Topaz (1969): Making of Hitchcock’s Ensemble-Driven Thriller

Ending (Compromised)

Nicole tells her family with tearful eyes that since the phone number belongs to Granville (Piccoli), he must be the leader of Topaz.

Granville, having been exposed, commits suicide (in the US and French versions) or flees to the Soviet Union (in the UK version).

Screenplay

Shel Talmy and William Piggott Brown tried to option the film rights to Leon Uris’s novel for $500,000 in 1967, but the deal was halted by the Bank of England because of the 1967 devaluation of the pound.

Hitch first hired Uris to adapt his own novel for the screen five months later.

Afterwards Philippe de Vosjoli filed lawsuit against Uris, Universal and MCA Inc., claiming that they had stolen the plot for the novel and film from his unpublished manuscript Le reseau Topaz.

De Vosjoli and Uris settled out of court in a deal that would give Uris full rights to the film’s profits, and de Vosjoli half of the profits from the novel.

Hitchcock and Uris differed on aspects of character development. Hitchcock claimed that Uris had not humanized the story’s villains. For his art, Uris also did not appreciate Hitchcock’s insistence on adding black humor.

After a portion of the draft had been written, Uris left the film. Hitchcock attempted to hire Arthur Laurents to complete the work, but he refused,

Ultimately, Samuel A. Taylor, cowriter of Vertigo, was hired, but the film began without completed screenplay. Some scenes were written only hours before they were filmed.

Hitchcock changed the script shortly before the beginning of filming, and the distributor, Universal, forced an ending that was different from the one preferred by Hitchcock.

For Topaz, Hitchcock cast the 19-year-old French actress Claude Jade from Truffaut’s Stolen Kisses. She and Dany Robin, as her mother, were to provide the glamour in the story. (But they did not).

Like his previous films Rope and The Trouble with Harry, Hitchcock intended the film to be an experiment in using color–red, yellow and white–to reveal and to influence the plot. He later admitted that it did not work out.

Alternate Versions and Endings

The film’s original cut ended with duel between André and Jacques in French football stadium. It was shot by associate producer Herbert Coleman when Hitchcock had to return to the US for a family emergency.

Audiences panned the ending during test screenings. They also said the film was far too long.

Under pressure from the studio, Hitchcock shot a second ending that he liked better, with Jacques escaping on Aeroflot flight to the Soviet Union as André and Nicole board their Pan Am flight back to the US.

However, the ending apparently confused audiences. Also, screenwriter Samuel Taylor objected to the villain escaping unpunished, and there were fears that the ending would offend the French government.

As a compromise, Hitchcock used existing footage to create a third ending in which Granville is exposed and expelled from a NATO meeting. Over a shot of the exterior of his apartment, the sound of a gunshot suggests his suicide behind his drawn curtains since no footage of his suicide existed.

The film was released with this third ending and was also edited down by nearly 20 minutes to final length of 127 minutes. The “airport ending” briefly appeared on British prints by mistake, but those prints were altered to match the version that was released elsewhere.

Claude Jade, Michel Subor, Dany Robin

The 143-minute cut of the film was released for the first time by Universal on DVD in 1999; it used the second ending in which Jacques escapes. All three endings appear as extras on the DVD.

The longer version of the film has been released numerous times on DVD and Blu-ray in the US and in many other markets. However, some countries, like Germany, Japan and Scandinavia, continue to have the shorter theatrical cut on DVD and Blu-ray.