Producer David O. Selznick's adaptation of Marcel Pagnol's satirical play Topaze stars John Barrymore, delivering a peerless comedy performance a full year before Howard Hawks allegedly "discovered" Barrymore's comic potential in Twentieth Century. Barrymore plays a French science teacher who is dismissed because he refuses to compromise his integrity by passing the student of a wealthy man. To console himself, Barrymore tinkers in his laboratory, where he stumbles upon the formula for a health tonic. Hired by unscrupulous tycoon George Mason to market the drink, Barrymore finds himself becoming as dishonest as his fellow businessmen. On the road to redemption toward the end, Barrymore wins the love of Mason's mistress Myrna Loy, who likewise seeks to change her ways. Eschewing much of the cynicism of the Pagnol original, Topaze aims more for whimsical chuckles than knowing nods. The property would be remade with most of its sardonic humor restored by Fernandel in 1951 and Peter Sellers in 1963.
by Hal Erickson synopsis