Thorne Smith

1969 - 1969

Place of Birth: N/A

Novel

Story

Biography

The 1926 publication of "Topper" brought writer Thorne Smith immediate acclaim. A sophisticated spoof of middle-class manners and morals, it chronicles the madcap adventures of Cosmo Topper, a mild-mannered bank executive who is rescued from his drab "summer of suburban Sundays" by fun-loving ghosts George and Marion Kerby. A sequel, "Topper Takes a Trip" (1932), records the further ribald escapades of Topper and the Kerbys on the French Riviera. The improbable trio went on to inspire several movies, notably the 1937 film Topper (1937) starring Cary Grant and Constance Bennett, as well as a hit television series Topper (1953)). Following the success of "Topper", Smith enhanced his reputation with a number of clever fantasies. "The Stray Lamb" (1929) features a Topper-like hero whose complacent life is upset when he is transformed into an assortment of animals. In "The Night Life of the Gods" (1931) Smith captivated readers with the nocturnal antics of an oddball inventor who cavorts around Manhattan with reincarnated Greek and Roman deities, and in "Turnabout" (1931) he offered up a screwball comedy about a jaded husband and wife who temporarily switch identities. "Rain in the Doorway" (1933) transports a harassed lawyer from the gloom of the Depression through a portal into a department store tinged with The Marx Brothers lunacy, and "Skin and Bones" (1933) tells of a fashionable photographer who becomes a nearly invisible skeleton at the most inopportune moments. "Did She Fall?", Smith's one mystery, came out in 1930. During this period Smith also wrote "Lazy Bear Lane" (1931), a children's novel, and "The Bishop's Jaegers" (1932), a metaphorical tale about chance-met passengers on a lost ferry boat who find unexpected sanctuary in a nudist colony. "The Glorious Pool" (1934), in which a group of aging hedonists happen upon the fountain of youth, was the last fantasy Smith completed. While vacationing in Florida with his wife and two young daughters, Smith died suddenly of a heart attack on June 21, 1934. His unfinished novel, "The Passionate Witch", was published posthumously in 1941 and adapted for the screen the following year by director René Clair as I Married a Witch (1942), starring Veronica Lake and Fredric March. It was not, as often claimed, the inspiration for the long-running television series Bewitched (1964) with Elizabeth Montgomery. As recently as 1997 The New York Times rated Smith "one of America's most significant humorous writers" and credited his mischievous ghosts with inspiring such movies as The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947), Heaven Can Wait (1978), Beetlejuice (1988), Ghost (1990), Always (1989) and A Life Less Ordinary (1997). Date of Birth 27 March 1892, Annapolis, Maryland Date of Death 21 June 1934, Sarasota, Florida  (heart attack)