The epic picture was directed by Michael Anderson and produced by Mike Todd, with Kevin McClory and William Cameron Menzies as associate producers. The screenplay was written by James Poe, John Farrow, and S. J. Perelman based on the classic novel of the same name by Jules Verne. The music score was composed by Victor Young, and the Todd-AO 70 mm cinematography (shot in Technicolor) was by Lionel Lindon. The film's seven-minute-long animated title sequence, shown at the end of the film, was created by award-winning designer Saul Bass.
The film won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
Broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow presents an onscreen prologue, featuring footage from A Trip to the Moon (1902) by Georges Méliès, explaining that it is based loosely on the book From the Earth to the Moon by Jules Verne. Also included is the launching of an unmanned rocket and footage of the earth receding.
In 1872, an English gentleman Phileas Fogg (David Niven) claims he can circumnavigate the world in eighty days. He makes a £20,000 wager (around to £1.6 million today) with four sceptical fellow members of the Reform Club (each contributing £5,000 to the bet) that he can arrive back eighty days from exactly 8:45 pm that evening.
Together with his resourceful valet, Passepartout (Cantinflas), Fogg goes hopscotching around the globe generously spending money to encourage others to help him get to his destinations faster so he can accommodate tight steamship schedules. They set out on the journey from Paris by hot air balloon upon learning the mountain train tunnel is blocked. The two accidentally end up in Spain, where Passepartout engages in a comic bullfight. Next, he goes to Brindisi. Meanwhile, suspicion grows that Fogg has stolen £55,000 (around £4.4 million today) from the Bank of England so Police Inspector Fix (Robert Newton) is sent out by Scotland Yard to trail him (starting in Suez) and keeps waiting for a warrant to arrive so he can arrest Fogg in the British ports they visit. In India, Fogg and Passepartout rescue young widow Princess Aouda (Shirley MacLaine) from being forced into a funeral pyre with her late husband. The three visit Hong Kong, Yokohama, San Francisco, and the Wild West. After sailing across the Atlantic, and only hours short of winning his wager, Fogg is arrested upon arrival at Liverpool, by the diligent yet misguided Inspector Fix.
At the jail, the humiliated Fix informs Fogg that the real culprit was caught in Brighton. Though he is now exculpated, he has insufficient time to reach London before his deadline and thus has lost everything – but the love of the winsome Aouda. Salvation is at hand when, upon returning to London, Passepartout buys a newspaper and sees it is still Saturday. Fogg then realizes that by traveling east towards the rising sun and by crossing the International Date Line, he has gained a day. There is still time to reach the Reform Club and win the bet. Fogg arrives at the club just before the 8:45 pm chime. Aouda and Passepartout then arrive, surprising everyone, as no woman has ever entered the Reform Club before.
The film boasts a huge cast, with David Niven and Cantinflas in the lead roles of Fogg and Passepartout. Fogg is the classic Victorian gentleman, well-dressed, well-spoken, and extremely punctual, whereas his servant Passepartout (who has an eye for the ladies) provides much of the comic relief as a "jack of all trades" for the film in contrast to his master's strict formality. Joining them are Shirley MacLaine as Princess Aouda and Robert Newton as the detective Fix, in his last role.
The role of Passepartout was greatly expanded from the novel to accommodate Cantinflas, the most famous Latin-American comedian at the time, and winds up as the focus of the film. While Passepartout describes himself as a Parisian in the novel, this is unclear in the film – he has a French name, but speaks Spanish when he and his master arrive in Spain by balloon. In the Spanish version the name of his character was changed from the French Passepartout to the Spanish "Juan Picaporte". There is also a comic bullfighting sequence especially created for Cantinflas that is not in the novel. Indeed, when the film was released in some non-English speaking nations, Cantinflas was billed as the lead. According to the guidebook, this was done because of an obstacle Todd faced in casting Cantinflas, who had never before appeared in an American movie and had turned down countless offers to do so. Todd allowed Cantinflas to appear in the film as a Latin, "so," the actor said himself, "...to my audience in Latin America, I'll still be Cantinflas."
