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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Mike Todd's version of Jules Verne tale offers a refined English
comedy, giant-screen travel landscapes, dazzling brilliant color,
famous actors in small roles... as Phileas Fogg and his comical valet
made the tour of the world beginning in England, going to Europe, the
Middle East, India, and Asia...
It begins in (1872) Victorian London as the wealthy, supremely confident Phileas Fogg sets out a wager that he can traverse the globe in precisely eighty days... The other club members at the Reform Club think Fogg is a fool, and challenge his claim and wager £20,000 that he is wrong...
The snags begin almost immediately, as the true gentleman misses a train and has to travel by balloon... The wild journey takes Fogg and his new servant into a series of incredible adventures in every land they pass through...
David Niven plays the true impassive Englishman Phileas Fogg... A polished man of the world, who makes no superfluous gestures, and is never seen to be moved or agitated... A puzzling personage, who believes in progress, science, and intellectual deduction... An eccentric quiet gentleman who talks very little and lives by a precise schedule of tea, whist games, fish and chips... He lives alone in a big house, and a single domestic sufficed to serve him...
Mexican screen legend Cantinflas known as the comic genius of the Spanish-speaking world, plays Passepartout, the most faithful of domestics...
Passepartout is a multi-skilled honest Frenchman with a pleasant oval face, slender and slight, soft-mannered and serviceable...
Robert Newton plays Mr. Fix, the mysterious detective who had been dispatched from England in search of the bank robber... He is a slight-built personage, with a nervous, intelligent face, and bright eyes peering out from under eyebrows which he is incessantly twitching...
Shirley MacLaine plays the charming young Indian princess, Aouda, who was married against her will at age seven... She speaks English with great purity...
One of the main interests of the film is the various cameos played by stars of the time who give minute but exquisite characterizations:
- Finlay Currie, Mr. Fogg's usual partner at whist...
- Robert Morley, one of the directors of the Bank of England...
- John Gielgud, the dismissed servant who relates that his master wears two watches, and every available surface in his house is covered with so many clocks...
- Trevor Howard, the club's member who rejects the news that the English gentleman has robbed the Bank of England...
- Charles Boyer, the educated travel agent who proposes to the couple to travel with a hot-air balloon...
- Martine Carol, the offended lady who slaps the new butler just for saying: 'Mademoiselle!'
- Fernandel, the French coachman who was not so content with the tip...
- Gilbert Roland, the Arab who offers his ship to Marseilles just on one condition...
- Cesar Romero, the henchman who sadistically insists Passepartout must fight a bull even if he doesn't know how...
- Ronald Colman, the Railway Official who announces (No more railway!) all passengers know that they must provide means of transportation for themselves from Kholby to Allahabad...
- Cedric Hardwicke, the officer who finds happily a means of conveyance : to cross the deep jungle on an elephant!
- Charles Coburn, the Steamship Company clerk who makes the observation that the 'Carnatic' had sailed the evening before...and he doesn't expect any vessel to Yokohama one week from now...
- Peter Lorre, the smiling Japanese steward who informs Passepartout that being broke without money in Yokohama... is catastrophic!
- Glynis Johns, the sporting lady who bets with her companion on Fogg's outcome...
- George Raft, the suspicious mob who chases everyone who stands near his glamorous woman...
- Marlene Dietrich, the Barbary Coast saloon hostess who looks for a way to be free...
- Frank Sinatra, the honky-tonk pianist...
- Red Skelton, the drunken with great appetite...
- John Carradine, the insolent colonel hit by an arrow...
- Buster Keaton, the American train conductor who announces some delay...
- Andy Devine, the first mate who refuses 'Henrietta' to be burn...
- Victor McLaglen, the helmsman who is ordered ('Full steam!') to feed all the fires until the coal is exhausted...
- John Mills, the sleepy carriage driver at the delicate moment...
The other scenes that were actually outrageous and delightful are:
Passepartout scooping some snow off an alp to chill a bottle of champagne; his funny and graceful way of bullfighting; his burlesque dance with a troupe of Spanish dancers; his venture to ride an ostrich through a back-lot Hong Kong; his anxiety when he is captured by savage Sioux; his courage when he is almost burned to death with an Indian widow; his fault when he clears the 'human' pyramid; his ignorance when he breaks Hindus religious beliefs and his absurdity when he constantly tries to hit on anything in skirts...
