Though he rarely mentioned his debut feature as a director after he’d released it, Peter Sellers remained fond of this impressive but critically undervalued comedy-drama centring on a French teacher corrupted by big business.
Mr Topaze (Sellers) is an unassuming school teacher in an unassuming small French town who is honest to a fault. He is fired when he refuses to give a passing grade to a bad student, the grandson of a wealthy baroness (Martita Hunt).
Castel Benac (Herbert Lom) – a government official who runs a crooked financial business on the side – is persuaded by his mistress, Suzy (Nadia Gray), a musical comedy actress, to hire Mr Topaze as the frontman for his business.
Gradually, Topaze becomes a rapacious financier who sacrifices his honesty for success and, in a final stroke of business bravado, fires Benac and acquires Suzy in the deal.
Sellers’ continued devotion to the film is evidenced by the fact that – long after the distributors had forgotten its very existence – he still held on to his own 16mm print – in cans neatly labelled with Dymo tape – to be screened every now and again for family and friends.
The British Film Institute (BFI) has the only known public copy of this film. It has been restored and digitised.
Released in some markets as I Like Money.
Mr Auguste Topaze
Roger de Bersac
John Le Mesurier