Skip to main content

The Music of 'Around the World in 80 Days'

Classical music critic Lloyd Schwartz reviews the music of the 1956 film Around the World in 80 Days now on DVD (Warner).


Other segments from the episode on June 8, 2004

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, June 8, 2004: Interview with James Bamford; Review of the new DVD release of "Around the World in 80 Days."


TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A

Interview: James Bamford discusses his book, "A Pretext for War"

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

My guest, James Bamford, is the author of the new book, "A Pretext for War:
9/11, Iraq and the Abuse of America's Intelligence Agencies." He writes about
weaknesses in American intelligence before 9/11, reconstructs how the military
and the Bush administration responded on 9/11, explores the motivations behind
the invasion of Iraq and charges that intelligence agencies were pressured to
come up with findings that would justify the invasion. Bamford has written
extensively about national security issues and is the author of two
best-selling books about the highly secretive National Security Agency, "The
Puzzle Palace" and "Body of Secrets."

The United States has turned against Ahmad Chalabi, who was the head of the
Iraqi National Congress and who, at one time, was a likely leader of the new
Iraq. What is some of the information that we got from him that turned out to
be false?

Prof. JAMES BAMFORD (Author, "A Pretext for War: 9/11, Iraq and the Abuse of
America's Intelligence Agencies"): Well, Chalabi supplied a number of
defectors to the United States that provided false information. Some of the
information came from defectors that indicated that the Iraqis had these
bioweapons labs, which raised a lot of concern at the time and a lot of media
coverage but turned out to be false. The few vehicles they did find ended up
not being for biological warfare but for, I think, developing helium for
balloons of some sort, weather balloons or launching systems or something.
But they certainly didn't have to do with biological weapons labs. So that
was part of the problem.

A lot of the information that came from the people he supplied was false. And
a number of people suspect that the key reason Chalabi kept pushing these
people on the US and also on the press--but I think one of the primary motives
behind Ahmad Chalabi was to get himself put in as the president of Iraq. He
had been wanting that for years and years and years. And as I write in my
book, he had known many of the neoconservatives in the Bush administration for
more than a decade and had become very good friends with them. And they were
very much supporting his taking over Iraq. And then they would have had their
own puppet in there.

GROSS: Some of the money that actually helped support Chalabi went through a
group called the Rendon Group, which was backed by the CIA. What was the
Rendon Group?

Prof. BAMFORD: Well, the Rendon Group is one of these sort of shadowy,
private companies that do a lot of clandestine work for the CIA and other
parts of the government. And the Rendon Group specializes in disinformation
campaigns; it ran an anti-Saddam disinformation campaign for a number of
years. And it's been used by the United States in many conflicts to broadcast
the US message and to help eliminate the message of whoever the United States
is opposing. So its background is basically used by the government in a lot
of sort of clandestine information-operations activities.

GROSS: So, in this case, the Rendon Group was hired to turn world opinion
against Saddam Hussein?

Prof. BAMFORD: That's right, yeah. This was after the Gulf War. And the CIA
put a fair amount of money into it, and they really wanted to change the view
of the world towards Saddam Hussein.

GROSS: So with the help of the CIA, Chalabi became a real force in terms of,
you know, informing or misinforming people about what was happening in Iraq
and a real force in terms of being groomed as a future leader of Iraq. But at
some point the CIA started to turn against him. Why?

Prof. BAMFORD: Well, the CIA started having problems with both accountability
of money and, also, the information he was providing. And it didn't look like
he was in control of as much people and groups as he claimed he was, so the
CIA turned away from him in the mid-1990s. Largely it was over issues of
credibility, money and information.

GROSS: And you say that eventually he got support from a group of
neoconservatives, including three people who became national security advisers
to President George W. Bush: Richard Perle, Douglas Feith and David
Wurmser. They drew up a plan that, you say, became a blueprint for the war
in Iraq. The plan was actually drawn up for Israel and for then Israeli Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; he had hired them as consultants. What was the
plan that they came up with for him?