Over 40 famous performers make cameo appearances, including Marlene Dietrich, George Raft, and Frank Sinatra. The film was significant as the first of the so-called Hollywood "make work" films, employing dozens of faded film personalities. John Wayne turned down Todd's offer for the role of the Colonel leading the Cavalry charge, a role filled by Colonel Tim McCoy. Promotional material released at the time quoted a Screen Actors Guild representative looking at the shooting call sheet and crying: "Good heavens Todd, you've made extras out of all the stars in Hollywood!" Shirley MacLaine and Glynis Johns are the last surviving members of the entire cast.David Niven as Phileas Fogg
Cantinflas as Passepartout
Shirley MacLaine as Princess Aouda
Robert Newton as Inspector Fix
Around the World in 80 Days was produced by Michael Todd, a 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 1956 film of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four and other classic films. Todd sold his interest in the Todd-AO film format to help finance the film.
Because Todd-AO ran at 30 frames per second, which was incompatible with the 35mm standard of 24 fps, Around the World in 80 Days was, like the first film in Todd-AO, Oklahoma!, filmed twice. However, unlike Oklahoma! which was filmed additionally in 35mm CinemaScope, Around the World in 80 Days was filmed simultaneously in Todd-AO at 24 frames per second so that from this negative, 35mm reduction prints could be made. After these two films, the specification for Todd-AO was altered from the third film in the format, South Pacific, to 24 fps running, making it unnecessary to film subsequent productions twice.
In the autobiographical book The Moon's a Balloon, published in 1972, the actor David Niven discussed his meeting with Todd and the subsequent events that led to the film being produced. According to Niven, when Todd asked him if he would appear as Fogg, Niven enthusiastically replied, 'I'd do it for nothing!' He later admitted to being grateful that Todd did not hold him to his claim. He also described the first meeting between Todd and Robert Newton (who suffered from drinking problems) when the latter was offered the role of the detective, Fix; Niven alleged that Newton was offered the part on condition that he did not drink any alcohol during the filming, and that his celebration following the completion of his role led to his untimely demise (he did not live to see the film released).
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 (210,000 m) 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 112 locations in 13 countries and 140 sets. Todd said he and the crew visited every country portrayed in the picture, including England, France, India, Spain, Thailand and Japan. According to the Time magazine review of the film, the cast including extras totalled 68,894 people; it also featured 7,959 animals, "including four ostriches, six skunks, 15 elephants, 17 fighting bulls, 512 rhesus monkeys, 800 horses, 950 burros, 2,448 American buffalo, 3,800 Rocky Mountain sheep and a sacred cow that eats flowers on cue." There is also a cat, at the Reform Club. The wardrobe department spent $410,000 to provide 74,685 costumes and 36,092 trinkets.
Some 10,000 extras were used in filming the bullfight scene in Spain, with Cantinflas as the matador; Cantinflas had previously done some bullfighting. They used all 6,500 residents of a small Spanish town called Chinchón, 45 kilometres (28 mi) from Madrid, but Todd decided there weren't enough spectators. So he found 3,500 more from nearby towns. He used 650 Indians for a fight on a train in the West. Many were indeed Indians, but some were Hollywood extras. All 650 had their skin color altered with dye. Todd used about 50 US gallons (190 l; 42 imp gal) of orange-coloured dye for those extras.
Todd sometimes used models of boats, ships and trains in the film, but he often decided that they didn't look realistic so he switched to the real thing where he could. The scene of a collapsing train bridge is partly without models. The overhead shot of a train crossing a bridge was full scale, but the bridge collapse was a large-scale miniature, verifiable by observing the slightly jerky motion of the rear passenger car as the train pulls away, as well as the slowed-down water droplets which are out of scale in the splashing river below. All the steamships shown in the first half are miniatures shot in an outdoor studio tank. The exception is the American ship shown at the intermission point, which is real. A tunnel was built for a train sequence out of paper mache. After the train filming was complete, the "tunnel" was pushed over into the gorge.
The scenes of the crossing of the Atlantic Ocean by steamship took place off San Francisco and were shot on a specially built prop steamer, a converted barge mocked up to resemble a small ocean-going steamship, with mock paddles driven by the electric motor from an old streetcar. In his memoirs, Niven described the whole thing as being dangerously unstable (though stability improved as it was dismantled as though to feed it into its own furnaces as the plot required).
One of the most famous sequences in the film, the flight by hydrogen balloon, is not in the original Jules Verne novel. Because the film was made in Todd AO, the sequence was expressly created to show off the locations seen on the flight, as projected on the giant curved screen used for the process. A similar balloon flight can be found in an earlier Jules Verne novel, Five Weeks in a Balloon, in which the protagonists explore Africa from a hydrogen balloon.
