When this movie is made in 1956, one can circumnavigate the globe in a little less than two days. When Jules Verne wrote the story "Around the World in Eighty Days" in 1872, he predicted that one day man could accomplish the task in eighty hours, but which most considered folly to do in eighty days in current times... that is except for people like Englishman Phileas Fogg, a regimented man who believed all it would take is exacting work, the skills he possesses. He just has to make sure a train's schedule meets the required sailing schedule which meets the required coach schedule and so on. As such, he takes up what ends up being the highly publicized £20,000 wager from his fellow members at the London Reform Club to do so, losing the bet which would ruin him financially. Along for the ride is Fogg's new, loyal and devoted valet, the recently arrived Latin immigrant, Passepartout, who possesses unusual skills which could be major assets, but whose all consuming thoughts on the ... Written by
(Mag-optical) (35 mm prints) (1956)|Mono
(optical) (35 mm prints) (re-release prints)|70 mm 6-Track
(70 mm prints) (Westrex Recording System)|4-Track Stereo
(Perspecta Sound encoding) (35 mm magnetic prints) (1956)
"It Might Have Been In County Down, Or In New York, In Gay Paree, Or Even London Town"
Except for the horrible miscasting of Shirley MacLaine as a Hindu princess, Around the World in 80 Days comes close to being a perfect film. The rest of the cast paints to perfection the portrait of Jules Verne's odyssey about a very anal retentive man driven by a wager to complete a global circumnavigation in 80 days in the mid nineteenth century.
Jules Verne unlike in a lot of his other stories makes one of his main characters here a Frenchman. Normally the international minded Mr. Verne never had any of his protagonists come from his native France. In this case the valet Passepartout accompanies English gentleman Phileas Fogg on the journey and comes close to wrecking it a couple of times.
Michael Todd had to settle for second choices for both of his leads. The part was originally offered to Cary Grant who turned it down and Todd settled happily for David Niven. And even though Fernandel offered to learn English to play Passepartout, the process would have taken too long so the Mexican comic star Cantinfas got the part. Fernandel did have a small role as a Parisian hansom cab driver.
It's still a mystery to me as to why Cantinflas on the strength of this and Pepe did not break out of the Latin American market where he was nothing short of a demi-god of the cinema. Certainly his presence in this film opened up a huge market of viewers in the Spanish speaking parts of the world.
Also consider that the probably no other performer in the history of the cinema ever got as good supporting casts as Cantinflas did in both Around the World in 80 Days and Pepe. Maybe he didn't break into the English speaking cinema fan world, but it was no accident that all the stars who appeared in both wanted to be associated with him.
Shirley MacLaine would have to wait until Some Came Running for a real break out role. She's just not the type to play a Hindu princess. Someone like Jean Simmons who played one in Black Narcissus would have been far better.
David Niven however got on the crest of a big career wave that wouldn't reach maximum until his Oscar two years later in Separate Tables. This was one of his best career roles and nice that for once he would not have to carry a mediocre picture on the strength of his considerable charm.
Mr. Niven sadly recalls in his memoirs that Robert Newton was already dying when he made Around the World in 80 Days. The doctors had told the screen's most celebrated alcoholic that he had only a short time left when he did this film, his liver was failing. Newton does a grand job as the unctuous conniving detective Fix who gets it into his head that Niven robbed the Bank of England.
Around the World in 80 Days won for Best Picture in 1956 and four other Oscars including best musical score. Oddly enough the song Around the World was not nominated in that category even though it was a big hit that year. Bing Crosby for Decca and Eddie Fisher for RCA Victor had the big hit records of it, Frank Sinatra also did it for Capitol. It was a great tribute to its composer Victor Young and lyricist Harold Adamson. Young died in 1956 and the Oscar for Best Scoring was given to him posthumously.
Producer Michael Todd and Director Michael Anderson did a first rate job in casting all the small bit roles with major players. A lot of these names are unfamiliar to today's generation, but if they see the film it's a chance to see a lot of great cinema names at one time doing real characters instead of just walking on as themselves.
The film holds up well today and can still be enjoyed. Maybe someone will actually try to make it in the transportation mode of the Victorian era. Can it be done in 80 Days?
22 of 28 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?