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Around the World in 80 Days begins with a stolid intro by Edward R. Murrow. Stone-faced and sitting behind a large desk, Murrow gives a monotone account of technology and the fiction of Jules Verne, the author of the book on which the movie is based. When he is finished, the movie simply begins, with no opening titles in sight. Those scratching their heads as to where Saul Bass fits in will have to wait nearly three hours to get their answer: in this case, Bass designed the end title sequence for the movie.
Although this might not sound extraordinary, Bass’ clever animation gave audiences an excuse to remain in their seats rather than sprinting out the door as soon as the first name flashed onscreen (as people often do nowadays). The lengthy animated sequence Bass designed summarized all the action that had come beforehand; in short, it was sort of a Cliffs Notes version of the film.
It begins enticingly, with the words “Who Was Seen in What Scene… And Who Did What.” To represent the elderly men at the gentleman’s club, Bass uses playing cards with kings pictured on them, hinting at the men’s upper-crust status as well as their penchant for making wagers. Phileas Fogg’s loyal sidekick Passepartout is signified by a bicycle, while Fogg himself is shown as a ticking clock with a hat and legs. The two figures are shown racing throughout the long title sequence.
In the intro to the DVD, Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne credits producer Mike Todd with coining the term “cameo” to lure stars into smaller parts in the film. To pay tribute to this, Bass allots most of the major talents with their own title card. This feature only adds to the audience engagement, for in some cases, filmgoers might be surprised to see who played what role when.
Although Around the World in 80 Days has not proved to be as enduring a cinematic achievement as the Hitchcock or Preminger titles Bass worked on, his end sequence deserves a spot alongside larger-than-life producer Todd in the film’s historical legacy.