"Topaze" is another of those quality movies from the early 1930s that showed in theaters once, and then vanished for decades. There was a laser disc release of this movie on the CBS label 60 years after "Topaze" original release in 1933, but nothing in between. TCM probably showed the movie, but I never spotted it on that cable channel's schedule. John Barrymore was at the peak of his Hollywood career when he made this movie, playing Professor Topaze, who learns the hard way that nice guys finish last. "Topaze" was just another movie on the studio production schedule, but try and find now a movie with the quality and entertainment value of "Topaze," along with commentary thrown in on the world of business. Ben Hecht wrote that he only spent a few weeks writing the screenplay for "Topaze," considering the work just another job for hire, fast money. That attitude, take the money and run, probably applied to John Barrymore, who worked for the studio that agreed to pay his $25,000 a week salary. David O. Selznick, the movie's producer, knew that RKO Studios was in financial trouble, heading for bankruptcy, but Barrymore was one of the biggest Hollywood stars in the early 30s, worth the money. "Topaze," the end result of the work of the talent RKO brought to the screen, is part cynical take on business, part romantic comedy and all original for Hollywood. Henri d'Abbadie d'Arrast, the movie's director, does a great job of pacing this story of a school teacher thrown in the big world as a pitchman for a company selling tainted bottled water. D'Abbadie d'Arrast had no career in Hollywood after this movie flopped. In one scene in the movie, the backers of the bottled water, thinking over who they can get to promote the water, think about hiring a famous general as their shill. Instead, they decide on a teacher named Dr. Topaze, a teacher at the school one backer's child goes to, and name their product Topaze water. Over 70 years later, advertisers still use researchers and scientists in their commercials to push their products. Maybe D'Abbadie d'Arrast career went south after going over budget on the movie by not doing everything possible to film all of Barrymore's scenes within two weeks, as William Wyler did making a later Barrymore picture, "Counsellor at Law." Hollywood lost a top craftsman when D'Abbadie d'Arrast stopped directing movies. In "Topaze," Barrymore is great as Dr.Topaze, Myrna Loy looks great and the audience even learns something about the Punic Wars. What a class picture. FYI: At the 42 minute mark of Topaze, John Barrymore and Myrna Loy are in a cab driving down a main thoroughfare in Paris during a rainstorm. The rear window of the cab shows the traffic behind them and, once or twice, a pedestrian behind them crossing the street in the rear projection shot. At 44 minutes, the image dissolves for a fraction of a second, whiting out, and the special effects technician replays some of the one and one half minutes of stock footage previously rear-projected. Someone at RKO made a copy of the stock footage and spliced some of this copy footage to the end of original footage to end up with the two or so minutes of rear projection footage needed for the cab scene. Clever, huh, and you would never notice it if not for that momentary glitch as the rear image whites out. All routine for Vernon Walker's RKO special effects unit. But, as usual, very well done.
Comedy / Drama
Comedy / Drama
An honest and naive schoolteacher gets a lesson in how the world works outside the classroom, when a rich Baron and his mistress use the teacher's name and outstanding reputation in a ...
June 15, 2020