Prof. BAMFORD: Well, the plan actually that they came up for Israel, for
Netanyahu, to implement was very similar to what the plan was that we ended up
implementing as we went into war with Iraq. And that was to overthrow Saddam
Hussein and replace him with somebody friendly to both the United States and
Israel. Part of the original plan, the one that they had proposed for Israel,
involved not just Iraq but also invading Syria and Lebanon. And one of the
reasons that they wanted to give for doing that was, basically, a pretext to
get the US on board and to get the US public support. And they were going to
announce that part of the reason that they were doing this was to try to
eradicate the drug dealing that's going on in Lebanon and, also, to look for
weapons of mass destruction. And another reason was to eliminate
counterfeiting of US money that was going on there. So there was a number of
pretexts that they were going to use to justify their invasion of Syria and

GROSS: Netanyahu rejected this plan. Do you know why?

Prof. BAMFORD: Well, I don't think he thought it was in Israel's interest to
go to war with three of its neighbors at that point. It was a very--it would
have been an extremely adventurous move for the Israeli government to launch a
war on a number of its fronts, especially without any real provocation. None
of these countries were invading Israel. And I think Netanyahu felt he had
enough on his plate without declaring a Middle East war.

GROSS: Now how do you think that report figures into the American invasion of

Prof. BAMFORD: Well, the way it figures in is that the key people behind
this initial report back in 1996, which was called "A Clean Break"--that was
their title for it--were three of the key players who ended up implementing
this war in Iraq that we're having right now. And that was Richard Perle, who
became head of the Defense Policy Board, which is a very major player in
declaring policy for the US government in terms of the Department of Defense,
and Douglas Feith, who now is the number-three man in the Pentagon, basically,
the undersecretary of Defense for policy. And his job is creating policy;
he's responsible for much of the war planning and the post-war planning. And
the third person is David Wurmser, who was originally with the State
Department and now is Vice President Cheney's Middle East adviser.

So these three players played a major role in the run-up to the war in Iraq
after the September 11th attacks. And they were the same three major players
who were the key people behind this "Clean Break" report, which was the
original report to Israel suggesting that the Israeli government launch this
war against Iraq and several of its other neighbors.

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is James Bamford. He's written
extensively about intelligence in America and particularly about the National
Security Agency. His new book is called "A Pretext for War: 9/11, Iraq and
the Abuse of America's Intelligence Agencies."

Now we've been talking about Douglas Feith, Richard Perle and David Wurmser,
three national security advisers to President George W. Bush, and their role
in advocating war in Iraq. What was their connection to Ahmad Chalabi?

Prof. BAMFORD: Well, actually, Terry, the connection between these people and
Ahmad Chalabi goes back a long ways. Chalabi had known Richard Perle and the
deputy Defense secretary, Paul Wolfowitz, for a long, long time, more than 10
years, maybe up to 15 years. They got to know each other through a mutual
fund, Albert Wohlstetter, who was a professor at the University of Chicago.
And he introduced several of these people together. Chalabi had actually been
a student of Wohlstetter, and Wohlstetter knew both Perle and Wolfowitz very
well. So they all got to know each other in the late '80s, and from then on
they thought that Chalabi was an ideal candidate to take over Iraq. For a
long time Chalabi had been groomed, basically, to be the next president of
Iraq, as soon as they were able to get rid of Saddam Hussein.

GROSS: Now what were some of the disagreements between the neoconservatives,
who you've been describing, and the CIA about Chalabi and what his role should
be in Iraq?

Prof. BAMFORD: Well, I think the major disagreements were that the CIA felt
that Chalabi wasn't trustworthy; that he didn't really control very many
people; that he didn't have very much support within Iraq. He'd left Iraq
when he was 12 years old and hadn't really been back there since. And the CIA
had a lot of other things on its agenda. It was looking for other ways to
have a coup in Iraq. It wanted, basically, a coup among generals to take over
the country from Saddam Hussein and not have this uprising led by Ahmad
Chalabi. And that was the main difference. The neocons, led by Richard Perle
and Paul Wolfowitz, pretty much, were pushing to have Chalabi lead this
massive insurrection.

But the CIA looked at it largely like what happened on the Bay of Pigs, where
originally the Eisenhower administration, later the Kennedy administration,
came up with this plan to put a small group of rebels in the country that
would inspire this much larger revolution and overthrow Castro. And it turned
out to be an enormous debacle, and I think that's one of the things that they
were afraid of with Chalabi.

GROSS: My guest is James Bamford, author of the new book "A Pretext for War:
9/11, Iraq and the Abuse of America's Intelligence Agencies." We'll talk more
after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is James Bamford. And he's
written extensively about intelligence in the United States, including the
National Security Agency. His new book is called "A Pretext for War: 9/11,
Iraq and the Abuse of America's Intelligence Agencies."

