Topsy-Turvy
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''Topsy-Turvy'' is a 1999 British
musical Musical is the adjective of music Music is the art of arranging sounds in time through the elements of melody, harmony, rhythm, and timbre. It is one of the universal cultural aspects of all human societies. General definitions of music i ...
period drama film written and directed by
Mike Leigh Mike Leigh (born 20 February 1943) is an English film and theatre director, screenwriter and playwright. He studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), East 15 Acting School and further at the Camberwell School of Art, the Central Sch ...
, starring
Allan Corduner Allan Corduner (born 2 April 1950) is a British actor born in Stockholm Stockholm is the Capital city, capital of Sweden. It has the most populous urban area in Sweden as well as in Scandinavia. 1 million people live in the Stockholm ...
as Sir
Arthur Sullivan Sir Arthur Seymour Sullivan Royal Victorian Order, MVO (13 May 1842 – 22 November 1900) was an English composer. He is best known for 14 comic opera, operatic Gilbert and Sullivan, collaborations with the dramatist W. S. Gilbert, including ...

Arthur Sullivan
and
Jim Broadbent Jim Broadbent (born 24 May 1949) is an English actor. He won an Academy Award The Academy Awards, popularly known as the Oscars, are awards for artistic and technical merit in the film industry. They are regarded as the most famous and p ...
as W. S. Gilbert, along with
Timothy Spall Timothy Leonard Spall (born 27 February 1957) is an English actor and occasional presenter. He became a household name in the UK after appearing as Barry Spencer Taylor in the 1983 ITV (TV network), ITV comedy-drama series ''Auf Wiedersehen, Pet ...
,
Lesley Manville Lesley Ann Manville (born 12 March 1956) is an English actress. She is known for her frequent collaborations with director Mike Leigh, with her winning the London Film Critics Circle Award for British Actress of the Year for the films '' All ...
and
Ron Cook Ronald G. Cook (born late 1948) is an English actor who has been active in the theatre, film and television since the 1970s. He was born in South Shields, County Durham, England, and is a graduate of Rose Bruford College. Cook moved to Coventry w ...
. The story concerns the 15-month period in 1884 and 1885 leading up to the premiere of
Gilbert and Sullivan Gilbert and Sullivan refers to the Victorian-era In the history of the United Kingdom The history of the United Kingdom began in the early eighteenth century with the Treaty of Union and Acts of Union. The core of the United Kin ...
's ''
The Mikado ''The Mikado; or, The Town of Titipu'' is a comic opera in two acts, with music by Arthur Sullivan Sir Arthur Seymour Sullivan Royal Victorian Order, MVO (13 May 1842 – 22 November 1900) was an English composer. He is best known for ...

The Mikado
''. The film focuses on the creative conflict between playwright and composer, and their decision to continue their partnership, which led to their creation of several more Savoy operas. The film was not released widely, but it received very favourable reviews, including a number of film festival awards and two
Academy Awards The Academy Awards, popularly known as the Oscars, are awards for artistic and technical merit in the film industry The film industry or motion picture industry comprises the technological and commercial institutions of filmmaking, i.e., ...

Academy Awards
for design. While it is considered an artistic success as an in-depth illustration of British life in the theatre during the
Victorian era In the , the Victorian era was the of 's reign, from 20 June 1837 until her death on 22 January 1901. The era followed the and preceded the , and its later half overlaps with the first part of the ' era of Continental Europe. There was ...
, the film did not recover its production costs. Leigh cast actors who did their own singing in the film, and the singing performances were faulted by some critics, while others lauded Leigh's strategy.


Plot

On the opening night of ''
Princess Ida ''Princess Ida; or, Castle Adamant'' is a comic opera with music by Arthur Sullivan Sir Arthur Seymour Sullivan Royal Victorian Order, MVO (13 May 1842 – 22 November 1900) was an English composer. He is best known for 14 comic opera, ...
'' at the
Savoy Theatre The Savoy Theatre is a West End theatre in the Strand in the City of Westminster, London, England. The theatre opened on 10 October 1881 and was built by Richard D'Oyly Carte on the site of the old Savoy Palace as a showcase for the popular ...

