Movie review of Around the World in 80 Days 1956 version starring David Niven and Mexican clown Cantinflas, with dozens of cameo appearances by various celebrities
Editorial Review of Around the World in 80 Days (1959), courtesy of Amazon.com
This Mike Todd production was a star-studded, multi-million dollar extravaganza when first released in 1956. It remains enjoyable family fare, but time has somewhat dulled its shine. Still, it compares favorably to the overly long, TV mini-series starring Pierce Brosnan and Eric Idle.
Elegant David Niven plays the neurotically punctual Phileas Fogg, a British gent who is spurned on by a wager to prove he can travel around the world in 80 days. He is accompanied by his valet, played with persnickety humor by Cantinflas.
Nominated for several Academy Awards, this was written by John Farrow (Mia’s dad) and S.J. Perelman, based on Jules Verne’s 1873 classic. The fun part is the razzle-dazzle. Todd knew what he was doing with all those exotic locales and over 40 cameo appearances, including Charles Boyer, Ronald Colman, Marlene Dietrich, Jose Greco, Peter Lorre, Buster Keaton, Frank Sinatra, and Red Skelton. A very young Shirley MacLaine was painted and dyed to play a lively Indian Princess. Rochelle O’Gorman
Phileas Fogg bet his fellow club members that he can circle the globe in eighty days. That may not be impressive today, but in 1872, it was nearly impossible. Accompanied by his valet, Passepartout, and the wandering Princess Aouda, Fogg crosses Europe, India, Japan, the Pacific and the United States.
Trivia for Around the World in Eighty Days (1956)
- The term cameo, meaning in this case a small part by a famous person, was popularized by the many — cameo appearances — in this film.
- The following famous people appear in small parts in the film, and are credited: A.E. Matthews, Alan Mowbray, Andy Devine, Basil Sydney, Beatrice Lillie, Buster Keaton, Cesar Romero, Charles Boyer, Charles Coburn, Tim McCoy, Edmund Lowe, Edward R. Murrow, Evelyn Keyes, Fernandel, Finlay Currie, Frank Sinatra, George Raft, Gilbert Roland, Glynis Johns, Harcourt Williams, Hermione Gingold, Jack Oakie, Joe E. Brown, John Carradine, John Mills, JosÃ© Greco, Luis Miguel DominguÃn, Martine Carol, Marlene Dietrich, Melville Cooper, Mike Mazurki, Noel Coward, Peter Lorre,Red Skelton, Reginald Denny, Richard Wattis, Robert Morley, Ronald Colman, Ronald Squire, Cedric Hardwicke, John Gielgud, Trevor Howard and Victor McLaglen.
- The barge used in Bangkok belonged to the King of Thailand, who lent it to producer Michael Todd.
- This is the second Todd-AO production (the first was Oklahoma! (1955)) shot twice, first at 24 fps (to produce the general-release version in 35 mm) and finally at 30 fps (to produce the roadshow version in 70 mm). The 35 mm version is presented in conventional 2:1 squeeze anamorphic process (incorrectly credited to Todd-AO); the 70 mm version is presented in Todd-AO.
- The film utilized the talents of, at that time the most animals ever in any film.
- This film called for more costumes (34,685) then any other film ever made. The Western Costume Co. in Hollywood provided most of the costumes, but wardrobe storehouses in London, Japan, Hong Kong and Spain were also all called on to provide costumes for the 1,243 extras.
- The film used 140 sets built at six Hollywood studios, as well as in England, Hong Kong and Japan.
- 74,685 costumes were designed, made or rented for use in the film.
- The cast and crew flew over 4,000,000 miles.
- 68,894 extras were used while shooting the film in 13 countries.
- 90 animal handlers managed the record 8,552 animals used (3,800 sheep, 2,448 buffalo, 950 donkeys, 800 horses, 512 monkeys, 17 bulls, 15 elephants, 6 skunks, and 4 ostriches).
- Cantinflas did not use any stunt doubles on the bullfighting scene.
- Gregory Peck was originally cast as the U.S. Cavalry officer, but producer Michael Todd felt Peck wasn’t taking the role seriously enough and fired him, recasting the role with Tim McCoy.
- Producer Michael Todd had a reputation for being tight-fisted. Reportedly, S.J. Perelman required payment in cash before handing over pages of the script.
- Orson Welles was a little upset he did not get a cameo in the film. He was upset because before Michael Todd produced this film, he produced a stage version by Welles. The play flopped but Todd turned the project into a film anyway and it enjoyed great success. Welles felt he gave the idea to Todd in the first place.
- For the Spanish-dubbed version of the film, Cantinflas himself provided the voice of his character Passepartout.
- Tied with One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) for the longest title of an Oscar winner for Best Motion Picture until 2004 when The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) won. The shortest is Gigi (1958).
- This was the third Best Picture Oscar winner shot in a widescreen format. (The very first Best Picture winner in history, Wings (1927), contained some widescreen sequences.)
- 68,894 extras from 13 different countries worked on this film. This is one of the largest number of extras to ever appear in a single picture. The 1,243 extras listed on the IMDb page (and also in the original program book) were only the extras who worked on the film in Hollywood, California alone.
- Is generally considered the single largest film project ever undertaken in Hollywood. Filming was completed in 75 shooting days.
- The film began shooting with John Farrow as director, and Emmett Emerson as the first assistant director in London. Both were replaced.
- Contrary to popular belief, production reports show that the large majority of this film was shot in Hollywood. An extensive number of exterior second unit locations were used, but most of the scenes were actually shot on sound stages in Hollywood, and on the back lots of over seven major studios including RKO-Pathe, RKO, Universal-International, Warner Bros., Columbia and 20th Century-Fox.
- Some of the ship scenes were completed in the Sersen tank at 20th Century-Fox studios under the supervision of Fox visual effects supervisor Fred Sersen. The visual effects team worked on the boat props as well. The Sersen tank was used for a number of independent productions including Walt Disney’s 20000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954).
- Over a dozen airline companies provided service to the actors and technicians on this film as they flew from Hollywood to the locations overseas. These included such major companies as Pan Am and TWA, as well as foreign companies such as Middle Eastern and Pakistan Air. Private pilot Paul Mantz also provided airline accomodations for producer Michael Todd.
- Only about two or three process (visual effects) shots appear in the entire film, early on when David Niven and Cantinflas are in the balloon and we see the looking out over the Pyrenees. These shots were accomplished by animation cameraman William Williams, who also worked on the process shots for Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo(1958).
- Imanos Williams, a real Japanese circus performer, appears in the scene where Cantinflas joins up with a Japanese circus as a performer.
- There were two separate lawsuits filed against the producer of this film, claiming that the title song had been plagiarized.
- The last film of both Harcourt Williams and Robert Newton.
- Noel Coward was the first star in England to sign for the project.
- John Farrow directed a week or so of the Spanish scenes.
- In order to make the film really stand out from the crowd of epic films, producer Michael Todd implored theater owners to promote the film — exactly as you would a Broadway show — : organize reserved seats, pass out playbills before the movie, remove clocks from the theater, and ban the sale of popcorn.
- The cameo role of the manservant that Phileas’ Fogg discharges at the beginning of the film was originally offered to Laurence Olivier, who turned it down. It was played in the film by John Gielgud.
- The film played for three consecutive years at the Rivoli Theatre in New York, from 1956 to 1959, in Todd AO. In 1959, it was sent out on general release in regular widescreen format.
- The prologue features most of Georges Melies‘ — From the Earth to the Moon — .