You write a lot about how information was cherry-picked to make the case for
war. I mean, your title of the book is "A Pretext for War." You write how
one CIA officer, who was one of your sources, said that--and he was, by the
way, in a unit charged with finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. He
said that his boss said, `If President Bush wants to go to war, it's your job
to give him a reason to do so.' Can you tell us about what he described to
you about this?

Prof. BAMFORD: Yes. This person was a former case officer. The person went
through the farm, the training school. And this person, this case officer,
was outraged. And there was no evidence of weapons of mass destruction. I
interviewed a lot of people at the CIA, and not one of them came up with any
hard information saying that there was any indications of weapons of mass
destruction before we went to war. And there was a tremendous amount of
pressure, on the other hand, from the vice president's office, from Cheney's
office, to come up with something. He went through the CIA a number of times,
and according to one of the people at CIA I interviewed, the implication was
that they were supposed to find something and preferably something nuclear.
So there was a lot of pressure from outside the agency on the agency to come
up with something to justify the war.

GROSS: Do you think it would have been appropriate for, say, George Tenet to
protect his men from that kind of pressure to find something that didn't seem
to be there? You could also argue that it was right to press them to find
this because it might have been there, and it was their job to find it if
there was any chance that it existed, you know. So that pressure would be
pressuring them to find that needle in the haystack, even if it was only a

Prof. BAMFORD: Well, there's automatically a lot of pressure on them to find
something. The problem comes when you push somebody to justify a war by
finding something that isn't there, and I think that's the problem that we
had. George Tenet, at the very beginning, seemed to stand up against the
administration at the early stages during the summer and fall of 2002. There
was a point where the administration was trying to push the issue of Saddam
doing a deal with people in Niger, a West African country, for uranium in
order to build up a nuclear weapons supply in Iraq. And at first George Tenet
fought against that. He argued that the president should have that reference
to the Niger nuclear deal taken out of his public, nationwide address in
Cincinnati in October of 2002. So that took a lot of gumption, basically, to
stand up against the White House and say--basically, demand that it be taken
out of his speech.

But then after that it seemed like George Tenet pretty much gave up and sort
of threw up his hands and said, `I'm not going to fight this anymore.' I
mean, that was the impression I got because he never again took a strong
stance on something like that. And you could see it just a few months later
during the president's State of the Union address, where that same reference
was put back in. And this time George Tenet not only didn't fight against it;
he didn't even bother reading the president's State of the Union address,
which is rather extraordinary considering that we're about to go to war based
on what the president is saying during his State of the Union address and the
director of Central Intelligence doesn't even bother to read the address.

So it seemed to me that at some point there around October of 2002, George
Tenet, after his sort of battle with the White House over taking out the Niger
material from the Cincinnati speech, kind of threw up his hands and said, `OK,
you win. I give up,' and from then on became a team player with the White
House and the hard-core neoconservatives.

GROSS: Do you have any inside information from your sources about the
American secrets that Ahmad Chalabi is alleged to have given to Iran? You
know, we've been reading in the newspapers that he's alleged to have told Iran
that the United States had broken its code and that, therefore, we were able
to interpret certain Iranian intelligence secrets; that means Iran would now
change its code, and we'd no longer have access to that source of information.

Prof. BAMFORD: Well, I do know that the National Security Agency spent many,
many years trying to break the Iranian code. It was a very, very difficult
cipher system to break. And code-breaking these days is a very, very
difficult occupation, having written two books on the National Security
Agency. The problem is that the crypto systems these days are extremely
complex and very hard. The basic way that the NSA had to break that code, the
Iranian cipher, was by using people to penetrate the organization. The
Iranian Embassy in Baghdad--that's where it was penetrated. And they used
people, basically code clerks, to get in there and do things to the crypto
system to make it usable for NSA.

One of the things that's done these days is to try to bug a keyboard. If you
could bug the keyboard, then you're bugging the system before the information
actually gets encrypted. Or else bug the monitor, or you could bug a power
cord. You could do various things that way. And apparently that was one of
the things that they had done, one of those ways of tapping into the Iranian
communications system.