Savoy Theatre
in January 1884, composer Sir
Arthur Sullivan Sir Arthur Seymour Sullivan Royal Victorian Order, MVO (13 May 1842 – 22 November 1900) was an English composer. He is best known for 14 comic opera, operatic Gilbert and Sullivan, collaborations with the dramatist W. S. Gilbert, including ...

Arthur Sullivan
(
Allan Corduner Allan Corduner (born 2 April 1950) is a British actor born in Stockholm Stockholm is the Capital city, capital of Sweden. It has the most populous urban area in Sweden as well as in Scandinavia. 1 million people live in the Stockholm ...
), ill from
kidney The kidneys are two reddish-brown bean-shaped organs An organ is a group of tissues with similar functions. Plant life and animal life rely on many organs that co-exist in organ systems. A given organ's tissues can be broadly categorized ...

kidney
disease, is barely able to make it to the theatre to conduct. He goes on a holiday to
Continental Europe Continental Europe or mainland Europe is the contiguous continent A continent is any of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rather than any strict criteria, up to seven geographical region ...

Continental Europe
hoping that the rest will improve his health. While he is away, ticket sales and audiences at the Savoy Theatre wilt in the hot summer weather. Producer
Richard D'Oyly Carte Richard D'Oyly Carte (; 3 May 1844 – 3 April 1901) was an English talent agent, theatrical impresario An impresario (from the Italian ''impresa'', "an enterprise or undertaking") is a person who organizes and often finances concerts, plays, ...
(
Ron Cook Ronald G. Cook (born late 1948) is an English actor who has been active in the theatre, film and television since the 1970s. He was born in South Shields, County Durham, England, and is a graduate of Rose Bruford College. Cook moved to Coventry w ...
) has called on Sullivan and the dramatist W. S. Gilbert (
Jim Broadbent Jim Broadbent (born 24 May 1949) is an English actor. He won an Academy Award The Academy Awards, popularly known as the Oscars, are awards for artistic and technical merit in the film industry. They are regarded as the most famous and p ...
) to create a new piece for the Savoy, but it is not ready when ''Ida'' closes. Until a new piece can be prepared, Carte revives an earlier Gilbert and Sullivan work, ''
The Sorcerer ''The Sorcerer'' is a two-act comic opera, with a libretto by W. S. Gilbert and music by Arthur Sullivan. It was the British duo's third operatic Gilbert and Sullivan, collaboration. The plot of ''The Sorcerer'' is based on a Christmas stor ...
''. Gilbert's idea for their next opera features a transformative magic potion, which Sullivan feels is too similar to the magic lozenge and other magic talismans used in previous operas and mechanical in its reliance on a supernatural device. Sullivan, under pressure from the British musical establishment to write more serious music, says he longs for something that is "probable", involves "human interest", and is not dependent on magic. Gilbert sees nothing wrong with his libretto and refuses to write a new one, resulting in a standoff. The impasse is resolved after Gilbert and his wife visit a popular exhibition of Japanese arts and crafts in
Knightsbridge Knightsbridge is a residential and retail district in , south of . It is identified in the as one of two international retail centres in London, alongside the . Toponymy Knightsbridge was historically known in Saxon and Old English as ''Cnih ...

Knightsbridge
, London. When the
katana A is a Japanese sword A is one of several types of traditionally made sword A sword is an edged and bladed weapons, edged, bladed weapon intended for manual cutting or thrusting. Its blade, longer than a knife or dagger, is attached t ...

katana
sword he purchases there falls noisily off the wall of his study, he is inspired to write a libretto set in exotic Japan. Sullivan likes the idea and agrees to compose the music for it. Gilbert, Sullivan and Carte work to make ''The Mikado'' a success, and many glimpses of rehearsals and stressful backstage preparations for the show follow: Cast members lunch together before negotiating their salaries. Gilbert brings in Japanese girls from the exhibition to teach the ladies' chorus how to walk and use fans in the Japanese manner. The principal cast react to the fittings of their costumes designed by C. Wilhelm. The cast objects to Gilbert's proposed cut of the title character's Act Two solo, "A more humane Mikado," persuading the playwright to restore it. The actors face first-night jitters in their dressing rooms. Finally ''The Mikado'' is ready to open. As is usual for him, Gilbert is too nervous to watch the opening performance and paces the streets of London. Returning to the theatre, he finds that the new opera is a resounding success.


