Mike Todd

Michael Todd (June 22, 1907 or 1909, or June 19, 1911March 22, 1958) was an American theatre and film producer, best known for his 1956 production of Around the World in Eighty Days, which won an Academy Award for Best Picture.


Todd was born Avrom Hirsch Goldbogen in Minneapolis, Minnesota to Chaim Goldbogen (an Orthodox rabbi) and Sophia Hellerman, both Polish Jewish immigrants. He was one of nine children in a poor family, and his siblings nicknamed him "Toat" to mimic his difficulty pronouncing the word "coat." It was from this that his name was derived.

His family moved to Chicago. Todd was expelled in the sixth grade for running a game of craps inside the school. In high school, he produced the school play, The Mikado, which was considered a hit. He eventually dropped out of high school and worked a variety of jobs including as a shoe salesman and store window decorator.

At the age of 17, Todd married Bertha Freeman on Valentine's Day 1927. . In 1929, she bore him a son, Mike Todd, Jr.. Freeman died in 1946, and Todd remarried, to actress Joan Blondell July 5, 1947. They were divorced June 8, 1950 after she alleged that he abused and extorted her. He went on to marry actress Elizabeth Taylor, with whom he had a tempestuous relationship. The couple exchanged vows February 2, 1957. The couple had a daughter, Elizabeth Frances (Liza) Todd, who was born 7 August of that year.

On 22 March 1958, Todd's private plane, Lucky Liz, crashed near Grants, New Mexico. The plane, a Lockheed Lodestar, was downed by engine failure while being operated grossly overweight at the limit of its altitude capability, and the crash killed all four on board. These included Todd; screenwriter and author Art Cohn, who was writing Todd's biography "The Nine Lives of Mike Todd"; pilot Bill Verner; and co-pilot Tom Barclay. Todd is buried in Chicago at Beth Aaron Cemetery in plot 66. In his autobiography, Eddie Fisher, who considered himself to be Todd's best friend, stated that no fragments of Todd had been found, and that his coffin contained only his ring.

The Los Angeles Times reported in 1977 that Eddie's story was false -- remains of Todd were indeed found and buried. Todd's remains were desecrated by robbers, who broke into his coffin looking for said ring. The bag containing what was left of Mike Todd was found under a tree near his plot.


Todd began his career in the construction business, where he made, and subsequently lost, a fortune. He later served as a contractor to Hollywood studios, and during the 1933-1934 Century of Progress Exposition he produced the attraction called "the Flame Dance." (In this spectacular number, gas jets were designed to burn part of a dancer's costume off, leaving her naked in appearance.) Later, he formed a company and toured with a production of the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta The Mikado, his high school favorite. When this tour closed, he revamped the show as the jazzier The Hot Mikado, which ran at the 1939 New York World's Fair. Todd went on to produce 30 Broadway shows during his career.

Todd's business career was volatile, and failed ventures left him bankrupt many times.

In 1952, Todd produced an extravagant production of the Johann Strauss II operetta, "A Night In Venice," complete with floating gondolas at the newly constructed Jones Beach Theatre in Long Island, New York. It ran for two seasons.

In 1950, Mike Todd formed The Cinerama Company with the broadcaster Lowell Thomas (who founded Capital Cities Communications) and the inventor Fred Waller. The company was created to exploit Cinerama, a film process created by Waller that used three film projectors to create a giant composite image on a curved screen. The first Cinerama feature was This is Cinerama, which was released in September 1952.

Soon after its release, Todd left the Cinerama Company to develop a new widescreen process which would eliminate some of Cinerama's flaws. The result was the Todd-AO process, designed by the American Optical Company. The process was first used commercially for the successful 1955 film adaptation of Oklahoma!. Todd later produced the film for which he is most famous, Michael Todd's Around the World in 80 Days, which debuted in cinemas on October 17 1956. Costing only $6 million to produce, the movie earned $16 million at the box office. In 1957, "Around the World in 80 Days" won the Best Picture Academy Award.

Selected Broadway productions



  • Dictionary of First Names, ISBN 0-304-36226-3
  • City of Light : The Story of Fiber Optics, ISBN 0-19-516255-2
  • Walker, Alexander. Elizabeth: The Life of Elizabeth Taylor. Grove Press, 2001. ISBN 0-8021-3769-5

External links

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