With terrific music, this Academy Award winner for Best Picture of 1956 is nice for the family to watch...
Michael Todd's screen adaptation of Jules Verne's classic novel is a
Beautifully shot in over 100 different locations around the world, it is one of the few novels which actually benefits from big screen treatment. No longer do we have to imagine these fine exotic places in our minds, they are presented here in full cinematic and Technicolour brilliance.
The great David Niven plays the quintessential English gentleman to the hilt as Philias Fogg, the well to do bachelor who after calmly announcing that it was possible, accepts a £20,000 wager from his fellow Reform Club members to travel round the world in 80 days.
In tow on this mammoth voyage are newly appointed man servant Passepartout played by Mexican entertainer Cantinflas, a rather miscast Shirley MacLaine as Aouda a recently rescued Indian Princess and the lovable and ever watchable Robert Newton as Mr. Fix the detective who is convinced Fogg is a master criminal who left Britain having just robbed the Bank of England.
Yet what adds flavour to an already wonderful story and fascinating movie, is that no matter what corner of the globe our intrepid Fogg appears, he is helped, hindered, slowed down, befriended and attacked by a myriad of world renowned movie stars. Never before or since has a film boasted so many top named stars in cameo appearances.
Robert Morley, Ronald Squire, Finlay Currie, Basil Sydney, Noel Coward, John Gielgud, Trevor Howard, Harcourt Williams, Martine Carol, Fernandel, Charles Boyer, Evelyn Keyes, Gilbert Roland, Cesar Romero, Alan Mowbray, Cedric Hardwicke, Melville Cooper, Reginald Denny, Ronald Colman, Charles Coburn, Peter Lorre, George Raft, Red Skelton, Marlene Dietrich, John Carradine, Frank Sinatra, Buster Keaton, Tim McCoy, Joe E. Brown, Andy Devine, Edmund Lowe, Victor McLaglen, Jack Oakie, Beatrice Lillie, John Mills, Glynis Johns and Hermione Gingold all come along for this bizarre journey.
Now thats what I call a cast list.
Niven is as always a joy to watch as the seemingly unstoppable and resourceful Fogg, so much so that the film can be forgiven its epic length.
However, I do feel as though a good half an hour could have been trimmed had Todd decided to tone down some of Cantinflas' over long routines. We know what a fantastic and talented performer he was, there was no real need to hammer the point home with a nigh on 15 minute bull fight sequence, Japanese circus tricks and stunt horse riding.
However despite this one criticism, the film is legend, the story is legend and was fully deserving of the five Oscar's it was awarded, including Best Picture of 1956.
In fact I feel certain that if Philias Fogg had a film like this on DVD, he would have much preferred to stay at home and watch it. I know I certainly would.
I really enjoyed this film, and was shocked to see all the
comments about it on IMDB. Yes it's long, yes it's a fantasy
than true-to-life, yes it's spectacular rather than deep
But what the hell, it's also (like the book) a hilarious send-up
Englishness as seen by a Frenchman. The millions
of cameo roles (actually I'm HOPELESS at recognising faces, so identified
none of them) camp it all up splendidly. This film is
one of those, like the Ealing comedies or the Carry-On films, that define
the British Myth.
OK, so it won't work on TV, unless you have a widescreen TV and can shut yourself away from all distractions for several hours. But I just dare anyone to be bored by the film in a cinema. They don't make them like that any more, because these days films are "made for TV" . . .
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
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?
Well before ditching in this movie I had a glimpse of the book and I feel very delighted about the extraordinary vision of Jules Verne. He had predicted many inventions and innovations before the time, but I felt more delighted after seeing this movie. The true essence of Jules Verne's literal work is flawlessly captured by director Michael Anderson. This movie is true extravaganza with some special acting by veteran actor David Niven. His portrayal of arrogant, time-table stricken rich innovator was immaculate. This movie also has handful of cameos played by great actors like Frank Sinatra and others. Only one thing that can bother viewers is its immense length where some scenes are monotonous and make you feel loitered. Over all it's a great movie and best motional version of Jules Verne's finest work. The movie won five Oscars including best picture of 1956.
Around the World in 80 Days is part comedy and part demonstration of a
new wide-screen process. I saw it in its original run at the old Rivoli
Theater in New York, where the screen ran from 48th St. to 49th St.
