In spite of an excellent ensemble cast, which included Ms. Mercouri, Maximilian Schell, and Robert Morley, critics singled out Peter Ustinov for his performance as Arthur Simpson, a bumbling tourist guide who is manipulated by both the jewel thieves and the local police. In the 1964 Oscar® race for Best Supporting Actor, Ustinov even beat out such worthy contenders as John Gielgud in Becket and Stanley Holloway in My Fair Lady for the prized statuette. Later the actor admitted (in Ustinov in Focus by Tony Thomas), "I have a special affection for Topkapi. The character is so absurd. I love the idea of a man who aims low and misses. Simpson is the kind of man who wears blazers a little too consistently, the kind with military presumptions, who has to belong to a cricket club. He's a man who hovers between the more reprehensible columns of The News of the World and oblivion."
On an interesting side note, Topkapi inspired an actual theft shortly after its release. Three men broke into the American Museum of Natural History in New York and escaped with the famous Star of India, De Long Ruby, and other priceless treasures. They were eventually apprehended and admitted in custody that they had seen Topkapi prior to their robbery.
Director/Producer: Jules Dassin
Screenplay: Eric Ambler (novel The Light of Day), Monja Danischewsky
Cinematography: Henri Alekan
Music: Manos Hadjdakis
Principle Cast: Melina Mercouri (Elizabeth Lipp), Peter Ustinov (Arthur Simpson), Maximilian Schell (Walter Harper), Robert Morley (Cedric Page), Jess Hahn (Fischer), Gilles Segal (Giulio), Akim Tamiroff (Geven), Titos Vandis (Harback)
C-120m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.
by Jeff Stafford