The role of Passepartout was greatly expanded from the novel to accommodate Mexican star Cantinflas. In the mid-1950s he was the wealthiest movie star in the world, and got top billing in Latin countries.
The film created the idea of "cameo roles" as a way to invite established stars to participate in a production.
The bullfighting sequence was added because Cantinflas had bullfighting experience. He was actually in the ring with the bull, eschewing the use of a stunt double. It was one of the first sequences shot.
The barge used in Bangkok belonged to the King of Thailand, who lent it to producer Mike Todd.
The film features the longest closing credits sequence at the time, 6 minutes and 21 seconds. All of the film's credits are shown at the end. The film's title is the very last credit .
The role played by John Gielgud as the manservant who Philias Fogg discharges at the beginning of the film, was offered to Laurence Olivier, who turned it down.
The original novel had no gas balloon, yet the balloon has remained an iconic image of the film.
In French, Passepartout (or Passe-partout) means "passkey" or "all-purpose". Passepartout helps Fogg in numerous situations.
According to David Niven's agent, Mike Todd originally wanted Cary Grant to play Phileas Fogg, but gave up after trying for six months.
The film is generally considered the single largest film project ever undertaken in Hollywood. Filming was completed in 75 shooting days.
In a magazine article published shortly after the film was released, Cantinflas said that one of the hardest things he had to do in the movie was to learn to ride the "penny-farthing" (high wheeled) bicycle at the beginning of the film.
Orson Welles was upset he did not get a cameo in the film. Before Mike Todd produced this film, he produced a stage version by Welles. The play flopped, but Todd turned the project into a film and it enjoyed great success. Welles felt he gave Todd the idea.
To make the film really stand out from the crowd of epic films, producer Mike Todd implored theater owners to promote the film "exactly as you would a Broadway show": organize reserved seats, pass out playbills before the movie, remove clocks from the theater and ban the sale of popcorn.
For the Spanish-dubbed version of the film, Cantinflas himself provided the voice of his character Passepartout.
The film used 140 sets built at six Hollywood studios, as well as sets in England, Hong Kong and Japan. It also set several records. The cast and crew flew over 4,000,000 miles. Casting included 68,894 extras in 13 countries, and 74,685 costumes were designed, made or rented for the film. The 1,243 extras listed on the IMDb page (and in the original program book) were only the extras who worked on the film in Hollywood. Ninety animal handlers managed 8,552 animals (3,800 sheep, 2,448 buffalo, 950 donkeys, 800 horses, 512 monkeys, 17 bulls, 15 elephants, six skunks and four ostriches).
The Western Costume Co. in Hollywood provided most of the costumes. Wardrobe storehouses in London, Japan, Hong Kong and Spain also provided costumes for the 1,243 extras.
Mike Todd fired original director John Farrow after about a week. Todd realized quickly that only one person could run a Michael Todd production, and it wasn't going to be Farrow. Farrow got a screenplay credit, however, and won an Oscar for his troubles.
After winning the Oscar, Mike Todd rented Madison Square Garden and threw a huge party. Over 18,000 guests attended, and the celebration frequently threatened to degenerate into all-out chaos. Todd himself called the party a disaster.
Mike Todd got permission to shoot a rocket launch, which appears at the start of the film. Todd directed the sequence himself.
Gregory Peck was originally cast as the U.S. cavalry officer. Producer Mike Todd felt Peck wasn't taking the role seriously enough and fired him.
Shirley MacLaine wrote that filming a scene with thousands of extras ground to a halt because the prop man forgot to put the bottle of champagne in the balloon with David Niven and Cantinflas.
Producer Mike Todd had a reputation for being tight-fisted. Reportedly, S.J. Perelman required payment in cash before handing over pages of the script.
Only nine Todd AO cameras existed at the time of shooting, and all of them were used to make this film.
Contrary to popular belief, production reports show that most of the film was shot in Hollywood. A lot of exterior second-unit locations were used, but most scenes were shot on sound stages in Hollywood, on the back lots of over seven major studios, including: RKO-Pathe, RKO, Universal-International, Warner Bros., Columbia and 20th Century-Fox.
Two major episodes in the film that do not appear in the novel are the arrival in Spain by gas balloon and the bullfighting scene.
According to Farley Granger in his autobiography "Include Me Out," Mike Todd filmed him as a gondolier on the Grand Canal while shooting on location in Venice, Italy, but it was never used in the film.
