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          FirstBirthDay Program w/ Liz & Mike

                                       

MORE LIKE 80 YEARS

When Mike Todd made the megaboring Around the World in 80 Days, he had in mind a panoramic story that would showcase his TODD-AO process, which originated from Cinerama. Todd was keenly aware that This is CINERAMA was demonstration and sensitive to the critics’ charge that the 3 camera 2 seam gimmick might not be able to successfully project a real story (later tried with The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm and How the West Was Won). He capsulized the dilemma: “You can’t spend your life on the roller coaster. Someday someone’s going to want to say ‘I love you’ and the seams are going to get in the way.” Using TODD-AO first with Oklahoma!, which resolved the seam issue but magnified the artificiality of sets and flimsy scenarios, he went on the hunt for the ideal “big scale” project—having seriously if not contradictorily considered Laurence Olivier’s Richard III, War and Peace, then Moby Dick. The theatricality in the first, the expense of the second and the special effects demanded by the third were prohibitive. He then remembered his childhood love for Jules Verne’s tale that necessitated above all else real scenery, solving any under-utilization of TODD-AO’s attributes. Wanting to use on-location sights and real structures to reduce the expensive cost of sets, he ended up, incredulously, ordering 140 sets to be built in empty soundstages from seven movie companies and this number likely does not include fakes built overseas. Avoiding disaster, he burned up the telephone lines huckstering for $6 million and the many cameos that would give his roadshow multiple prestige. To this day, many of us still can’t figure out why audiences went so wild over it for so long; the “Oh look, there’s what’s his face?” stargazing and the huge screen displaying his “bug’s eye” process aren’t enough to add up to both the Oscar and the N.Y. Critics award as best picture. Or the televising of the Madison Square Garden fiasco that was the movie’s first anniversary party, but then, this was an “event,” in the same way Todd regarded the movie and just about everything else. The only thing going for the dullfest, which feels like it will take 80 years to get to, is Saul Bass’s design for the credits. Cantinflas sucks the sap and would do so once more for American moviegoers a few years later with Pepe. When Todd asked David Niven to play Phileas Fogg, Niven reportedly said, “I’ll do it for nothing.” (If Todd held him to that, it might be the explanation for Niven winning a Best Actor Oscar for his theatre nudger in 1958’s Separate Tables.) Shirley MacLaine continues to say she’s miscast and she’s right. Some of the famous who did cameos: Andy Devine, Beatrice Lillie, Buster Keaton, Cesar Romero, Charles Boyer, Charles Coburn, Edward R. Murrow, Evelyn Keyes, Fernandel, Finlay Currie, Frank Sinatra, George Raft, Gilbert Roland, Glynis Johns, Harcourt Williams, Hermione Gingold, Jack Oakie, Joe E. Brown, John Carradine, John Mills, José Greco, Luis Miguel Dominguín, Marlene Dietrich, Mike Mazurki, Noël Coward, Peter Lorre, Red Skelton, Reginald Denny, Robert Morley, Ronald Colman, Cedric Hardwicke, John Gielgud, Trevor Howard and Victor McLaglen. Premiering in October, 1956, in N.Y. and L.A., Around the World in 80 Days didn’t get a Chicago opening until April, 1957. Todd purchased the legit house Selwyn and personally took charge in refurbishing it as Todd’s Cinestage, at which the movie ran for 90 weeks. He’d later buy the sister Harris next door, renaming it the Michael Todd. Both theatres became renowed and for many locals the preferred roadshow venues.

Oscars: Best picture, screenplay adapted, color cinematography, film editing and musical score, dramatic or comedy. FO

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ralphbenner@nowreviewing.com 

Text COPYRIGHT © 2000 RALPH BENNER (Revised 9/2018) All Rights Reserved.NT>next onext door, renaming it