People gasped at the size of the screen when the curtains opened,
before the film even got underway.
If you watch the new 16x9 DVD on anything less than a 50-inch television, the visual composition and the pacing are absolutely incomprehensible, and you're on your own to seize on the many little things that are there to entertain you. But as a whole, the film loses its reason for being when viewed on a conventional TV.
David Niven is unbeatable as Phileas Fogg, Shirley Maclaine is implausible but slyly humorous as the Princess, Robert Newton appears sober most of the time and hammy all of it as Inspector Fix.
Cantinflas is inexplicable as Passepartout, except perhaps as Mike Todd's attempt to corral the entire Latin American market. The Mexican comedian's English is very shaky; it slows him down, and his clarity comes and goes and makes me wonder if Paul Frees didn't replace a lot of his lines. At any rate, only in the seemingly improvised encounter with Red Skelton at a buffet does Cantinflas do anything remotely humorous, and there he's the straight man.
The cameos are fun, and if you're too young to know who all these geezers are, it's worth it to find out, and use the IMDb to track down the work that made them famous. I remember the shriek the original audience let out when the piano player was revealed to be Frank Sinatra.
Viewing the film now, I was most moved to see Edmund Lowe and Victor McLaglan reunited in the engine room of the Henrietta, thirty years after they riveted the industry in "What Price Glory?" Buster Keaton concentrates really hard in his appearance as the train conductor, to excellent effect. A. E. Matthews gives a terrific acting lesson in saying "no" a half a dozen times in a London sequence.
Among the original bettors, locate Ronald Squire with the drooping mustache, hollow nasal baritone, and a slouching relaxation while performing that was a marvel - Rex Harrison publicly admired Ronald Squire's ease on stage all his life. In fact, Squire is so relaxed he makes someone like Dean Martin seem uptight.
So, this film is an unusual case - requiring patience for lots of little joys on the small screen, but making sense only on a large one.
This is a bit dated by now, but still not a bad film to watch. It seems
like more of a travelogue than anything else, at this point. Frankly,
at three hours and being a mid-50s film, I thought it might be too slow
in too many spots but that was not the case. Only the bullfighting
scene went on too long. The rest kept my interest.
David Niven gets top billing but the real star of the show is "Cantinflas," a Spanish actor who, to my knowledge, only made it big in this movie.....at least in this country. He is very likable and entertaining. The only thing is he is not always easy to understand. I used English subtitles a few times when he spoke.
Niven played his normal stiff-neck Brit role. Thank goodness we don't see those, "I say, old bean" characters from GB anymore. However, I have always appreciated the British vocabulary, so much more refined than here in North America. Shirley MacLaine was so young I didn't recognize her. Of course, she made it difficult to spot her playing a brown-skinned Indian princess.
In all, decent entertainment but one that might bore a lot of people today, which is probably why they did a re-make. I haven't seen the re-make, but I'll bet it isn't as good as this movie.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In 1946 Orson Welles decided to return to his Broadway roots and
produce a dramatic version of the 1872 Jules Verne novel "Around The
World In 80 Days". It was to be a big production - with a musical score
by Cole Porter, and Mike Todd as producer. Welles, besides directing
it, was playing the part of the Detective (in the musical he was "Dick
Fix" = presumably called that because of the slang term for a
detective). It was an extravaganza, and Welles had plenty of gags in it
including one where he brought out a kitchen sink (i.e. "everything and
the kitchen sink": get it?). The show had a big opening night - and
sank in a couple of months. It also had no song of any worth by Porter,
whose normal abilities were finally shown not to be limitless (a
typical song in the show was "There goes Phileas Fogg" - hardly sounds
interesting from a man who created "Night and Day" or "Begin the
Beguine" or "Brush Up Your Shakespeare" or "Anything Goes"). Welles had
to declare bankruptcy, and had tax problems for years (which explains
why after 1949 he did much of his work in Europe). He also sold his
interest in the musical to Todd.
That is why Michael Todd is given full credit for "Around The World In 80 Days" (the 1956 movie) rather than an angry Welles. He really had no leg to stand on in this case.