So the loss of that information, which allegedly Ahmad Chalabi gave to the
Iranian government, was tremendously detrimental to the United States because
whether the NSA will be able to redo that again is almost impossible to say.
The NSA tries very hard breaking these codes, and if somebody gives that code
away, then it could be years or decades or never before they're ever able to
break that code again. And if you remember World War II, the biggest success
that we had during World War II in terms of intelligence was breaking the
German Enigma code. So those things are very frail. And if somebody like
Chalabi, if he's allegedly accused of doing, gave the information that the US
had broken that encryption system to the Iranian government, then the US could
be without any intelligence on Iran for many years.

GROSS: Do you think that Chalabi is now out of the game in Iraq, or is he
trying to reinvent himself now that he no longer has American backing?

Prof. BAMFORD: Well, Chalabi, if anything, he's certainly a survivor. He's
been surviving for years and years and years in northern Iran and living in
London and making deals with these neoconservatives. So he's a dealmaker and
a survivor. And I think right now he's trying to sort of capitalize on the
fact that the US is dissing him at this point by saying, `Look, I'm not one of
these US stooges, and I can be trusted.' And he's trying to capitalize on
that and use it to his advantage to become one of the elected, if not the
elected, president of Iraq when these elections are due sometime before next

GROSS: That would be the ultimate paradox, wouldn't it, if he became the
president of the new Iraq based on his self-description of not being an
American stooge, of being in opposition to America?

Prof. BAMFORD: And I'm sure there'll be a lot of people thinking conspiracy
theories; that this has been sort of a Machiavellian way of planning the whole
thing all along. He was getting nowhere because he was looked at as an Iraqi
stooge, and all of a sudden he's completely disgraced in the United States and
then he succeeds in becoming president. And, you know, to think that that was
part of the plot would be very Machiavellian, right? So it's a little beyond
my comprehension at this time, but stranger things have happened.

GROSS: James Bamford is the author of "A Pretext for War: 9/11, Iraq and the
Abuse of America's Intelligence Agencies." He's a distinguished visiting
professor at the University of California at Berkeley. He'll be back in the
second half of the show. I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)


(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: Coming up, Lloyd Schwartz considers the music from the 1956 film
"Around the World in 80 Days," which is now out on DVD. And we continue our
conversation with James Bamford, author of "A Pretext for War."

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross back with James Bamford, author of
the new book "A Pretext for War: 9/11, Iraq and the Abuse of America's
Intelligence Agencies." He's written extensively about national security
issues, including two best-selling books about the National Security Agency,
"The Puzzle Palace" and "Body of Secrets."

Let's talk a little bit about September 11th. You write in your book about
some of the things that happened within American intelligence on that day.
Let's start with the fact that two flight attendants on one of the planes had
managed to call I guess it was the FAA and tell them what seats were empty.
And that gave a lot of information about who the passengers were, who were
actually the hostage-takers, who were actually hijacking the plane. What
information did they give, and how could the intelligence agencies have used
that to figure out who was responsible for what was going on?

Mr. BAMFORD: Well, these flight attendants were extremely courageous. And
they were speaking from a phone back in the rear section of the plane, and one
of them contacted a ground person in American Airlines back in Boston and
another contacted a different person. And they were both talking to different
people giving an idea of what was going on on the plane. And it was extremely
useful for the intelligence community because they gave the seat numbers, and
the US pretty much immediately got the manifest. So they were able to tell
very quickly who some of these people were after the event by getting the
numbers of the seats where these passengers, the people who were hijacking the
plane, were sitting.

In addition to that, the flight attendants were able to give a great deal of
information about how the hijacking took place. Apparently, the hijackers,
when they first came on the plane, they had a--among the things they had
hidden were these boxes with wires hanging out of them. So apparently in
addition to having knives, they had a phony bomb, something that looked like a
bomb, that they could threaten the crew or the pilot and the co-pilot with.
Also, when they went up to the very front part of the plane, they threw
everybody out of the first-class section, and then they sprayed that area with
something like--some kind of chemical that forced everybody out and made sure
nobody would come back into that section, at least for a while.

So the flight attendants were able to give that information, which was very
valuable. And they were talking to the ground people right up until the
moment the plane hit. And as the plane was getting nearer--well, actually, as
it was flying low over New York City, they were saying, `The plane is flying
very low. We're over New York City.' And they described the direction of the
plane, and then everything went quiet as the plane just hit the building.

