Topkapi (1964)

120 mins | Comedy-drama | 17 September 1964

Director:

Jules Dassin

Producer:

Jules Dassin

Cinematographer:

Henri Alekan

Editor:

Roger Dwyre

Production Designer:

Max Douy

Production Companies:

Filmways, Inc., F--H Productions
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HISTORY

On 23 May 1962, DV announced that producer Martin Ransohoff had acquired rights to produce a motion picture version of Eric Ambler’s novel, The Light of Day, in association with Filmways, Inc. The novel was scheduled for publication later that year in Sep 1962. A 27 Jun 1962 Var article included the property among six Filmways projects with a collective budget exceeding $10 million. At this time, Ambler was signed to adapt his work for the screen, and shortly after, the 15 Aug 1962 Var named Jules Dassin as director.
       By early the next year, writing duties had been assumed by Michael Wilson, although Monja Danischewsky receives sole credit. A 9 Jan 1963 DV news item reported the casting of Peter Sellers as “Arthur Simpson,” but his involvement was brief, as the 10 Apr 1963 Var announced he had decided to bow out upon learning that the May start date had been pushed to Aug. Peter Ustinov, who was previously replaced by Sellers in The Pink Panther (1963, see entry), signed on to take his place.
       A 19 Jun 1963 LAT article suggested that Christopher Plummer was considering a role. Around this time, the title had been changed to The Man in the Middle, but filmmakers quickly reverted to The Light of Day after Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. adopted Man in the Middle for their recent production starring Robert Mitchum (1964, see entry). A 13 Oct 1963 NYT article claimed that Dassin also considered Zümrüt (the Turkish word for “emerald”) before ... More Less

On 23 May 1962, DV announced that producer Martin Ransohoff had acquired rights to produce a motion picture version of Eric Ambler’s novel, The Light of Day, in association with Filmways, Inc. The novel was scheduled for publication later that year in Sep 1962. A 27 Jun 1962 Var article included the property among six Filmways projects with a collective budget exceeding $10 million. At this time, Ambler was signed to adapt his work for the screen, and shortly after, the 15 Aug 1962 Var named Jules Dassin as director.
       By early the next year, writing duties had been assumed by Michael Wilson, although Monja Danischewsky receives sole credit. A 9 Jan 1963 DV news item reported the casting of Peter Sellers as “Arthur Simpson,” but his involvement was brief, as the 10 Apr 1963 Var announced he had decided to bow out upon learning that the May start date had been pushed to Aug. Peter Ustinov, who was previously replaced by Sellers in The Pink Panther (1963, see entry), signed on to take his place.
       A 19 Jun 1963 LAT article suggested that Christopher Plummer was considering a role. Around this time, the title had been changed to The Man in the Middle, but filmmakers quickly reverted to The Light of Day after Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. adopted Man in the Middle for their recent production starring Robert Mitchum (1964, see entry). A 13 Oct 1963 NYT article claimed that Dassin also considered Zümrüt (the Turkish word for “emerald”) before settling on the name Topkapi, after the largest palace in Istanbul, Turkey.
       According to a 4 Oct 1963 DV production chart, principal photography began 12 Aug 1963. A DV report published three days later claimed that Ustinov had arrived late to the set after sailing there from Athens, Greece, aboard his personal ketch. The majority of location filming was completed in Istanbul, with a French, English, American, and Italian crew. Featured landmarks included Topkapi Palace, St. Sophia’s Mosque, the Bosphorus waterway dividing Europe and Asia, the Golden Horn, the Sea of Marmara, and Dolmabahçe Palace. An all-day Turkish wrestling match usually held in Edirne, Turkey, relocated to Istanbul so the wrestlers, the National Turkish Band, and several participating locals could be recorded for the film. According to the 28 Aug 1963 LAT, Turkish officials strictly oversaw the script requirements after a recent Hollywood production negatively portrayed the city. Although the logistics of the Topkapi Palace robbery were detailed in Ambler’s novel, Dassin agreed to “obscure the directions” and heighten the satirical elements of the sequence so that it would not pose as a security threat for the actual location. The unit was expected to remain in Turkey for eight weeks before moving for one week of shooting at the harbor of Kevala, Greece. The 27 Nov 1963 LAT stated that interiors were completed at the Boulogne Billancourt Studios in Paris, France.
       The 13 Oct 1963 NYT article and an 18 Dec 1963 DV brief indicated that Dassin also appeared onscreen, while son Joseph and daughters Richelle and Julie worked as actors and assistants on the production. Dassin was married to leading actress Melina Mercouri. According to a 30 Aug 1964 LAT news story, several members of the technical crew also doubled as background actors.
       The 3 Mar 1964 DV credited Mercouri with the recording of the title theme, written by Manos Hadjidakis.
       A 19 Aug 1964 Var column announced that Topkapi was scheduled to open 4 Sep 1964 in Paris, and a 15 Jul 1964 Var suggested that the U.K. opening date would also precede the U.S. release. The New York City engagement began two weeks later, on 17 Sep 1964 at the Astor and Trans-Lux East theaters, with bookings at Los Angeles, CA’s Fox Wilshire Theatre beginning 16 Oct 1964. According to the 4 Nov 1964 Var, the New York City distribution pattern would switch to a “showcase” run on 10 Nov 1964. An LAT brief published on Christmas Day reported that citywide engagements would begin five days later across the Los Angeles area.
       Peter Ustinov won an Academy Award for Actor in a Supporting Role.
       On 8 Jan 1965, LAT reported that Dassin intended to reunite the principal cast for a sequel titled The Crown Jewels, but plans did not move ahead. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
23 May 1962
p. 4.
Daily Variety
9 Jan 1963
p. 3.
Daily Variety
15 Aug 1963
p. 2.
Daily Variety
22 Aug 1963
p. 2.
Daily Variety
18 Dec 1963
p. 2.
Daily Variety
3 Mar 1964
p. 2.
Daily Variety
4 Oct 1963
p. 6.
Los Angeles Times
19 Jun 1963
Section E, p. 12.
Los Angeles Times
28 Jun 1963
Section D, p. 17.
Los Angeles Times
28 Aug 1963
Section C, p. 11.
Los Angeles Times
14 Sep 1963
Section B, p. 6.
Los Angeles Times
27 Nov 1963
Section D, p. 7.
Los Angeles Times
30 Aug 1964
Section B, p. 7.
Los Angeles Times
12 Sep 1964
Section A, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
4 Oct 1964
Section U, p. 10.
Los Angeles Times
25 Dec 1964
Section D, p. 12.
Los Angeles Times
8 Jan 1965
Section C, p. 9.
New York Times
13 Aug 1963
p. 127.
New York Times
13 Oct 1963
p. 127.
New York Times
13 Sep 1964
Section X, p. 13.
New York Times
18 Sep 1964
p. 25.
Variety
10 Apr 1963
p. 4.
Variety
12 Jun 1963
p. 70.
Variety
15 Jul 1964
p. 18.
Variety
19 Aug 1964
p. 68.
Variety
4 Nov 1964
p. 13.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANIES
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Asst cam
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Asst art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
COSTUMES
MUSIC
SOUND
PRODUCTION MISC
Scr supv
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Light of Day by Eric Ambler (London, 1962).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
The Light of Day
The Man in the Middle
Zümrüt
Release Date:
17 September 1964
Premiere Information:
Paris opening: 4 September 1964
New York opening: 17 September 1964
Los Angeles opening: 16 October 1964
Production Date:
began 12 August 1963
Copyright Claimant:
Filmways, Inc.
Copyright Date:
17 September 1964
Copyright Number:
LP29368
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
120
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