Screenwriter S.J. Perelman didn't attend the Academy Awards ceremony. He sent Hermione Gingold to accept it if he won. He wrote a note for her to read when she accepted. She said the following: "I'm very proud to receive this object d'art on behalf of Mr. Perelman, who writes . . . "--she reads from the note--"...he cannot be here for a variety of reasons, all of them spicy. He's dumbfounded, absolutely flummoxed. He never expected any recognition for writing 'Around the World in Eighty Days'. And, in fact, only did so on the expressed understanding . . . "--flips note over--" . . . that the film would never be shown."
Over a dozen airlines provided service to the actors and technicians on this film, including Pan Am, TWA, Middle Eastern and Pakistan Air. Private pilot Paul Mantz provided airline accommodations for producer Mike Todd.
The film begins in then-standard square frame format before expanding into much higher and wider Todd AO format. This was done to showcase the size of the screen.
Donna Reed was offered the part of Princess Aouda, and rejected it. She had just played another "exotic" role as Sacajawea in The Far Horizons (1955).
Tied with One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) for the longest title of an Oscar winner for Best Motion Picture until 2004, when The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) won. Winners with the shortest title are Gigi (1958) and Argo (2012).
Some of the ship scenes were completed in the Sersen tank at 20th Century-Fox studios under the supervision of Fox visual effects supervisor Fred Sersen. The visual effects team worked on the boat props as well. The Sersen tank was used for a number of independent productions, including Walt Disney's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954).
Some sources list Ava Gardner as having a cameo, but it's unclear if she did and it was cut out, or if the report is simply in error. Other sources list her as a 'Spectator' allegedly at the bullfight sequence, but this may just be hearsay.
The film did not go into general release until 1958. Much of the original movie paper, such as lobby cards, are dated 1958.
Shirley MacLaine became pregnant with her daughter, Sachi Parker, while shooting on location in Japan. She suffered terrible bouts of morning sickness during the shooting of this film, becoming strangely nauseated even at the sight of the color green.
Mike Todd was concerned about the differences in skin color between the various Native Americans hired for the film. He ordered a liquid dye that made them all look uniform.
Alexander Korda had tried, and failed, to make a movie out of the same novel. His advice to Mike Todd was, "Back away from it, Mike. I've been trying to lick it for years. Total loss."
The locomotive used on the American train was not operational. The train was actually powered by a diesel-electric locomotive disguised as a baggage car. The tunnel was a cutting in the rocks covered over for filming.
Mike Todd, the ultimate controlling producer, forbade the sale of popcorn in theaters where the film was playing.
Though it wasn't nominated for Best Original Song, the theme "Around the World" by Victor Young and Harold Adamson became a huge international hit for Bing Crosby.
Mike Todd had extreme difficulties financing the film. After completing the large western sequence, the production was almost broke. Arthur Krim and Max E. Youngstein of United Artists looked at the existing footage, declared it a winner and agreed to bankroll the rest of the film.
Victor Young's Oscar-winning score was recorded in July 1956 at the former Charlie Chaplin Studio on La Brea Avenue in Hollywood. At the time, Charles Chaplin had sold it to an independent outfit that had renamed it Kling Studios. Mike Todd was leasing space there during production. A sound stage normally used for filming was converted into a music scoring stage. Six Neumann U-47 condenser microphones were placed over the orchestra and fed to a 35mm magnetic six-track recorder. The entire set-up was only used once for this film. It was later torn down, and the stage reverted to filming.
When the film was initially released, only S.J. Perelman got screenplay credit. That changed after James Poe and John Farrow sued.
Only two or three visual effects shots appear in the entire film. They're early shots of David Niven and Cantinflas in the balloon, looking out over the Pyrenees.
The film played for three years straight--1956-59--at the Rivoli Theatre in New York in Todd AO. In San Francisco it holds the record for the longest continually playing first run film, in city history, at the Coronet Theatre, where it ran for 94 weeks from 26 December 1956 until 19 October 1958. In 1959 it was sent out on general release in regular widescreen format.
Mike Todd invited Maurice Chevalier to do a cameo. Chevalier asked to be billed at the foot of the cast list. Todd refused, so Chevalier declined the offer.
This was the third Best Picture Oscar winner shot in a widescreen format. Wings (1927), the first Best Picture winner in history, contained some widescreen sequences, although in Wings' case, they were conventional images enlarged to a what was described as "Magnascope" through the use of special projection lenses only at selected theatres that were so equipped.
