Razzle-dazzle showman Michael Todd hocked everything he had to make this spectacular presentation of Jules Verne's 1872 novel Around the World in 80 Days, the second film to be lensed in the wide-screen Todd-AO production. Nearly as… More Razzle-dazzle showman Michael Todd hocked everything he had to make this spectacular presentation of Jules Verne's 1872 novel Around the World in 80 Days, the second film to be lensed in the wide-screen Todd-AO production. Nearly as fascinating as the finished product are the many in-production anecdotes concerning Todd's efforts to pull the wool over the eyes of local authorities in order to cadge the film's round-the-world location shots--not to mention the wheeling and dealing to convince over forty top celebrities to appear in cameo roles. David Niven heads the huge cast as ultra-precise, supremely punctual Phileas Fogg, who places a 20,000-pound wager with several fellow members of London Reform Club, insisting that he can go around the world in eighty days (this, remember, is 1872). Together with his resourceful valet Passepartout (Cantinflas), Fogg sets out on his world-girdling journey from Paris via balloon. Meanwhile, suspicion grows that Fogg has stolen his 20,000 pounds from Bank of England. Diligent Inspector Fix (Robert Newton) is sent out by the bank's president (Robert Morley) to bring Fogg to justice. Hopscotching around the globe, Fogg pauses in Spain, where Passepartout engages in a comic bullfight (a specialty of Cantinflas). In India, Fogg and Passepartout rescue young widow Princess Aouda (Shirley MacLaine, in her third film) from being forced into committing suicide so that she may join her late husband. The threesome visit Hong Kong, Japan, San Francisco, and the Wild West. Only hours short of winning his wager, Fogg is arrested by the diligent Inspector Fixx. Though exonerated of the bank robbery charges, he has lost everything--except the love of the winsome Aouda. But salvation is at hand when Passepartout discovers that, by crossing the International Date Line, there's still time to reach the Reform Club. Will they make it? See for yourself. Among the film's 46 guest stars, the most memorable include Marlene Dietrich, Charles Boyer, Jose Greco, Frank Sinatra, Peter Lorre, Red Skelton, Buster Keaton, John Mills, and Beatrice Lillie. All were paid in barter--Ronald Colman did his brief bit for a new car. Newscaster Edward R. Murrow provides opening narration, and there's a tantalizing clip from Georges Méliès' A Trip to the Moon (1902). Offering a little something for everyone, Around the World in 80 Days is nothing less than an extravaganza, and it won 5 Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Cinematography.
Consensus: 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.