41. Topsy-Turvy (1999) [Rated R for a scene of risque nudity.]

summary from

After Gilbert and Sullivan’s latest play is critically panned, the frustrated team threatens to disband until they are inspired to do their masterpiece, “The Mikado.”

directed by: Mike Leigh

starring: Jim Broadbent, Allan Corduner, Timothy Spall, Kevin McKidd, Andy Serkis

Conservo-Libertarian Reviews:
James Bowman

A Trailer

Abortion/Life Content:

Shirley Henderson: When I meet a gentleman, he invites me to supper. I mention my little… secret… and then he’s off, quick smart. C’est impossible!

Dorothy Atkinson: You shouldn’t reveal your secret… until he’s fallen in love with you and has proposed!

Shirley: Oh, Jessie, for goodness’ sake! By the by, “monsieur”, you do realise I have a little boy? I couldn’t possibly pretend that Stanton doesn’t exist. No. No, he’s my precious little bundle.

Eleanor David: Arthur, an old demon has come back to haunt us at a most unwelcome time.

Allan Corduner: What on earth do you mean? Oh.

Eleanor: I didn’t want to tell you.

Allan: Are you sure?

Eleanor: Yes.

Allan: How long have you known?

Eleanor: Ten days.

Allan: Oh, Fanny. I shall make the arrangements.

Eleanor: That won’t be necessary. I couldn’t go through that again.

Allan: I’m sorry that you have to.

Eleanor: I’ve made my own arrangements.

Allan: Have you?

Eleanor: Someone has been recommended to me. After all, it is 1885, Arthur.



There are some very late and very brief references to what’s presumably abortion as Fanny tells Sullivan that she’s pregnant. He then tells her that he’ll make the “arrangements,” but she declines the offer, stating that she’s already made them herself since “it’s 1885, Arthur.”


Leigh himself appears to realize this, and crams enough sordid details of his characters’ private lives into the film’s final 40 (of a cramp-inducing 160) minutes to pad out an entire season of “Melrose Place”: Gilbert’s long-suffering wife Kitty longing for a child she can’t have; Sullivan and his mistress discussing her next abortion; the operetta’s leading lady hitting the sherry after performances, and another prominent member of the company shooting up before.

Bang bang bang bang — all four of these come at us right out of the blue, eliciting what one Gilbert and Sullivan critic refers to as “topsy-turvydom.”

from DVD Outsider:

Elsewhere Leigh subtly links these issues to the social conditions of the time – as Kitty uses theatrical metaphor to communicate to her husband her despair at their childless and sexless marriage, Sullivan’s mistress Fanny makes her own arrangements for another abortion in a society that scorns children born out of wedlock. This prejudice has ensured that lead soprano and single mother Leonora Braham is unable to find a male suitor, a situation that has driven her to drink, which in turn is threatening her career.

from Movie Reviews UK

In one scene from Topsy-Turvy, Arthur Sullivan (Allan Corduner), Victorian carouser and the melodic half of light opera geniuses Gilbert and Sullivan, fashionably laments his commercial success as his devoted mistress Fanny (Eleanor David) faithfully commiserates. Under contract to Richard D’Oyly Carte’s Savoy Theatre, he has grown disdainful of the businessman’s mechanistic attitude toward talent: i.e. make it funnier, make it sadder, make it longer, and make it shorter. And he is weary of his relationship with William Schwenk Gilbert, his collaborator since 1871. Surely there’s a magnus opus in his future, something of lasting value. But one suspects that, deep down, he doubts he will ever really see the artiistic promised land. There is safety in the tried and true.

Fanny assures him, as she probably has innumerable times before, that of course his great contribution to posterity just begs to be composed. Her lover’s mood lightened, she then relates that their “old troubles” have returned (that’s Victorian speak for “I’m pregnant”). Sullivan informs he’ll make the necessary arrangements. But no, she’ll handle it herself this time. He is surprised by the handsome lady’s show of independence, which she qualifies by reminding, “After all, it is 1885.”

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2 Responses to Topsy-Turvy

  1. Pingback: Welcome | Abortion in Film

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