Starring: Cantinflas, David Niven, Robert Newton, Shirley MacLaine
Director: Michael Anderson
Summary: A Victorian gentleman bets that he can beat the world’s record for circling the globe
Other Nominations: Director, Adapted Screenplay*, Dramatic/Comedy Score*, Color Art Direction, Color Cinematography*, Color Costume Design, Film Editing*
-This was one of the most massive projects anyone ever attempted. Even if a lot of it was filmed on soundstages, there were a ludicrous amount of extras, costumes, elaborate sets, animals, etc. You have to admire the sense of scale and that they spared no expense to make the movie as visually impressive as possible
-Victor Young’s very good score here finally won him an Oscar after 20 previously unsuccessful nominations; sadly, he died a month after the film’s release and was awarded with it posthumously
-The cameos are what people primarily remember about this movie, and it was fun to see a number of people for the first time in years. Here’s a list of some of the better ones: Edward R. Murrow (yes, really), Ronald Colman, Marlene Dietrich, Charles Boyer, Noel Coward, John Gielgud, Peter Lorre, Buster Keaton, Frank Sinatra, John Carradine, Charles Coburn, Red Skelton, Cesar Romero, Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Joe E. Brown, Victor McLaglen, Andy Devine, Jack Oakie and Trevor Howard.
-This barely counts as a movie, and is more of a travelogue with a bunch of stereotypical set pieces: in Spain, we get Flamenco dancing and bullfighting, in the U.S. we get an Indian attack and in India we get Cantinflas running away from angry villagers after he shoos away a cow. There’s a connecting thread through the story, but it’s completely in the background and is an excuse to get us to the next exotic place-even The Greatest Show on Earth had a major plot running throughout with multiple subplots that converged into the finale.
-I can’t remember a movie before this starting out by showing us another (better) movie, but the beginning is Edward R. Murrow narrating over A Trip to the Moon. I know they’re both based off Jules Verne stories, but it’s still a really strange way to start off a movie, where it thuds out of the gate like that.
-The cinematography is mostly good, but the first 25 minutes or so are appalling bad for some reason: lots of wide shots of people talking that have empty space, everything as flat and uncreative as possible. There’s also a noticeable panoramic “curved” perspective (like this: http://www.chem.uky.edu/xray/people/parkin/panohead/office_tiny.jpg) that shows up periodically that looks strange. I can’t remember any of the other widescreen movies having this problem, although none of them also tried to do as much as this one did.
I can appreciate the amount of effort that went into this, but I really didn’t enjoy this. For the most part, it failed to be entertaining, funny or exciting, and it was three hours. The kinds of things I enjoy movies for like memorable characters, story, great action, etc. are generally absent here, and I was bored through most of it. I can see someone getting more out of it than I did, but this is still one of the weakest Best Picture winners ever.