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After finding success producing on Broadway and pushing technical innovation in film, Mike Todd set his sights on a new project – Around the World In 80 Days by Jules Verne.
“From the time I started Around the World in 80 Days, I said I wanted to do a fairy tale for adults. I had a lot to do with this picture. It was my first, and it was a sort of do-it-yourself job,” he said.
The fairy tale cost just over 6 million to make and was risky business.
In the documentary, Around the World of Mike Todd, Orson Welles recalls, “According to the best brains in the industry, Mike Todd was bucking impossible odds, not unlike the film’s hero, Phileas Fogg. Both Fogg and Todd were committing their entire fortunes to a long-shot gamble.”
Todd joked that the film was “project impossible,” and yet he managed to line-up an impressive list of stars including Frank Sinatra, Marlene Dietrich, Charles Boyer, George Raft, Buster Keaton, Peter Lorre, and Red Skelton. He was able to convince them through gifts and sometimes plain curiosity. Their parts were deemed “cameo roles” by Todd who described them as “small, jewel-like portraits." And thus, began the use of “cameos."
Todd remembered, “We shot in every country that we show in Around the World. My friend, the King of Siam, loaned me the royal barge.”
Since Todd spared no expense in making the film unique and eye-catching, he instructed movie exhibitionists to treat the film as such. “It's not a movie. Movies are something you can see in your neighborhood theatre and eat popcorn while you're watching them.” Rather, Todd’s picture was meant to be shown as “a Broadway show in your theatre.”
All of Todd’s efforts paid off, and along with receiving acclaim, it received Hollywood’s highest honor. In 1956, Around the World in 80 Days won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
“On behalf of the sixty-some-odd thousand people who made this show around the world, thanks,” Todd said at the ceremony. “And for myself, I'm especially thrilled because this is my first time at bat here.”