Around the World in 80 Films

April 15, 2022
Around The World In 80 Films

Tuesdays in May

For two years, travel for pleasure has mostly been curtailed. But at least movies have provided an escape from the quarantine, instantly transporting armchair tourists to far-flung locales.

This can be a mixed blessing as far as some of these cities and countries are concerned. The Quiet Man (1952) and Local Hero (1983), for example, have been a boon for tourism for Ireland and Scotland, respectively. Such now-iconic film locations as the so-called “Quiet Man Bridge” and Hero’s red phone box are destination stops for those who treasure those films and want to recapture their enchantment.

And then there’s Casablanca (1942), one of the stops on TCM’s “Around the World in 80 Films” programming block. The jury is out as to whether Michael Curtiz’s wartime classic (the third greatest film of the 20th century, according to the American Film Institute’s 1998 ranking) makes Morocco seem like even a nice place to visit.

On one hand, I would keep close watch on my wallet to protect it from the “vultures, vultures everywhere.” On the other hand, who wouldn’t want to spend an evening at Rick’s Café Americain, with Sam at the piano, Sascha pouring drinks and possibly Yvonne at the bar? 

Throughout May, “Around the World in 80 Films’” will return you to treasured cinematic haunts and maybe expand your horizons to take in some new and unfamiliar places. There are as many films on the itinerary as there are reasons to travel. As in real estate, the three prime factors in a choosing a destination film are location, location, location. Plan your cinematic getaway accordingly.

If your desire is to soak up the local atmosphere, you can stare awestruck at Saudi Arabia’s vast desert sands in David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia (1962), dance your cares away during a Holiday in Havana (1949) and experience the thrills at the French Riviera’s racetracks in Grand Prix (1966).

Experiential travel is trending, and for those who prefer to participate rather than spectate, “Around the World in 80 Films” offers several opportunities to get in on the action, from joining the fight for an independent Israel in Exodus (1960), sabotaging The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) and prospecting for gold in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948).

On second thought, you might just want to see the sights. Frank Capra’s Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) looks at our nation’s capital through the eyes of James Stewart’s idealistic newly elected senator and takes a stirring tour of its monuments that exemplify the ideals on which America was founded. Two short films capture the sights and sounds of Colorful Curacao (1939) and Holland in Tulip Time (1934). Or take a Roman Holiday (1953) with newspaperman Gregory Peck and incognito princess Audrey Hepburn (but watch your hands at the Mouth of Truth).

(One shopping tip: When you’re in Budapest, you can find some fabulous bargains at Matuschek and Company, perhaps better known as The Shop Around the Corner, 1940).

Which brings up another excellent reason to travel: romance. Who knows who you will meet? Ann Todd, for example, is reunited with her former lover (Trevor Howard) when she travels to Switzerland to meet her husband (Claude Rains) in The Passionate Friends (1949). Robert Walker, a soldier on 24-hour leave, falls in love with Judy Garland at New York’s Pennsylvania Station in The Clock (1945). And where else but Paris can a bored playboy fall in love with the young girl being groomed as a courtesan? Thank heaven for Gigi (1958).

Films not only allow viewers the opportunity to travel to different places, but different eras as well. “Around the World in 80 Films” turns back the clock to ancient Italy (Julius Caesar, 1953), turn of the 19th century England (Pride and Prejudice, 1940) and neon-splashed 1960s Hong Kong (In the Mood for Love, 2000). You’ll find when it comes to political backstabbing and romantic travails, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Still, many travel to get out of their comfort zone. There are certainly swanky hotels in Algeria, but why not take a walk on the wild side in the criminal underworld known as the Casbah in Algiers (1938)? Or join Allan Quartermain’s rescue party to find a missing treasure hunter in King Solomon’s Mines (1950). And though sailing may not be your bailiwick, why not accept an invitation to join a rich married couple on their boat? Roman Polanski’s Knife in the Water (1962) offers a cautionary tale.

No matter why you travel, you’ll find a film to take you there.