Sunday, January 12, 2020


#3 Around the World in 80 Days

 David Niven and Cantinflas prepare to go
Around the World in 80 Days

"Imagine this-and being married to Liz (Taylor), too!"-Mike Todd, after Around the World in 80 Days wins Best Picture-Inside Oscar: The Unofficial History of the Academy Awards by Mason Wiley and Damien Bona


I said in the heading "Sort of" never seen before because I'm sure I saw at least chunks of it on television as a kid as it was a regular staple of something you could show on the tube at any hour that would have kid appeal and be okay for the grownups to tune in. I have previously seen the similar film Five Weeks in a Balloon and star Cantinflas's follow-up Pepe in full.

Well, Around the World in 80 Days is big. It's expansive. It travels all around the world. It's got a ton of extras. It's even got a ton of animal extras. David Niven is snootily charming as Phileas Fogg. Mexican comic legend Cantinflas is also on hand as Fogg's sidekick, Passeportout. There's action, adventure and many star cameos. There's also great closing credit sequence from the legendary Saul Bass. The Victor Young score is good. And don't forget the film comes form the literary pedigree of Jules Verne!

That's a lot of positives. Despite all that, I can't say I found Around the World in 80 Days overly riveting. It's amusing in part (Thanks mostly to Cantiflas) but not the most hilarious comedy of the era. It certainly seems in retrospect that Giant probably should have won Best Picture for 1956. The picture that has had the most staying power from the below nominee list is the perennially shown The Ten Commandments. The beloved (by some) The King and I also seems to have stood the test of time more than Around the World in 80 Days.

Michael Todd: You can't mention this film without mentioning the ambitious producer of the whole thing, Michael Todd. After great successes in other mediums, this was his first (and only) film and it was a big hit and, of course won the Oscar. Todd's career ended in a plane crash in 1958. It would have been interesting to see what ambitious film projects would have come after this one if he had lived.

Cameos: Todd is also credited with coining the phrase "cameo" to denote a star in a brief role. There are many in Around the World in 80 Days, from Frank Sinatra to Marlene Dietrich to John Carradine. If you get bogged down in the plot, you can always play the spot the celebrity bit-player game. "Look, honey. Isn't that Jack Oakie?"

Which Indians come off worse? During Fogg and Passepartout's journey to India, they come across a princess (played by a young Shirley Macclaine) about to be burned alive after her husband dies. She is saved from death from these heathens by the resourceful Passeportout. Later, in the United States, the crew are travelling by train and get attacked by another kind of Indian. The kind with bows and arrows! They kidnap Passeportout and try to burn him at the stake! He is of course rescued. The Indians (dots) at least had a reason for burning the princess (although a pretty bad one). The Indian's (feathers) motivations seem to be to just supply an excuse for an action sequence.

Can someone please find me a Frenchman? In the book by Jules Verne, Passepartout is a French valet.
In this version, he is played by the Mexican Cantinflas
In the 1989 television version, he is played by Englishman Eric Idle
In the 2004 feature film, he is played by Jackie Chan, who I'm pretty sure also isn't French.

1956 Best Picture Nominees
Around the World in 80 Days
Friendly Persuasion
The King and I
The Ten Commandments

Around the World in 80 Days' Michael Anderson lost out on Best Director to George Stevens of Giant

Neither Niven nor Cantinflas was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for Around the World in 80 Days
Yul Brynner won Best Actor for The King and I
Cantinflas was given The Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical Golden Globe Award.

James Poe, John Farrow and S. J. Perlman won Best Adapted Screenplay for Around the World in 80 Days

Victor Young won for Best Musical Score for Around the World in 80 Days
This was Young's first Oscar after being nominated a previous twenty-one times. He died the year he won the award, which was given posthumously. 

The film also won for Best Color Cinematography and Best Film Editing

David Niven with Buster Keaton,
One of the many "cameos" in
Around the World in 80 Days


  1. I got a kick out of playing spot the star but this thing stinks. I'd rank it as the worst Best Picture ever, Cimarron and Chariots of Fire are close but at least they don't go on forever...they just feel like they do!

  2. I didn't dislike it as much as you, but it clearly did go on and on and certainly wouldn't have been my choice for Best Picture.