Topaze


1h 20m 1933
Topaze

Brief Synopsis

A simple schoolteacher gets caught up in a wealthy baron's crooked schemes.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Drama
Adaptation
Release Date
Feb 24, 1933
Premiere Information
New York premiere: 8 Feb 1933
Production Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the play Topaze by Marcel Pagnol (Paris, 9 Oct 1928).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 20m
Sound
Mono (RCA Photophone System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
8 reels

Synopsis

Professor Albert A. Topaze, an honest, naive chemist and schoolteacher at the Stegg Academy in Paris, loses his job when he refuses to alter the grades of Charlemagne de La Tour-La Tour, a bratty baron's son. On the same day, Friday the 13th, Topaze calls on Coco, the baron's mistress, who is shopping for a tutor for her sister's child and has gotten Topaze's name from La Tour. Upon meeting and listening to the sincere remarks of Topaze, the baron, who is the head of the La Tour Chemical Works, decides to employ him as a scientific dupe for his phony curative water. Unaware that the water, "Sparkling Topaze," which is being sold all over Paris, does not contain the medicinal formula he invented for it, Topaze is shocked when a blackmailing colleague, Dr. Bomb, accuses him of being a thief and a fraud. After confirming that "Sparkling Topaze" is in fact phony, a dazed Topaze returns to Coco's apartment ready to be arrested. Instead, however, he is awarded the Academic Palms prize by a corrupt government committee. His naivete thoroughly destroyed, Topaze decides to fight back by becoming more corrupt than his mentors. With Bomb as his assistant, he opens his own office, where he makes dignitaries wait to see him and then blackmails the baron into a partnership in his company. Because of his newfound prestige, Topaze, who has also garnered the romantic attention of Coco, is asked to speak at the Stegg Academy graduation. Instead of giving Charlemagne his ill-gotten class prize, Topaze, suddenly re-inspired by his own philosophical placards, makes a speech about life's pitfalls and awards the prize to the entire class, admonishing them to remember the importance of ethics and honesty.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Drama
Adaptation
Release Date
Feb 24, 1933
Premiere Information
New York premiere: 8 Feb 1933
Production Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the play Topaze by Marcel Pagnol (Paris, 9 Oct 1928).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 20m
Sound
Mono (RCA Photophone System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
8 reels

Articles

Topaze


It was during his tenure as Vice President in Charge of Production at RKO (1931-33) that David O. Selznick solidified his reputation as a producer of uncommon taste, imagination and ambition. One of Selznick's most impressive talents was his knack for finding just the right vehicles to bring out the best in performers. Among his triumphs in that regard at RKO were casting Katharine Hepburn in her star-making role in A Bill of Divorcement (1932), signing Fred Astaire to appear in film musicals and tapping into the comic talents of John Barrymore and Myrna Loy in Topaze (1933).

A year before Howard Hawks' "discovery" of Barrymore as a first-rate comedian in Twentieth Century (1934), Selznick cast him in Topaze. It was an adaptation of Marcel Pagnol's satire about an honest yet naive science teacher who loses his job because he won't pass an undeserving student who is the son of a wealthy man. After inventing a formula for a questionable health tonic called "Sparkling Topaze," however, the teacher risks losing his integrity by marketing the product with an unscrupulous businessman (George Mason). Loy is cast as the businessman's mistress, who falls for the teacher and eventually joins him on the road to redemption.

Of his uncharacteristic comic turn, Barrymore biographer Margot Peters wrote that "Refreshingly, Jack neither makes a pass at nor kisses a woman in the whole film; refreshingly, he is neither stuffed into a tight uniform nor profiled on the screen. His performance is subtle, nuanced, and beautifully controlled."

As strange as it now seems, Loy had been trapped for years in the role of exotic siren until Selznick cast her in light comedy roles in The Animal Kingdom (1932) and Topaze, allowing the actress to at last find what Selznick termed her "natural field." Selznick later wrote that Loy's earlier image had always been "a joke with people who knew her.... In real life she is no more a siren than I am."

Topaze was voted the best American film of 1933 by the National Board of Review, "with a salute to John Barrymore's memorable characterization." It was remade in 1951 and 1963 with Fernandel and Peter Sellers, respectively, in the Barrymore role.