Cast

*
Jim Broadbent Jim Broadbent (born 24 May 1949) is an English actor. He won an Academy Award The Academy Awards, popularly known as the Oscars, are awards for artistic and technical merit in the film industry. They are regarded as the most famous and p ...
as W. S. Gilbert *
Allan Corduner Allan Corduner (born 2 April 1950) is a British actor born in Stockholm Stockholm is the Capital city, capital of Sweden. It has the most populous urban area in Sweden as well as in Scandinavia. 1 million people live in the Stockholm ...
as Sir
Arthur Sullivan Sir Arthur Seymour Sullivan Royal Victorian Order, MVO (13 May 1842 – 22 November 1900) was an English composer. He is best known for 14 comic opera, operatic Gilbert and Sullivan, collaborations with the dramatist W. S. Gilbert, including ...

Arthur Sullivan
*
Lesley Manville Lesley Ann Manville (born 12 March 1956) is an English actress. She is known for her frequent collaborations with director Mike Leigh, with her winning the London Film Critics Circle Award for British Actress of the Year for the films '' All ...
as Lucy "Kitty" Gilbert, Gilbert's wife *
Ron Cook Ronald G. Cook (born late 1948) is an English actor who has been active in the theatre, film and television since the 1970s. He was born in South Shields, County Durham, England, and is a graduate of Rose Bruford College. Cook moved to Coventry w ...
as
Richard D'Oyly Carte Richard D'Oyly Carte (; 3 May 1844 – 3 April 1901) was an English talent agent, theatrical impresario An impresario (from the Italian ''impresa'', "an enterprise or undertaking") is a person who organizes and often finances concerts, plays, ...
, owner of the
Savoy Theatre The Savoy Theatre is a West End theatre in the Strand in the City of Westminster, London, England. The theatre opened on 10 October 1881 and was built by Richard D'Oyly Carte on the site of the old Savoy Palace as a showcase for the popular ...

Savoy Theatre
* Eleanor David as the American socialite Fanny Ronalds, Sullivan's mistress * Wendy Nottingham as Helen Carte, Helen Lenoir, Carte's indispensable assistant *
Timothy Spall Timothy Leonard Spall (born 27 February 1957) is an English actor and occasional presenter. He became a household name in the UK after appearing as Barry Spencer Taylor in the 1983 ITV (TV network), ITV comedy-drama series ''Auf Wiedersehen, Pet ...
as Richard Temple (bass-baritone), Richard Temple, who plays the Mikado * Vincent Franklin as Rutland Barrington, who plays Pooh-Bah * Martin Savage (actor), Martin Savage as George Grossmith, who plays Ko-Ko * Dexter Fletcher as Louis, Sullivan's valet * Dorothy Atkinson as Jessie Bond, who plays Pitti-Sing * Shirley Henderson as Leonora Braham, who plays Yum-Yum * Kevin McKidd as Durward Lely, who plays Nanki-Poo * Louise Gold as Rosina Brandram, who plays Katisha * Cathy Sara as Sybil Grey, who plays Peep-Bo * Michael Simkins as Frederick Bovill, who plays Pish-Tush * Andy Serkis as John D'Auban, choreographer * Naoko Mori as Miss "Sixpence Please", a tea seller at the Japanese Village, Knightsbridge * Sukie Smith as Clothilde, Sullivan's maid * Kenneth Hadley as Mr. Pidgeon, Gilbert's butler * Kate Doherty as Mrs. Judd, Gilbert's house-keeper and cook * Keeley Gainey as Gilbert's maid * Charles Simon as William Gilbert (author), Mr. William Gilbert, Gilbert's father * Theresa Watson as Maude Gilbert, Gilbert's older sister * Lavinia Bertram as Florence Gilbert, Gilbert's younger sister * Eve Pierce as Mrs. Anne Gilbert, Gilbert's mother * Ashley Jensen as Miss Tringham, a member of the chorus * Mark Benton as Mr. Price, a member of the chorus * Steve Speirs as Mr. Kent, a member of the chorus * Nicholas Boulton as Mr. Conyngham, a member of the chorus * Sam Kelly as Richard Barker (stage manager), Richard Barker, the stage manager * Jonathan Aris as C. Wilhelm, the costumer designer * Alison Steadman as Madame Leon, the wardrobe mistress * William Neenan as Cook, Grossmith's attendant * Adam Searle as Shrimp, backstage messenger-boy * Katrin Cartlidge as the madame of a Paris brothel * Julia Raynor as Mademoiselle Fromage, a singing prostitute at the brothel * Bríd Brennan as a mad beggar woman


