Peter Ustinov won his second Oscar from his third and final acting nomination for portraying Arthur Simpson in Topkapi.
Peter Ustinov joins two ranks of the winners in the supporting actor category. The first being he is another almost entirely comedic performance, that once again shows that this category never was afraid to award performers for being funny. The other rank he joins are winners that are not at all supporting in the film. Although one can argue the Maximilian Schell is a lead as well as the mastermind of the heist, but it is clear Ustinov as Simpson is the true lead as the film follows him through almost the whole film.
Topkapi is a heist film that works certainly because of the heist, and locale, but more importantly do to the characters of the robbers from the sultry Elizabeth Lipp (Melina Mercouri) who comes up with the original idea, to the mastermind of the plan Harper (Maximilian Schell), to the mechanical master Cedric Page (Robert Morley), as well as a strong man, and mute human fly. All of the original robbers have a certain quality that works for the film, but who makes the film is Ustinov who actually is only a "schmoe" at first to the robbers, but eventually becomes needed.
Ustinov is simply hilarious as Arthur Simpson who is a small time hustler in Greece who attempts to make money by selling fake antiques, and offer tours of the nightlife. Ustinov has the perfect sort of an attempt at a charm. Ustinov makes it clear that Simpson is always trying to be a suave con man, but he cannot help it that he is not one. It actually would have been very easy to make Simpson too pathetic, that would not have been funny, but Ustinov has always such a pride within Simpson that his incompetence actually comes off as quite endearing.
Peter Ustinov becomes the viewers guide actually into the heist plot as he forced to become an agent for the Turkish police under the threat of being charged with terrorism. Ustinov is again hilarious in every one of his scenes as maneuvers through the plot. I particularly love his scene where he is being interrogated by the Turkish police, as he constantly attempts to defend himself, and naturally manages even to share some of his own personal history in his defense. It is a great act Ustinov to pull off all of Simpsons various defenses, his attempts at pride, as well as his fear, and even his past while still making it funny, and Ustinov absolutely pulls it off.
Ustinov really is the perfect guide to follow through, as he manages to make Simpson a very likable schmoe, and a very funny one as he spies on the robbers while having absolutely no idea what their up to. Ustinov's various reactions to overhearing them talk about their plot are perfectly times gold. I absolutely love his reactions to when he Elizabeth Lipp complementing his looks particularly his eye lashes that is absolutely hilarious, the only thing funnier is when he reports it to the Turkish security officer, Ustinov just could not be any better.
Eventually do to unforeseen circumstances Arthur Simpson joins in the heist itself, and again Ustinov is terrific in the heist scenes. Simpson suffers from a fear of heights, and again Ustinov is just great realizing Simpson's fear genuinely but still manages to make it quite amusing as well. Ustinov just makes the whole heist fun becomes he brings to life the fears of getting caught, as well as the troubles in the requirements of it marvelously well still with a good deal of humor.
I just simply love this performance, and I think Ustinov's hilarious performance as Simpson was essential to the film. The gang of thieves could have seemed perhaps too distant or pompous to relate to, but Ustinov manages to wipe away any issues of that sort by making Simpson into such an honestly human sap that we can strangely enough relate to. It is simple wonderful work that shows exactly how to make an endearing and very entertaining character.