81 Days With Oscar And Me

Every Academy Award-Winning Movie, Back to Back, Starting With the First

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Around the World In 80 Days

September 17th, 2009 · No Comments · 1956, Adaptation, Around the World in 80 Days, Cinemascope (Wide Screen), Color, Comedy, Composer: Victor Young, John Gielgud, Michael Todd, Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation

Around the World In 80 DaysAround the World In 80 Days isn’t a movie to be analyzed. It’s a movie to be experienced.

So that’s precisely what we’re doing – me with my St. Pauli Girl and pizza (albeit Sam’s Club pizza), she with her Quenchers White Grape soda and pizza.

The story behind the making of this movie is as interesting as the movie itself, perhaps more so. Apparently, producer Michael Todd (1909-1958) was a flamboyant showman who made P. T. Barnum look like a Cub Scout.

Which is a good thing because only an accomplished schmoozer could have assembled a cast this massive and shot a movie this expansive — all with little or no money and no experience making films. I wish I’d known the illustrious Mr. Todd. I’ve always liked colorful chaps.

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Shirley MacLaine and David Niven in a promotional picture from the film (courtesy of movie buff John Douglas)

Speaking of which, the movie stars David Niven, a colorful chap who never fails to entertain – although that sentiment is seriously put to the test in this over-long, tedious move.

Tedious? Did I write tedious? Yes. For example, Phileas Fogg (Niven, 1910-1983) and his man-servant Passepartout (played by Mexican movie sensation Cantinflas, 1911-1993) just spent 10-15 minutes in Spain, Fogg watching and Passepartout participating in a lackluster bull fight. One could have snipped 10 minutes off that scene and lost nothing except 10 minutes of unnecessary film.

Essentially, the plot is this: Sometime in the late 1800s, an English gentleman named Phileas Fogg claims he can circumnavigate the world in eighty days. He makes a £20,000 wager with several skeptical fellow members of his London gentlemen’s club, the Reform Club, that he can arrive back within 80 days before exactly 8:45 pm. Together with his resourceful valet, Passepartout, Fogg sets out on his journey from Paris via a hot air balloon. His journey includes boat, train, elephant, and anything else with wheels or a sail.

The movie was based on the novel of the same name by Jules Verne (1828-1905), making this – of course – another adaptation to win an Oscar for Best Picture.

Here’s background about the movie from its entry on Wikipedia:

Around the World in 80 Days was an epic film. It was produced by Michael Todd, a flamboyant Broadway showman who had never before produced a movie. The director he hired, Michael Anderson, had directed the highly acclaimed British war movie The Dam Busters, the original George Orwell 1984 and other classic films.

Filming took place in late 1955, from August 9 to December 20. The crew worked fast (75 actual days of filming), producing 680,000 feet (128 miles) of film, which was edited down to 25,734 feet (7,844 m) of finished film. The picture cost just under $6 million to make, employing 140 locations, 100 sets and over 36,000 costumes. Todd said he and the crew visited every country portrayed in the picture (including England, France, India, Spain, Thailand and Japan).

The film premiered on October 17, 1956 at the Rivoli theater in New York City. Todd claimed that the film got 70 to 80 awards, including five Academy awards. The picture grossed $100 million world-wide, including about $25 million in the USA.

It also stars a jaw-dropping cast of stars who make cameo appearances. Feast your eyes on this list:

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Despite the colorfulness of the movie, and its many exotic locales, I am bored to tears with this film. There isn’t enough action to make it exciting, nor enough humor to make it funny, nor enough plot to make it compelling.

In fact, I just realized – as I’m watching George Raft, Red Skelton, John Carradine, Marlene Dietrich, and Frank Sinatra in a barroom scene – that the movie’s spectacle, which is its main claim to fame, is also its major drawback. There’s no focus to the movie. It’s all over the place – literally and figuratively. There’s just too much sight, sound, and spectacle. It’s like a travelogue with famous people in it. Sort of like Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom meets The Ed Sullivan Show.

I would have enjoyed this movie immeasurably more had it been called Around the World In 80 Minutes because three hours of this is at least two hours too long.

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