Depiction of Victorian society

Film professor Wheeler Winston Dixon wrote that the film "uses the conventions of the biographical narrative film to expose the ruthlessness and insularity of the Victorian era, at the same time as it chronicles, with great fidelity, the difficulties of a working relationship in the creative arts. ... ''Topsy-Turvy'' is an investigation into the social, political, sexual and theatrical economies of the Victorian era". While the film deals primarily with the production of ''The Mikado'', it depicts many aspects of 1880s British life and society, some based on historical episodes. Scenes show George Grossmith's use of morphine; Leonora Braham's alcoholism and single motherhood; Jessie Bond's health issues, including an abscess on her leg that does not heal; Sullivan's visit to a French brothel and his relationship with his longtime mistress (lover), mistress, Fanny Ronalds, implying that she obtains an abortion; three actors' discussion of the Siege of Khartoum, destruction of the British garrison at Khartoum by the Muhammad Ahmad, Mahdi; a private salon concert; a conversation about the use of nicotine by women; and Gilbert being accosted outside the theatre on opening night by an elderly prostitute. The film also depicts the Savoy Theatre as having electric lighting; it was the first public building in Britain, and one of the first of any kind, to be lit entirely by electricity. Another scene shows an early use of the telephone. During costume fittings, the actors protest at having to perform without their corsets for the sake of accuracy.


Production

Principal photography took place at 3 Mills Studios in London beginning 29 June 1998 and completed shooting on 24 October."''Topsy-Turvy'' (1999): Miscellaneous notes"
Turner Classic Movies, accessed September 21, 2017
Location shooting took place in London and Hertfordshire, and scenes which took place at the Savoy Theatre were filmed at the Richmond Theatre in Richmond, London. The film's budget was $20,000,000.


Release


Box office

In the United Kingdom, the film grossed £610,634 in total and £139,700 on its opening weekend. In the United States, the film grossed $6,208,548 in total, and $31,387 on its opening weekend.