Many of the balloon scenes with Niven and Cantinflas were filmed using a 160-foot (49 m) crane. Even that height bothered Niven, who was afraid of heights. Tom Burges, who was shorter than Niven, was used as a stand-in for scenes where the balloon is seen from a distance. Many of the lots used in the film are now on the land occupied by Century City, an office complex in the L.A. area.
In his memoirs, Niven related that Todd completed filming whilst in considerable debt. The post-production work on the film was an exercise in holding off Todd's creditors long enough to produce a saleable movie, and the footage was worked upon under the supervision of Todd's creditors and returned to a secure vault each night, as if it were in escrow.
The film's release and subsequent success vindicated Todd's considerable efforts.
The film premiered on October 17, 1956 at the Rivoli Theater in New York City. By the time of Todd's accidental death 18 months later in a private plane crash, it had grossed $33 million.
In Spanish and Latin American posters and programs of the movie, Cantinflas is billed above the other players because he was very popular in Spanish-speaking countries. There were two souvenir programs sold in theatres. For Roadshow screenings Todd-AO is mentioned, though for general release those pages are not contained in the book. The program was created by Todd's publicist, Art Cohn, who died in the plane crash with him. His biography, The Nine Lives of Michael Todd, was published after their deaths which put a macabre spin on the title.
Bosley Crowther called the film a "sprawling conglomeration of refined English comedy, giant-screen travel panoramics and slam-bang Keystone burlesque" and said Todd and the film's crew "commandeered the giant screen and stereophonic sound as though they were Olsen and Johnson turned loose in a cosmic cutting-room, with a pipe organ in one corner and all the movies ever made to toss around."
Time magazine called it "brassy, extravagant, long-winded and funny" and the "Polyphemus of productions," saying "as a travelogue, Around the World is at least as spectacular as anything Cinerama has slapped together." Time highlighted the performance of "the famous Mexican comic, Cantinflas [who in] his first U.S. movie...gives delightful evidence that he may well be, as Charles Chaplin once said he was, "the world's greatest clown."
Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes retrospectively collected 35 reviews and gave the film an aggregate score of 74%, with a rating average of 6.1/10, with the site's consensus stating: "It's undeniably shallow, but its cheerful lack of pretense -- as well as its grand scale and star-stuffed cast -- help make Around the World in 80 Days charmingly light-hearted entertainment."
The development of the film and the personal life of actor Mario Moreno during that time were dramatized later in the 2014 film, Cantinflas.
Todd claimed that the film won 70 to 80 awards, including five Academy awards.
The film was nominated for eight Oscars, of which it was awarded five, beating out critically and publicly praised films Friendly Persuasion, The Ten Commandments, Giant, and The King and I:Won: Best Picture – Michael Todd, producer
Won: Best Cinematography, Color – Lionel Lindon
Won: Best Film Editing – Gene Ruggiero and Paul Weatherwax
Won: Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture – Victor Young
Won: Best Writing, Best Screenplay, Adapted – John Farrow, S. J. Perelman, and James Poe
Nominee: Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Color – Ken Adam, Ross Dowd, and James W. Sullivan
Nominee: Best Costume Design, Color – Miles White
Nominee: Best Director – Michael Anderson
Although not nominated for best original song, the film's theme song "Around the World" (music by Victor Young, words by Harold Adamson), became very popular. It was a hit for Bing Crosby in 1957, and was a staple of the easy-listening genre for many years: "Around the world I searched for you / I traveled on when hope was gone to keep a rendezvous ... No more will I go all around the world / For I have found my world in you." It is also one of the few Best Picture winners not to be nominated in any acting category.
The film was also nominated for three Golden Globes, of which it was awarded two:Won: Best Dramatic Motion Picture – Michael Todd, producer
Won: Best Motion Actor in a Comedy/Musical Film – Cantinflas
Nominee: Best Director – Michael Anderson
The film received the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Picture and Best Screenplay award for S. J. Perelman.
The film won the Writers Guild of America Best Written American Comedy award for James Poe, John Farrow and S. J. Perelman.
The film was screened at the 1957 Cannes Film Festival, but was not entered into the main competition.
On the first anniversary of the film's release, Todd threw a party at the Madison Square Garden attended by 18,000 people; Time magazine called the party a "spectacular flop" though Todd shrugged off the remark, saying "You can't say it was a little bust."
