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One remarkable thing about Louis Jouvet's stunning performance is the subtlety with which he conveys the transformation. Topaze does not go from country bumpkin to worldly-wise con artist. This would be too simple and implausible. Rather every gesture, every nuance seem to suggest an intelligent man, playing by the rules, who has no clout whatsoever, being suddenly empowered through humiliation. He was made a fool of, and so the inner man no longer has any reason to lack courage and self-confidence. It is a baptism of fire. He not only learns but he sizes up his manipulators and makes fools of them.
Louis Jouvet did not achieve this level of interpretation without relentless, near- fanatical devotion to his craft. A kind of control freak he agonized constantly over his stage productions, for, in fact, he was given the stewardship of several theaters in the days before commercial theater and television. Thus, he set a standard almost impossible to duplicate.
Here, he is supported on all sides by the greats of French theater and cinema - Edwige Feuillère, who plays Suzy Courtois, left behind roles of this type to go on to become one of France's most versatile and honored actresses, often portraying noble women.
It's hard to imagine a better Castel-Benac. Pauley has the shape of an inverted pear and in French "poire" (pear) also refers to a dupe!
All in all a fine example of French comic theater, thankfully preserved on screen.
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