mummy for a few minutes and come to life? Of course, there's nothing wrong with being a mummy if you had any fun getting that way.
Cosmo: But I... I didn't, you see.
Marion: No, I can tell that by the way you're staring at my knees.
- Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Both the Kerbys are this to Topper, actually, getting him drunk and taking him out on the town. Marion fills this role even more, though, by dragging Topper into a lingerie shop, demanding he take her out for ice cream, and eventually getting him to take her to a seaside resort, causing George to be jealous.
- Our Ghosts Are Different: The Kerbys can materialize as people, making themselves fully visible and able to interact with their environment as normal people would. When they don't want to bother, they turn invisible.
- Uptight Loves Wild: Cosmo is clearly enamored of live Marion and ghost Marion, and is on the verge of cheating on his wife, and with a ghost no less, when George shows up and puts a stop to it.
- Winged Soul Flies Off at Death: Without the wings, but the ghosts of the Kerbys are shown rising from their bodies.
- Worst News Judgment Ever: "BANKER AND BABE IN BRAWL" is a big headline after Marion and Cosmo get into a fight.