Producer: David O. Selznick, Kenneth Macgowan (Associate)
Director: Harry d’Abbadie d’Arrast
Screenplay: Ben Hecht, Charles MacArthur (uncredited), from play by Marcel Pagnol as adapted by Benn W. Levy
Cinematography: Lucien N. Andriot
Original Music: Max Steiner
Art Direction: Van Nest Polglase
Editing: William Hamilton
Cast: John Barrymore (Professor Auguste A. Topaze), Myrna Loy (Coco), Reginald Mason (Baron Philippe de La Tour-La Tour), Jobyna Howland (Baroness Hortense de La Tour-La Tour), Jackie Searl (Charlemagne de La Tour-La Tour).
BW-78m.

by Roger Fristoe
Topaze

Topaze

It was during his tenure as Vice President in Charge of Production at RKO (1931-33) that David O. Selznick solidified his reputation as a producer of uncommon taste, imagination and ambition. One of Selznick's most impressive talents was his knack for finding just the right vehicles to bring out the best in performers. Among his triumphs in that regard at RKO were casting Katharine Hepburn in her star-making role in A Bill of Divorcement (1932), signing Fred Astaire to appear in film musicals and tapping into the comic talents of John Barrymore and Myrna Loy in Topaze (1933). A year before Howard Hawks' "discovery" of Barrymore as a first-rate comedian in Twentieth Century (1934), Selznick cast him in Topaze. It was an adaptation of Marcel Pagnol's satire about an honest yet naive science teacher who loses his job because he won't pass an undeserving student who is the son of a wealthy man. After inventing a formula for a questionable health tonic called "Sparkling Topaze," however, the teacher risks losing his integrity by marketing the product with an unscrupulous businessman (George Mason). Loy is cast as the businessman's mistress, who falls for the teacher and eventually joins him on the road to redemption. Of his uncharacteristic comic turn, Barrymore biographer Margot Peters wrote that "Refreshingly, Jack neither makes a pass at nor kisses a woman in the whole film; refreshingly, he is neither stuffed into a tight uniform nor profiled on the screen. His performance is subtle, nuanced, and beautifully controlled." As strange as it now seems, Loy had been trapped for years in the role of exotic siren until Selznick cast her in light comedy roles in The Animal Kingdom (1932) and Topaze, allowing the actress to at last find what Selznick termed her "natural field." Selznick later wrote that Loy's earlier image had always been "a joke with people who knew her.... In real life she is no more a siren than I am." Topaze was voted the best American film of 1933 by the National Board of Review, "with a salute to John Barrymore's memorable characterization." It was remade in 1951 and 1963 with Fernandel and Peter Sellers, respectively, in the Barrymore role. Producer: David O. Selznick, Kenneth Macgowan (Associate) Director: Harry d’Abbadie d’Arrast Screenplay: Ben Hecht, Charles MacArthur (uncredited), from play by Marcel Pagnol as adapted by Benn W. Levy Cinematography: Lucien N. Andriot Original Music: Max Steiner Art Direction: Van Nest Polglase Editing: William Hamilton Cast: John Barrymore (Professor Auguste A. Topaze), Myrna Loy (Coco), Reginald Mason (Baron Philippe de La Tour-La Tour), Jobyna Howland (Baroness Hortense de La Tour-La Tour), Jackie Searl (Charlemagne de La Tour-La Tour). BW-78m. by Roger Fristoe

Quotes

But idiots are hard to find, I should think.
- Coco
Oh no, not in the scientific world.
- Baron Philippe de La Tour-La Tour
You're the most impudent scoundrel I've ever known.
- Baron Philippe de La Tour-La Tour
Sir, I am impervious to flattery.
- Professor Auguste A. Topaze

Trivia

The original play opened on 9 October 1928 in Paris, France.

Although the movie was passed by The National Board of Review for showing in the USA in 1933, it was refused a Production Code Administation (PCA) certificate for re-release in 1936, when the Code was more strictly enforced.

Notes

According to the Variety review, Paramount bought the screen rights to Pagnol's play, but, feeling the story was not "appropriate for American audiences," gave up the American rights to RKO, preferring to make a version in French for foreign distribution only. According to a Variety news item, Robert Benchley was to "adapt the dialog" on the production, but his contribution to the final film has not been confirmed. Myrna Loy was on loan from M-G-M for this production. Although Frank Morgan played the title role in the Broadway production of Topaze and was under contract at RKO at the time of filming, he was passed over for the part, according to Variety. A Film Daily news item announced that Paul Porcasi and Raymond Borzage were cast in the film, but their participation in the final film has not been confirmed.
       Inter-office RKO memos indicate that Topaze grossed a record-breaking $93,000 in its one-week run at the Radio City Music Hall. According to the MPPA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, Topaze was rejected and denied re-issue certification by the PCA in 1936. The film was selected as one of the National Board of Review's ten best films of 1933. Pagnol's play has been filmed many times, including the 1932 Paramount French production, directed by Louis Gasnier and starring Louis Jouvet; a 1933 Egyptian production called Yacout Effendl; a 1936 French version, directed and written by Pagnol and starring Arnaudy; and a 1961 British production, I Like Money (Mr. Topaze), directed by and starring Peter Sellers.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1933

Released in United States 1994

Released in United States 1933

Released in United States 1994 (Shown at AFI/ Los Angeles International Film Festival (All Night Movie Marathon: "Comedies of Elegance") June 23 - July 7, 1994.)