Topaz (1969)

125 mins | Mystery | 19 December 1969

Director:

Alfred Hitchcock

Writer:

Samuel Taylor

Producer:

Alfred Hitchcock

Cinematographer:

Jack Hildyard

Editor:

William Ziegler

Production Designer:

Henry Bumstead

Production Company:

Universal Pictures
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HISTORY

Screen rights to Leon Uris’s best-selling, 1967 novel, Topaz, were initially optioned by Britons Shel Talmy and Sir William Piggot Brown, for $500,000 “against five percent of the gross,” as stated in a 7 Dec 1967 DV article. However, the deal was quashed by the Bank of England due to a devaluation of the British pound which occurred slightly after Talmy and Brown supplied Uris’s agent with a $50,000 down payment. The Bank of England reasoned that it did not want $500,000 of British money being spent outside the country over the next few years, and also cited the lack of film production experience between Brown and Talmy, a music producer and discotheque owner. Five months later, Alfred Hitchcock’s plan to direct the film for Universal Pictures was announced in the 8 May 1968 DV. An item in the 7 Sep 1969 LAT claimed that Topaz was seventy-year-old Hitchcock’s fifty-first film.
       As of summer 1968, Uris’s book had not yet been published in France, due to its controversial re-telling of a spy scandal that allegedly occurred under President Charles de Gaulle. The announcement of the film deal triggered a lawsuit, filed by former French intelligence officer Phillippe de Vosjoli against Uris, Universal Pictures and its parent company, MCA, Inc. De Vosjoli claimed to have written an original French manuscript titled Le reseau topaz, which Uris translated into English before re-writing it as Topaz. De Vosjoli claimed he and Uris had agreed to split profits from the book “on a 50-50 basis,” but that Uris had excluded him from the film project and related profits.
       ... More Less

