Film and Food

Movies reviews with matching food – eat, watch, enjoy

Best Picture – Around the World in 80 Days (1956)

Starring David Niven, Mario Moreno & Shirley MacLaine

Rating 7/10

Forgive me for constantly comparing this version with the Steve Coogan/Jackie Chan film. I blame my six year old who was asking me “where’s the funny chinese man?” who was absent from this one.

Instead, Latin American Moreno (otherwise known as ‘Cantinflas’) plays a french Passepartout who comes across as Spanish. A little confusing but encompassing many cultures, like the film. In Coogan’s place is the dignified Niven whose depiction of Phileas Fogg is more refined and ‘English’ in the proper sense.

This is a large film in so many ways. It embodies ‘Epic’. Covering continents and cultures, the basic premise is a fascinating one. However, this film feels like it lasts 80 days. It lingers where it shouldn’t to the point where my 6 year old film companion asked for the bull fighting scene to be skipped. Spain must have been a favourite of Director Michael Anderson because the action was covered in oh so much detail with the Flamenco scene then the bulls. We get it, it’s Spain, move on!

Then there was India where white people were painted caramel and given exaggerated costumes to emphasise the fact that, yes, the travellers had made it to India. Now I know the West has come a long way with political correctness (too far?!) but the Indian section of this film is a little cringe-worthy. One of the major characters is Princess Aouda who is played by a BLUE EYED Shirley MacLaine. The only Indian thing about her was her costume.

Fast forward to America. More stereotypes with Native Indians smoking peace pipes and setting the ‘white’ man on fire. Then the white man proceeds to have a shoot up, cowboy style, with these ‘savages’ and all the time the clock tick, ticks away.

This is a fun film. For all our criticisms of political incorrectness and length, Around the World in 80 Days will always be a hoot. The fact that the wager depends on timing gets you excited. Are they going to make it? Will anything get in their way? The humour throughout redeems this film. Especially the scene where they are riding real Ostriches in Hong Kong, so incorrect that it’s hilarious. The final scene is excellent. An apt ending to a looonnnggg journey in more ways than one. Niven rocked, as did Cantinflas. The scenery and cultures, though heavily stereotyped, were fun and interesting. I can see why it won the Oscar but compared with today’s standards, it falls a little flat.

Around the World in 80 Days Trivia:

  • Budget – $6,000,000
  • This film was all about the Cameos. Here are some you may or may not know: Frank Sinatra, Buster Keaton, Cesar Romero, John Carradine, John Mills, Marlene Dietrich, Noel Coward, Sir John Gielgud, Basil Sydney, Tim McCoy and on and on and on the list goes…
  • Numbers: 74,685 costumes used, 140 sets in 4 countries, 68,894 extras were used, shooting took place in 13 countries, the crew flew 4,000,000 miles, 90 animal handlers were employed to juggle 8,552 animals (including: 3,800 sheep, 2,448 buffalo, 950 donkeys, 800 horses, 512 monkeys, 17 bulls, 15 elephants, 6 skunks & 4 ostriches) and the entire film was shot in 75 days.
  • This was the last film for actors Harcourt Williams (died 1957) and Robert Newton (died 1956)
  • David Niven always said that Phileas Fogg was his favourite role.
  • Cantinflas was the richest performer of the 1950’s thanks to his following in Latin America.
  • Marlene Dietrich’s gown was reported to have cost $300,000 (FOR A CAMEO)
  • This film invented the ‘cameo’.
  • In the second half of the 50’s credits began appearing at the end of films rather than at the beginning.
Now that the ‘fogg’ has cleared, we head back to war. This time it is The Bridge on the River Kwai starring William Holden, Alec Guiness (think Star Wars) & Jack Hawkins. Brace yourself but join us for a ride into the heart of war in this incredible classic film.


One comment on “Best Picture – Around the World in 80 Days (1956)

  1. Pingback: 1956 Oscar Winners | Guide to be a winner

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