Mike Todd's original estimate for the film's budget was $3 million. The final cost was nearly double that, largely due to Todd's demands for verisimilitude and location shooting.
John Wayne was considered for the role of the cavalry officer, but he turned it down.
Two separate lawsuits were filed against the producer, claiming that the title song had been plagiarized.
Kevin McClory, who had been an assistant director on The African Queen (1951) and who helped create Thunderball (1965), also worked as an assistant director on this film.
In the original novel, Princess Aouda's Eastern garb is removed when Phileas Fogg and Passepartout rescue her from the sacrifice. They dress her in a dress, an otterskin jacket and a large cloak. She wears that outfit for the rest of the journey around the world. In the film, having the love interest in the story lose her exoticness by ridding her of her original dress was out of the question, and so she keeps it for the trip.
The film is the second Todd-AO production shot at 24 fps (to produce the 35mm general-release version) and 30 fps (to produce the 70mm roadshow version). Both versions were shot on 65mm negative with Todd-AO lenses. Sometimes two cameras operated side-by-side filming the same take, other times the same camera was used with the speed changed for the second take. In some non-dialogue scenes, the same shot was used. The 35mm version is presented in conventional 2:1 squeeze anamorphic process; the 70mm version is presented in Todd-AO.
For its premiere run in London, the film was presented in 34mm. The UK had no 70mm-equipped theatres at the time, and cinema operators did not like the roadshow format. Eventually, Rank agreed to use its peripheral Astoria, Charing Cross Road for a roadshow run. The film played in an anamorphic 35mm format (not the same squeeze as CinemaScope) which gave a 2.2:1 aspect ration on screen. At the time, the British government imposed a film quota on UK cinemas which required 30% of the year's films to be British. However, the law only applied to 35mm, so special prints were produced with 1mm shaved off, producing unique 34mm prints which sidestepped the quota rules and enabled the Astoria to play the film for almost two years. The success of that roadshow presentation persuaded Rank and other cinema operators to install 70mm (which also avoided the quota) and get on the roadshow bandwagon.
One might be puzzled by Cantinflas' oddly-shaped mustache; it is in the shape of a bull's horns because Cantinflas actually had been a bullfighter. He shot all of his bullfighting scenes without using a double, risking injury or even death and the production having to be delayed if he were injured, but he insisted on doing the bullfighting himself.
Peter Ustinov auditioned for the role of Detective Wilbur Fix. He later played Fix in the television remake, Around the World in 80 Days (1989).
David Niven unsuccessfully lobbied producer Mike Todd to cast Merle Oberon as Princess Auoda.
In 1971 the film was re-released as a double feature with West Side Story (1961). Both films made their television debuts the following year; this film in September on CBS, and "West Side Story" in March on NBC, both shown in the 1.33:1 pan/scan format which mutilated the original wide-screen cinematography.
Although Columbia Pictures originally had an agreement with Mike Todd about finance and distribution, studio head Harry Cohn pulled out of the partnership. Just before Cohn died, he agreed to finance and distribute Cantinflas' only other American film, Pepe (1960), which turned out to be an artistic and financial disaster.
When filming began, John Farrow was director and Emmett Emerson was the first assistant director in London.
Included among the American Film Institute's 1998 list of the 400 movies nominated for the Top 100 Greatest American Movies.
Features eight Academy Award winners David Niven, Shirley MacLaine, Charles Coburn, Ronald Colman, John Gielgud, Victor McLaglen, John Mills and Frank Sinatra, and six other Academy Award nominees Charles Boyer, Marlene Dietrich, Trevor Howard, Glynis Johns, Robert Morley and Jack Oakie in the acting categories. Noël Coward who was not nominated for acting, was nominated for Best Original Screenplay.
In the scene where the buffalo herd crosses the train tracks, the tracks are haphazardly laid, with uneven spacing of the wooden railroad ties. Contrast that with the regular spacing and normal tracks in the shots where the train is actually rolling on tracks. This indicates that the buffalo crossing was on a set, not over actual train tracks.
John Gielgud plays a manservant who Phileas Fogg discharges at the beginning of the film. Gielgud also plays a manservant in Arthur (1981).
David Niven, in his book about Hollywood "Bring on the Empty Horses", relates that Robert Newton got the part of Inspector Fix only by promising his friend Niven that he would drink absolutely no alcohol during the filming. This promise was kept. But the day shooting wrapped Newton fell off the wagon, and he never got another part.