Screen rights to Leon Uris’s best-selling, 1967 novel, Topaz, were initially optioned by Britons Shel Talmy and Sir William Piggot Brown, for $500,000 “against five percent of the gross,” as stated in a 7 Dec 1967 DV article. However, the deal was quashed by the Bank of England due to a devaluation of the British pound which occurred slightly after Talmy and Brown supplied Uris’s agent with a $50,000 down payment. The Bank of England reasoned that it did not want $500,000 of British money being spent outside the country over the next few years, and also cited the lack of film production experience between Brown and Talmy, a music producer and discotheque owner. Five months later, Alfred Hitchcock’s plan to direct the film for Universal Pictures was announced in the 8 May 1968 DV. An item in the 7 Sep 1969 LAT claimed that Topaz was seventy-year-old Hitchcock’s fifty-first film.
       As of summer 1968, Uris’s book had not yet been published in France, due to its controversial re-telling of a spy scandal that allegedly occurred under President Charles de Gaulle. The announcement of the film deal triggered a lawsuit, filed by former French intelligence officer Phillippe de Vosjoli against Uris, Universal Pictures and its parent company, MCA, Inc. De Vosjoli claimed to have written an original French manuscript titled Le reseau topaz, which Uris translated into English before re-writing it as Topaz. De Vosjoli claimed he and Uris had agreed to split profits from the book “on a 50-50 basis,” but that Uris had excluded him from the film project and related profits.
       Principal photography began on 25 Sep 1968, as announced in a 4 Oct 1968 DV production chart. Filming began in Europe, where locations included Paris, France; Copenhagen, Denmark; and Wiesbaden, Germany, the 6 Dec 1968 DV reported. An item in the 11 Dec 1968 DV noted that clearance to shoot in France had only been granted after Hitchcock had confirmed that Charles de Gaulle would not be depicted onscreen. After nearly a month of filming overseas, the 17 Oct 1968 DV announced that cast and crew would begin a week of shooting in Washington, D.C., that day. While on the East Coast, filming was also done at the Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, and in areas of Virginia and New York. Production was completed in Los Angeles, CA, where locations included the Claretville Monastery in Malibu, CA. According to a 6 Dec 1968 DV article, the script was finished only in time for the Los Angeles portion of filming. Up to that point, Hitchcock had used a detailed treatment, co-written by himself and screenwriter Samuel Taylor.
       Filming ended in late Feb or Mar 1969, as indicated in a 31 Mar 1969 DV brief. Sometime in Sep 1969, a day of re-shoots was scheduled to take place at Paris’s Orly Airport, as announced in the 11 Sep 1969 DV.
       The film had its world premiere on 6 Nov 1969 at the Odeon Leicester Square in London, England. At Hitchcock’s behest, the film was shown there without an intermission, despite the Odeon’s house policy of including one. The 11 Nov 1969 DV review noted that a 125-minute press release version, which had been shown at the Odeon on 4 Nov 1969, had been criticized as having an “inconclusive ending.” In response, one-and-a-half minutes of footage was tacked on to “give the bowout a more caustic and typical Hitchcock twist,” resulting in a running time of 126 ½ minutes. An article in the 12 Nov 1969 Var claimed that the English premiere had been rushed due to a crowded release calendar for Dec 1969, and described the version shown there as a rough cut, which might be expanded to 142 minutes for later releases. However, when Topaz opened on 19 Dec 1969 at Los Angeles’s Pix Theatre and New York City’s Cinerama Theatre, the LAT and NYT reviews cited a 126-minute running time.
       Following mixed-to-positive reviews, Topaz was named as one of the ten best films of the year by the National Board of Review, which also awarded Hitchcock Best Director and Philippe Noiret as Best Supporting Actor.
       The following actors and actresses were named as cast members in DV items published between Sep 1968 and Feb 1969: John Stephenson; Dean Harens; Robert Patten; John Lasell; Richard Anders; Ann Doran; Ben Wright; Ernestine Wade; John Holland; Susan French; Gregory Gay; Mike Steele; Ted Roter; Roger Treville; Dom Folinaro (or Don Solinaro); Pepe Callahan; Emma Edwards; Alberto Monte; Rita Conde; and Aram Katcher, whose performance as “Munoz” was cut from the film. A 28 Apr 1969 DV item noted that Roberto Contreras had been re-cast as Munoz, but that the studio had not publicized the change “to avoid embarrassment” for Katcher, who had discovered the news unceremoniously in advance of promotional appearances. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
25 Aug 1966
p. 2.
Daily Variety
7 Dec 1967
p. 1, 4.
Daily Variety
8 May 1968
p. 1, 15.
Daily Variety
13 Jun 1968
p. 2.
Daily Variety
6 Sep 1968
p. 4.
Daily Variety
11 Sep 1968
p. 12.
Daily Variety
30 Sep 1968
p. 4.
Daily Variety
4 Oct 1968
p. 14.
Daily Variety
17 Oct 1968
p. 3.
Daily Variety
22 Nov 1968
p. 4.
Daily Variety
27 Nov 1968
p. 3.
Daily Variety
29 Nov 1968
p. 4.
Daily Variety
3 Dec 1968
p. 4.
Daily Variety
6 Dec 1968
p. 23.
Daily Variety
11 Dec 1968
p. 2.
Daily Variety
27 Dec 1968
p. 2.
Daily Variety
6 Jan 1969
p. 4.
Daily Variety
7 Jan 1969
p. 4.
Daily Variety
13 Jan 1969
p. 14.
Daily Variety
24 Jan 1969
p. 4.
Daily Variety
11 Feb 1969
p. 4.
Daily Variety
12 Feb 1969
p. 10.
Daily Variety
18 Feb 1969
p. 8.
Daily Variety
21 Feb 1969
p. 6.
Daily Variety
24 Feb 1969
p. 4.
Daily Variety
25 Feb 1969
p. 4.
Daily Variety
31 Mar 1969
p. 2.
Daily Variety
28 Apr 1969
p. 1.
Daily Variety
17 Jul 1969
p. 10.
Daily Variety
11 Sep 1969
p. 2.
Daily Variety
4 Nov 1969
p. 8.
Daily Variety
11 Nov 1969
p. 3, 8.
Daily Variety
12 Nov 1969
p. 12.
Los Angeles Times
8 May 1968
Section G, p. 23.
Los Angeles Times
7 Oct 1968
Section C, p. 26.
Los Angeles Times
7 Sep 1969
Section Q, p. 1, 26.
Los Angeles Times
16 Dec 1969
Section I, p. 21.
Los Angeles Times
19 Dec 1969
Section D, p. 1, 15.
New York Times
20 Dec 1969.
---
New York Times
28 Dec 1969
Section D, p. 1, 13, 26.
Variety
27 Nov 1968
p. 24.
Variety
18 Dec 1968
p. 22.
Variety
25 Dec 1968
p. 16.
Variety
12 Nov 1969
p. 30.
Variety
17 Dec 1969
p. 9.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Photog cons
ART DIRECTOR
Prod des
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost
Fashioned in Paris by
Men's cost supv
MUSIC
Mus & mus dir
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairstyles
Hairstyles
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit prod mgr
Asst to Mr. Hitchcock
Scr supv
Cuban and French tech adv
Cuban and French tech adv
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Topaz by Leon Uris (New York, 1967).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Release Date:
19 December 1969
Premiere Information:
World premiere in London: 6 Nov 1969; Los Angeles and New York openings: 19 Dec 1969
Production Date:
25 Sep 1968--late Feb or Mar 1969; re-shoots in Sep 1969
Copyright Claimant:
Universal Pictures
Copyright Date:
19 December 1969
Copyright Number:
LP39052
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
125
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1962 Russian bureaucrat Boris Kusenov, his wife, and daughter, assisted by CIA agent Michael Nordstrom, escape from the Soviet embassy in Copenhagen and defect to the United States. Alarmed by Kusenov's disclosure of Soviet shipments to Cuba, Nordstrom contacts French intelligence Chief André Devereaux, who agrees to cooperate with the CIA. Consequently, Devereaux recruits Dubois, a black florist and secret agent, who infiltrates an assembly of Cuban revolutionaries housed in Harlem's Hotel Theresa and obtains photographs of important documents. Devereaux then travels to Cuba, where he is warmly received by Juanita, his counterrevolutionary mistress, who commands her loyal domestic staff to help her lover. Eagerly undertaking this assignment are Carlotta and Pablo Mendoza, who, posing as picnickers, from a knoll overlooking a harbor photograph the unloading of Soviet missiles. Their position is given away, however, by hungry seagulls which descend upon their lunch. But before being captured and tortured, the pair secrete the incriminating film in a chicken carcass. Having aroused the suspicions of Rico Parra, an important revolutionary whom Juanita has also taken as a lover, Devereaux is expelled from Cuba. As a token of their love, Juanita presents the departing Frenchman with a slim volume of poetry, in which is hidden the film. Shocked by his mistress' betrayal of the Cuban revolution, Parra shoots her to death. Upon returning to the United States, Devereaux discovers a leak in the French intelligence network. In Paris he learns that the head of Topaz, a ring of French traitors, is Jacques Granville, his friend and his wife's lover. Unmasked, Granville shoots himself to ... +