Jewel thief Elizabeth Lipp and her lover, William Walter, plan to steal an emerald dagger from Istanbul's Topkapi Museum. Cedric Page, an eccentric British inventor; Giulio, a mute athlete; and Fischer, a strongman, are recruited. In Greece, the gang hires con man Arthur Simpson to drive a car over the border and meet them in Istanbul, but he is stopped by the Turkish police, who discover weapons hidden in the trunk. Major Tufan, one of the policemen, questions Simpson and then allows him to leave on the condition that he spy on the gang. At their villa headquarters, the gang plans the robbery: Fischer is to lower Giulio on a rope from a window near the museum's ceiling so that Giulio can steal the dagger while dangling above the sensitively wired floors of the museum. Geven, the drunken cook at the villa, believes the men are Russian spies and tells Simpson, who in turn passes the information on to Tufan. Later, Geven accidentally smashes Fischer's hands in a door, and Simpson is enlisted to take Fischer's place, although he has revealed his link to the police. The gang manages to elude Tufan, steal the dagger, and pass it to a Gypsy who will smuggle it out of Turkey. Flaunting their success, the gang goes to see Tufan, and Elizabeth explains that weapons were discovered in their car, but while they are in the major's office, a bird flies through an open window in the museum and lands on the floor, triggering the alarm. The entire gang is arrested, but the undaunted Elizabeth begins outlining her plans for their next job--the theft of the Romanoff jewels from the ... +


Jewel thief Elizabeth Lipp and her lover, William Walter, plan to steal an emerald dagger from Istanbul's Topkapi Museum. Cedric Page, an eccentric British inventor; Giulio, a mute athlete; and Fischer, a strongman, are recruited. In Greece, the gang hires con man Arthur Simpson to drive a car over the border and meet them in Istanbul, but he is stopped by the Turkish police, who discover weapons hidden in the trunk. Major Tufan, one of the policemen, questions Simpson and then allows him to leave on the condition that he spy on the gang. At their villa headquarters, the gang plans the robbery: Fischer is to lower Giulio on a rope from a window near the museum's ceiling so that Giulio can steal the dagger while dangling above the sensitively wired floors of the museum. Geven, the drunken cook at the villa, believes the men are Russian spies and tells Simpson, who in turn passes the information on to Tufan. Later, Geven accidentally smashes Fischer's hands in a door, and Simpson is enlisted to take Fischer's place, although he has revealed his link to the police. The gang manages to elude Tufan, steal the dagger, and pass it to a Gypsy who will smuggle it out of Turkey. Flaunting their success, the gang goes to see Tufan, and Elizabeth explains that weapons were discovered in their car, but while they are in the major's office, a bird flies through an open window in the museum and lands on the floor, triggering the alarm. The entire gang is arrested, but the undaunted Elizabeth begins outlining her plans for their next job--the theft of the Romanoff jewels from the Kremlin. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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