The film was originally distributed by United Artists in two Todd-AO 70 mm versions, one for Todd-AO 70 mm release at 30 frames per second, and an alternate 70 mm version at 24 frames per second reduced to 35 mm for general release.
The original Todd-AO 70mm running time without the extra music was 179 minutes. However, after the Chicago showing Todd cut four minutes out of the Western sequence where Cantinflas is pursued by Indians. The 70mm print shown at The Rivoli theatre in NYC was 175 minutes. However, the original 35mm Technicolor/anamorphic magnetic stereo and mono optical prints ran the complete 179 minutes with the chase scene intact. Although the leaders on the optical sound prints were labelled for Perspecta directional encoding, the prints do not contain the signal and were standard mono.
In 1968, additional cuts were made including removing most of the prologue with the changing aspect ratios. Only a brief few shots with Edward R. Murrow remained and the entire "Trip to the Moon" clips were cut. Since the opening shot of Murrow was 1.33 window boxed in the wide frame, they had to crop and blow up that shot for the 2.35 ratio which made it very grainy. The intermission was also cut for the 1968 re-release which included the freeze frame of the ship and fade into the second half. The reels just jump cut with an awkward sound gap between the first and second half. The chase scene was missing from this version too which reduced the running time to 167 minutes. However, some uncut 179-minute 35mm Technicolor prints were struck too which meant at least some theatres played the Roadshow version even though the vast majority showed the shorter cut. 35mm IB/Scope copies of both versions exist from 1968. The 24 frames per second 70mm prints were also the 167-minute version in that year too. As a publicity stunt, Todd Jr. called the press when he removed a 70mm copy from a bank vault claiming it had been stored there since 1956 for safe keeping and was being shown at a theatre again. It was absurd since an original 70mm would've faded to pink by 1968 and the copy they exhibited was the cut re-issue 167-minute version.
Around 1976, after its last network television broadcast on CBS, UA lost control of the film to Elizabeth Taylor, who was the widow of producer Michael Todd and had inherited a portion of Todd's estate. In 1983, Warner Bros. acquired the rights to the film from Taylor, and reissued the film theatrically in a re-edited 143-minute version (this version would subsequently air only once on Turner Classic Movies, this was before any restoration on the movie was announced). In the years that followed, a pan-and-scan transfer of the alternate 24 frame/s version (presented at its full 183-minute length) was shown on cable television.
In 2004, WB issued a digitally restored version of the 24 frame/s incarnation on DVD, also at its full 183-minute length, but also including the original intermission, Entr'acte, and exit music segments that were a part of the original 1956 theatrical release, and for the first time on home video at its original 2.2:1 aspect widescreen ratio.
This restored version was reconstructed from the best available elements of the 24 frame/s edition WB could find, and was subsequently shown on Turner Classic Movies. The original elements from the 30 frame/s/70 mm Todd-AO version (as well as the original prints derived from these elements) still exist, albeit in faded condition due to the passage of time, but remain to be formally restored by WB. There is some missing footage in the India train ride where the image artificially fades in and out to compensate for the missing shots.
Warner's retained Andy Pratt Film Labs who in conjunction with Eastman Kodak developed a method to remove the cracked and fading to brown, clear lacquer from the original 65 mm Technicolor negative. Warners did nothing further to restore the negative. Due to costs of making a 70 mm release print even without magnetic striping, using DTS disk for audio, there are no immediate plans for any new prints. The 65 mm roadshow print negative was used for the DVD release. Had any 35 mm Anamorphic elements been used the aspect ratio would have been 2.35:1. Mike Todd had limited 35 mm anamorphic prints made with a non-standard compression ratio to provide a 2.21:1 viewing experience. These special 35 mm prints are called Cinestage, the same name of Mike Todd's showcase theatre in Chicago.
Best available prints of the 30 frame/s/70 mm version have recently been exhibited in revival movie houses worldwide. As of the present time, WB remains the film's rights holder.
The DVDs for Around the World in 80 Days include four hours of supplemental material, in addition to the restored three-hour wide-screen presentation. Included on one of the disks is a documentary film, about 50 minutes long, about Michael Todd.
The soundtrack was commercially released on vinyl and audio tape. Two CD versions were released as well, including a digital remastering of the original Decca Records album on MCA in the 1980s and an expanded version with extra tracks on the Hit Parade Records label in Canada in 2007. There was also a model kit of the balloon, a board game, and a Dell Comics adaptation. A Cantinflas puppet was released separately, dressed in an outfit similar to the Passepartout costume.