Critical reception

The film received very positive reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an 89% "Fresh" score based on 85 reviews, with an average rating of 7.8/10. The site's consensus states: "Dressed to the nines in exquisite production value and buoyed by Mike Leigh's sardonic wit, ''Topsy-Turvy'' is rich entertainment that is as brainy as it is handsome." Metacritic reports a 90 out of 100 rating based on 31 critics, indicating "universal acclaim". Janet Maslin of ''The New York Times'' found ''Topsy-Turvy'' "grandly entertaining", "one of those films that create a mix of erudition, pageantry and delectable acting opportunities, much as ''Shakespeare in Love'' did". She continued:
''Topsy-Turvy'' ... is much bigger than their story. Its aspirations are thrilling in their own right. Mr. Leigh's gratifyingly long view of life in the theatre (Gilbert has a dentist who tells him ''
Princess Ida ''Princess Ida; or, Castle Adamant'' is a comic opera with music by Arthur Sullivan Sir Arthur Seymour Sullivan Royal Victorian Order, MVO (13 May 1842 – 22 November 1900) was an English composer. He is best known for 14 comic opera, ...
'' could have been shorter) includes not only historical and biographical details but also the painstaking process of creating a Gilbert and Sullivan production from the ground up. The film details all this with the luxury of a leisurely pace, as opposed to a slow one.
Richard Schickel called the film "one of the year's more beguiling surprises" and a "somewhat comic, somewhat desperate, very carefully detailed" story given "heartfelt heft" in the way it depicts how rehearsing and putting on a comic opera "takes over everyone's life". According to Philip French, "''Topsy-Turvy'' is not a conventional biographical film. ... [It] is an opulently mounted, warm-hearted celebration of two great artists and of a dedicated group of actors, backstage personnel and front-of-house figures working together." French also calls the film "a rare treat, thanks to Dick Pope (cinematographer), Dick Pope's photography, Eve Stewart's production design and Lindy Hemming's costumes", with "great music orchestrated by Carl Davis." For Roger Ebert, it was "one of the year's best films." ''Topsy-Turvy'' ranks 481st on ''Empire (film magazine), Empire''s 2008 list of the 500 greatest films of all time.


Awards and honours

At the 72nd Academy Awards, ''Topsy-Turvy'' received the Academy Award for Best Costume Design and the Academy Award for Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Academy Award for Best Makeup, and was nominated for Academy Award for Best Production Design, Best Art Direction and Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, Best Original Screenplay. The film also won BAFTA Award for Best Makeup and Hair, Best Make Up/Hair at the 53rd British Academy Film Awards and was nominated for BAFTA Award for Outstanding British Film, Best British Film, BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Actor in a Leading Role (Jim Broadbent), BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Best Supporting Actor (Timothy Spall) and BAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplay, Best Original Screenplay. Broadbent also won the Volpi Cup for Best Actor at the 56th Venice International Film Festival, and the film was nominated for the Golden Lion at the same festival. ''Topsy-Turvy'' won the Best British Film Award at the Evening Standard British Film Awards, National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Film, Best Film (shared with Spike Jonze's ''Being John Malkovich'') and National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Director, Best Director at the 1999 National Society of Film Critics Awards, and New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Film, Best Picture and New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Director, Best Director at the 1999 New York Film Critics Circle Awards.


Home media

A digitally restored version of the film, released on DVD and Blu-ray by The Criterion Collection in March 2011, includes an audio commentary featuring director Leigh; a new video conversation between Leigh and musical director Gary Yershon; Leigh's 1992 short film ''A Sense of History'', written by and starring actor
Jim Broadbent Jim Broadbent (born 24 May 1949) is an English actor. He won an Academy Award The Academy Awards, popularly known as the Oscars, are awards for artistic and technical merit in the film industry. They are regarded as the most famous and p ...
; deleted scenes; and a featurette from 1999 including interviews with Leigh and cast members.Criterion Collection Essay
by Amy Taubin, accessed 8 May 2012


See also

* ''The Story of Gilbert and Sullivan'' * ''Topsyturveydom''


Notes


References


Further reading

* *


External links

*
"Mike Leigh on ''Topsy Turvy'': 'I wouldn't direct a Gilbert and Sullivan opera'"
''The Guardian'' (1999)
''Topsy-Turvy: Great Performances''
an essay by Amy Taubin at the Criterion Collection {{DEFAULTSORT:Topsy-Turvy 1999 films British films English-language films 1990s biographical drama films British biographical drama films British musical drama films Films about composers Films about opera Films directed by Mike Leigh Films set in London Films set in the Victorian era Films set in the 1880s Films that won the Academy Award for Best Makeup Films that won the Best Costume Design Academy Award 1990s musical drama films Works about Gilbert and Sullivan BAFTA winners (films) 1999 drama films National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Film winners Films set in the 19th century