In 1962 Russian bureaucrat Boris Kusenov, his wife, and daughter, assisted by CIA agent Michael Nordstrom, escape from the Soviet embassy in Copenhagen and defect to the United States. Alarmed by Kusenov's disclosure of Soviet shipments to Cuba, Nordstrom contacts French intelligence Chief André Devereaux, who agrees to cooperate with the CIA. Consequently, Devereaux recruits Dubois, a black florist and secret agent, who infiltrates an assembly of Cuban revolutionaries housed in Harlem's Hotel Theresa and obtains photographs of important documents. Devereaux then travels to Cuba, where he is warmly received by Juanita, his counterrevolutionary mistress, who commands her loyal domestic staff to help her lover. Eagerly undertaking this assignment are Carlotta and Pablo Mendoza, who, posing as picnickers, from a knoll overlooking a harbor photograph the unloading of Soviet missiles. Their position is given away, however, by hungry seagulls which descend upon their lunch. But before being captured and tortured, the pair secrete the incriminating film in a chicken carcass. Having aroused the suspicions of Rico Parra, an important revolutionary whom Juanita has also taken as a lover, Devereaux is expelled from Cuba. As a token of their love, Juanita presents the departing Frenchman with a slim volume of poetry, in which is hidden the film. Shocked by his mistress' betrayal of the Cuban revolution, Parra shoots her to death. Upon returning to the United States, Devereaux discovers a leak in the French intelligence network. In Paris he learns that the head of Topaz, a ring of French traitors, is Jacques Granville, his friend and his wife's lover. Unmasked, Granville shoots himself to death. +

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

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