"Around The World In Eighty Days" is really the odd duck among the major novels of Verne. If you read it, except for the use of a "wind wagon" in the Western United States portion of the novel, there are no odd devices or inventions or methods of travel in the story. In fact, the best known image of the movie (David Niven and Cantaflas flying in a balloon over the Pyranees) is not from the novel - Verne's balloon novel was "Five Weeks In A Balloon" (and he came out against balloons in "Robur The Conqueror").
"Around The World" was Verne's fun novel about English stuffiness (he disliked the English), wherein the phlegmatic and punctual Phileas Fogg makes a bet of his whole fortune to prove that he can get around the world in under three months. As such, the novel enabled Verne to show how travel was not very broadening to Fogg (a perfect name for the hero) and yet fascinating to his French valet Jean Passepartout (pronounced "Pass - par - too"). It is Passepartout who examines all the foreign peoples and lands he and Fogg travel through. Fogg only shows spirit twice: in rescuing the Indian princess Aouda from being burned alive, and in getting into a duel with the obnoxious American Colonel Seth Proctor.
When he wrote the novel, Verne was aware of an actual "Fogg" - but an American one. The eccentric American millionaire, George Francis Train (great name for a traveler) traveled around the world, in 90 days in 1870. Train would be so impressed by his effect on Verne, he did a second world tour in 72 days. And in 1889 the American journalist Nelly Bly did it in 69 days (when she stopped off in Nantes to meet Verne, he asked her where Aouda was). Verne made fun of the story himself in 1893 when in another novel he had a German aristocrat try to beat Fogg's record, but so botches up his schedule that he ended up taking twice as long.
David Niven is good as Fogg in one of his "comeback" roles that led to his Oscar winner in "Separate Tables". Shirley Maclaine seems good as Aouda, but she really is not eastern enough (maybe Merle Oberon could have handled the role twenty years earlier). Cantaflas rarely did English speaking films, and it is this one that gives non-Spanish audiences an idea of his abilities as a comic performer (but his Mexican films are better). Robert Newton was in his final performance as Fix - and he is very good. He comes across as conniving but witless at the same time. However I find that Peter Ustinov's performance in the 1989 miniseries was funnier.
Then there are all those stars in cameo parts. A clever selling idea by Todd to ensure the public's attention in the film. As a result this is the only film where Ronald Colman and Frank Sinatra and Col. Tim McCoy and Red Skelton and Edmund Lowe all appear - though not necessarily together. As many of these stars of the 1930s - 1950s are no longer remembered too well, it is difficult to see if the cameo idea was such a hot one in the long term. But the film is still enjoyable, and should lead one back to reading the Verne original.
Based on the famous novel of the same name Around The World In Eighty Days,is an undeniable classic,Despite a forgettable 'remake'it has never been bettered, David Niven star's as The eponymous Phileas Fogg, an Eccentric gentleman who wages a bet with his chums at the reform club, that he can attempt the impossible travel Around the globe in a record time,His epic journey takes Fogg to Paris Spain, India,Hong Kong,Japan,San Francisco, Mexican personality Cantinflas,plays Fogg's loyal Man servant Passpartout,who attends to Mr Foggs every whim, Shirley McClaine,in an early role is Aouda the Indian girl Whom Fogg rescues from a fiery death atop a funeral pyre, and subsequently falls in love with,This Classic was probably the first film to feature 'Cameo roles' the roles are an impressive list of who's who of stage and screen,the film's budget is certainly well spent every cent is up there on screen, lavishly lensed in Todd-AO which of course must be viewed in Widescreen,as it's totally unwatchable in 'Pan And Scan'
'Around the World in Eighty Days' stars David Niven,Cantinflas, and Robert
Newton (in his final role) but is mainly known for featuring zillions of
people in cameo parts as Niven moves round his world trip.
You can spot ... Marlene Dietrich, Frank Sinatra, Buster Keaton, Ronald Colman, Gilbert Roland, Shirley MacLaine, Tim McCoy, Hermoine Gingold, Charles Boyer, Finlay Currie, Trevor Howard ...
Is it any good? Well, it is too long but gives a good attempt to present countries and travelling on a big scale. Niven is as charming as ever, while Cantinflas manages to stay irritating for three hours. Robert Newton as the obsessed Inspector Fix is entertaining but he'd done better.
One to watch at least once (and no doubt better than the recent remake). And the end credits by Saul Bass are superb.
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