The role of Passepartout was greatly expanded from the novel to accommodate Mexican star Cantinflas. In the mid-1950s he was the wealthiest movie star in the world, and got top billing in Latin countries.
The bullfighting sequence was added because Cantinflas had bullfighting experience. He was actually in the ring with the bull, eschewing the use of a stunt double. It was one of the first sequences shot.
The film used 140 sets built at six Hollywood studios, as well as sets in England, Hong Kong and Japan. It also set several records. The cast and crew flew over 4,000,000 miles. Casting included 68,894 extras in 13 countries, and 74,685 costumes were designed, made or rented for the film. The 1,243 extras listed on the IMDb page (and in the original program book) were only the extras who worked on the film in Hollywood. Ninety animal handlers managed 8,552 animals (3,800 sheep, 2,448 buffalo, 950 donkeys, 800 horses, 512 monkeys, 17 bulls, 15 elephants, six skunks and four ostriches).
After winning the Oscar, Mike Todd rented Madison Square Garden and threw a huge party. Over 18,000 guests attended, and the celebration frequently threatened to degenerate into all-out chaos. Todd himself called the party a disaster.
Orson Welles was upset he did not get a cameo in the film. Before Mike Todd produced this film, he produced a stage version by Welles. The play flopped, but Todd turned the project into a film and it enjoyed great success. Welles felt he gave Todd the idea.
In a magazine article published shortly after the film was released, Cantinflas said that one of the hardest things he had to do in the movie was to learn to ride the "penny-farthing" (high wheeled) bicycle at the beginning of the film.
Mike Todd fired original director John Farrow after about a week. Todd realized quickly that only one person could run a Michael Todd production, and it wasn't going to be Farrow. Farrow got a screenplay credit, however, and won an Oscar for his troubles.
To make the film really stand out from the crowd of epic films, producer Mike 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.
Screenwriter S.J. Perelman didn't attend the Academy Awards ceremony. He sent Hermione Gingold to accept it if he won. He wrote a note for her to read when she accepted. She said the following: "I'm very proud to receive this object d'art on behalf of Mr. Perelman, who writes . . . "--she reads from the note--"...he cannot be here for a variety of reasons, all of them spicy. He's dumbfounded, absolutely flummoxed. He never expected any recognition for writing 'Around the World in Eighty Days'. And, in fact, only did so on the expressed understanding . . . "--flips note over--" . . . that the film would never be shown."
The locomotive used on the American train was not operational. The train was actually powered by a diesel-electric locomotive disguised as a baggage car. The tunnel was a cutting in the rocks covered over for filming.
Contrary to popular belief, production reports show that most of the film was shot in Hollywood. A lot of exterior second-unit locations were used, but most scenes were shot on sound stages in Hollywood, on the back lots of over seven major studios, including: RKO-Pathe, RKO, Universal-International, Warner Bros., Columbia and 20th Century-Fox.
Over a dozen airlines provided service to the actors and technicians on this film, including Pan Am, TWA, Middle Eastern and Pakistan Air. Private pilot Paul Mantz provided airline accommodations for producer Mike Todd.
According to Farley Granger in his autobiography "Include Me Out," Mike Todd filmed him as a gondolier on the Grand Canal while shooting on location in Venice, Italy, but it was never used in the film.
Some sources list Ava Gardner as having a cameo, but it's unclear if she did and it was cut out, or if the report is simply in error. Other sources list her as a 'Spectator' allegedly at the bullfight sequence, but this may just be hearsay.
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 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954).
In the original novel, Princess Aouda's Eastern garb is removed when Phileas Fogg and Passepartout rescue her from the sacrifice. They dress her in a dress, an otterskin jacket and a large cloak. She wears that outfit for the rest of the journey around the world. In the film, having the love interest in the story lose her exoticness by ridding her of her original dress was out of the question, and so she keeps it for the trip.
Mike Todd had extreme difficulties financing the film. After completing the large western sequence, the production was almost broke. Arthur Krim and Max E. Youngstein of United Artists looked at the existing footage, declared it a winner and agreed to bankroll the rest of the film.
The film played for three years straight--1956-59--at the Rivoli Theatre in New York in Todd AO. In San Francisco it holds the record for the longest continually playing first run film, in city history, at the Coronet Theatre, where it ran for 94 weeks from 26 December 1956 until 19 October 1958. In 1959 it was sent out on general release in regular widescreen format.
Victor Young's Oscar-winning score was recorded in July 1956 at the former Charlie Chaplin Studio on La Brea Avenue in Hollywood. At the time, Charles Chaplin had sold it to an independent outfit that had renamed it Kling Studios. Mike Todd was leasing space there during production. A sound stage normally used for filming was converted into a music scoring stage. Six Neumann U-47 condenser microphones were placed over the orchestra and fed to a 35mm magnetic six-track recorder. The entire set-up was only used once for this film. It was later torn down, and the stage reverted to filming.
The film is the second Todd-AO production shot at 24 fps (to produce the 35mm general-release version) and 30 fps (to produce the 70mm roadshow version). Both versions were shot on 65mm negative with Todd-AO lenses. Sometimes two cameras operated side-by-side filming the same take, other times the same camera was used with the speed changed for the second take. In some non-dialogue scenes, the same shot was used. The 35mm version is presented in conventional 2:1 squeeze anamorphic process; the 70mm version is presented in Todd-AO.
This was the third Best Picture Oscar winner shot in a widescreen format. Wings (1927), the first Best Picture winner in history, contained some widescreen sequences, although in Wings' case, they were conventional images enlarged to a what was described as "Magnascope" through the use of special projection lenses only at selected theatres that were so equipped.
Shirley MacLaine became pregnant with her daughter, Sachi Parker, while shooting on location in Japan. She suffered terrible bouts of morning sickness during the shooting of this film, becoming strangely nauseated even at the sight of the color green.
For its premiere run in London, the film was presented in 34mm. The UK had no 70mm-equipped theatres at the time, and cinema operators did not like the roadshow format. Eventually, Rank agreed to use its peripheral Astoria, Charing Cross Road for a roadshow run. The film played in an anamorphic 35mm format (not the same squeeze as CinemaScope) which gave a 2.2:1 aspect ration on screen. At the time, the British government imposed a film quota on UK cinemas which required 30% of the year's films to be British. However, the law only applied to 35mm, so special prints were produced with 1mm shaved off, producing unique 34mm prints which sidestepped the quota rules and enabled the Astoria to play the film for almost two years. The success of that roadshow presentation persuaded Rank and other cinema operators to install 70mm (which also avoided the quota) and get on the roadshow bandwagon.
In 1971 the film was re-released as a double feature with West Side Story (1961). Both films made their television debuts the following year; this film in September on CBS, and "West Side Story" in March on NBC, both shown in the 1.33:1 pan/scan format which mutilated the original wide-screen cinematography.
Although Columbia Pictures originally had an agreement with Mike Todd about finance and distribution, studio head Harry Cohn pulled out of the partnership. Just before Cohn died, he agreed to finance and distribute Cantinflas' only other American film, Pepe (1960), which turned out to be an artistic and financial disaster.
One might be puzzled by Cantinflas' oddly-shaped mustache; it is in the shape of a bull's horns because Cantinflas actually had been a bullfighter. He shot all of his bullfighting scenes without using a double, risking injury or even death and the production having to be delayed if he were injured, but he insisted on doing the bullfighting himself.