Todd-AO cameras during filming of “Around the World in 80 Days”.
The Jules Verne collection at
the Library includes unique holdings in the Motion Picture, Broadcasting
and Recorded Sound Division on “Around the World in 80 Days”
This classic is historically important not only as a faithful adaptation
of the Verne novel, but also as a classic example of the 1950s epic-length
spectacle, and for pioneering the 70mm wide-screen process. The collection
was received from actress Elizabeth Taylor, widow of the movie's producer,
Michael Todd, who died in an airplane crash while the film was still in
The Library's “Around the World in 80 Days” footage consists of
426 reels of picture and sound track material, in several languages, in
16mm, 35mm and 70mm. These range from preliminary rough cut “workprints”
to production elements, preprints, color separations, tests, shots of the
premieres and “behind-the-scenes” footage about the making and
publicizing of the movie. The footage includes portions of the original
1957 German, Italian and French versions. Other original sound track
material is broken down into various components, such as music, sound
effects and dialogue.
Collections of this type, especially on a Hollywood feature, are unusual.
When the material came to the Library, most of it was in many poorly
identified or completely unmarked cans. The recent organizing and
cataloging of the “Around the World in 80 Days” footage has led to new
discoveries about the making of this classic adventure-comedy.
Michael Todd had been interested in the Verne novel since he briefly
sponsored Orson Welles's 1946 theatrical production. In the mid-1950s,
Todd was looking for a vehicle appropriate for Todd-AO, with which he
sought to create a new wide-screen standard by photographing on a larger
film stock, doubling the 35mm width to 70mm. The new 70mm process posed
extraordinary technical challenges, especially for a neophyte film
Apparently, most of the lead actors were chosen with relative ease, and
David Niven was quickly selected for the part of Phileas Fogg. However,
casting the role of the Indian princess Aouda proved more troublesome. The
Library's collection includes some of the last tests for the role, in late
September 1955. These include Jacqueline Park, a former Miss Ceylon
inexperienced in acting, and two almost-forgotten actresses of the time,
Suzanne Alexander and Marla English. Only after Todd decided against all
of these did he bring in Shirley MacLaine, who at that time had only
appeared in two movies, to portray Aouda.
After a year of preparation, principal photography began in September
1955, and was completed at the end of the year, although various effects
work and other shooting continued until April 1956 (as indicated in cards
in the collection that document each day's filming among several units).
The expected budget doubled to $6 million as filming took place in 112
locations in 13 countries.
Raising financial backing was difficult, since Todd was a Hollywood
outsider. Often movie-making continued with barely enough funding to keep
going on a day-to-day basis. Nonetheless, Todd fast-talked dozens of
top-ranked actors into roles as “cameo” stars.
Probably of greatest interest is the discovery of material cut before the
final release. This includes two songs by Eddie Fisher, a close friend of
the Todds who would marry Ms. Taylor after Todd's death.
More significant was a modern prologue in which Fogg and Passepartout
board an airliner, with Charles Boyer arranging for their tickets, just as
he suggests their balloon flight in the movie. Many of the other
passengers boarding the plane are the cameo stars who will later appear
during Fogg's travels—Victor McLaglen, Edmund Lowe, Cesar Romero,
Reginald Denny, Melville Cooper, Tim McCoy, Buster Keaton, Joe E. Brown
and Frank Sinatra. George Raft and Marlene Dietrich portray a quarreling
couple, parts they will also play in the movie's San Francisco sequence.
Passepartout walks about the airplane cabin, noticing his fellow
passengers, exchanging a wary glance with Peter Lorre. Fogg takes his seat
and begins to read a large book, probably Around the World in 80 Days.
This contemporary prologue was dropped in favor of a nonfiction
introduction. In this new prologue, Edward R. Murrow compared the view of
the Earth from a modern rocket with the 1902 science fiction film, “A
Trip to the Moon”, adapted from two Jules Verne novels about an 1865
journey to the moon and back to Earth.
An abundance of behind-the-scenes footage indicates that several
documentaries about the making of the film during its shooting were
contemplated. Footage of the New York and Hollywood premieres reveals them
to have been gala, star-studded affairs, with many of the cameo and
principal stars in attendance. “Around the World in 80 Days”
was an unparalleled success at the box office and grossed an estimated $65
million alone in the first two years of continuous, worldwide release, and
won an Academy Award for Best Picture.
Sadly, when the film is seen today, even the full-length versions on
television or video are not in the original wide-screen format that was
such an important part of the film's making. Should the movie someday be
restored, the Library's collection will have much to contribute.
in 70mm reading:
The Saga of Todd-AO
This paper appeared on the web
until recently. I've copied it to in70mm.com, because it's not available
on the original server any longer. I hope to find the author and ask his
permission, until then, it's here to be read.
10/21/96 vol.55 no18 Discoveries from the "Around the World in
Journal of Film Preservation