GROSS: What was the military response as the planes were flying toward their

Mr. BAMFORD: Well, the US was not prepared for this at all. The US at that
point was defended by seven--or actually, 14 aircraft at seven different air
bases, seven air bases that had two fighter planes each. And all the NORAD,
the North American Air Defense Command, the group that's supposed to look for
early warning, was looking outward; they were looking outside the United
States at something coming in. So they didn't even have the equipment to look
at what was taking place in real time within the United States. So the US
posture at that moment was extremely advantageous to the hijackers. And right
after the hijacking, the US went into an enormously chaotic period.

GROSS: Well, let's get to where President Bush was. He was in the classroom
reading to children there. In your book you're very critical of President
Bush during the time that he's in the classroom reading to students there on
September 11th, and you think that there's things he could have done. You
criticize him for being slow to react.

Mr. BAMFORD: Yes. One of the things that's interesting is that he's told a
number of audiences--and I think it was on his Web site at one point; it might
still be there--his version of how he learned about the attack that morning.
And he says that prior to going into the class, he was brought into sort of an
anteroom to be told about the first plane hitting. And he saw the plane
hitting the World Trade Center on the TV monitor in the room. The problem is
that couldn't possibly be true because the video of that first plane hitting
the World Trade Center wasn't available until at least that night, if not the
next morning. There was no video of the first plane hitting the World Trade
Center, so he couldn't have seen that. And it's curious as to why he
continually says that. So if he actually saw a plane hit the World Trade
Center on the monitor, it had to have been the second plane that hit, in which
case he would have known that two planes had hit the World Trade Center before
he actually went into the classroom.

What transpired after that was that he went into the classroom. He was there
for a few minutes. And then his chief of staff, Andrew Card, came in and
whispered in his ear that a second plane had hit the World Trade Center and
that the United States is under attack. And at that point, video cameras were
on President Bush, and he had this very perplexed look on his face. What's
ironic is that he says later that at that moment he decided to declare war.
Yet it was actually seven minutes that he continued to sit there. He never
once asked, `What's the intelligence? Where's the secretary of Defense and
the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff? What's our readiness? What's
NORAD know about all this?' He never asked any of these questions. He just
continued to sit there.

Now seven minutes is a long time, especially when you consider that these
planes are flying around; they're hitting the World Trade Center, they're
flying towards the Pentagon, they're flying towards the White House or the
Capitol. And it was amazing how little was done in that--moments after the
president was notified that the US is under terrorist attack. And he says
himself that, `I decided to declare war.'

GROSS: My guest is James Bamford, author of the new book "A Pretext for War:
9/11, Iraq and the Abuse of America's Intelligence Agencies." We'll talk more
after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: James Bamford is my guest, and he's written extensively about US
intelligence agencies, especially the National Security Agency. His new book
is called "A Pretext for War: 9/11, Iraq and the Abuse of America's
Intelligence Agencies."

There was a group established within the CIA called Alex Station. And the
sole job of this group was to learn about bin Laden. You say it's the first
time there was a group within the CIA devoted not to studying a country but
focusing on one person. What you're critical of is the decision within this
group not to try to penetrate al-Qaeda by sending somebody undercover, and
that was an intentional decision. What was that decision based on?

Mr. BAMFORD: Well, the CIA had a long history of not using its own people to
penetrate terrorist groups. I thought it was not a very far-sighted idea. It
was based, basically, just on tradition. And if you look back, J. Edgar
Hoover, when he ran the FBI, had sort of a similar philosophy. He never used
FBI agents to--undercover operations to penetrate the Mafia, for example. He
never wanted FBI agents to take off their white shirt and ties. And it wasn't
till after he died that the FBI began actually penetrating the Mafia, a very
dangerous job, and actually having great successes at it.

And the NS--I'm sorry, the CIA, at this point, was in that same situation
where they had always wanted to depend on foreign services, what they call
liaison services--the Pakistani intelligence, for example, or
ex-mujaheddin--to collect intelligence for it without training its own people
to go in there. And the problem you have is when you're depending on a group
like the Pakistani intelligence service or a group of ex-mujaheddin, which the
CIA used in Afghanistan in the period leading up to September 11th, they
couldn't trust these people. They had a lot of doubts about whether the
information they were getting from them was true. There was nobody there to
supervise them. The Pakistani intelligence had reasons to deceive the United
States because they were involved in setting up the Taliban government in the
first place. And then the ex-mujaheddin, who the CIA had hired to try to find
bin Laden, were just these sort of ex-Afghan fighters who had experience
fighting the Russians about a decade earlier but had very little other

And so, ironically--and this is one of the biggest ironies of the entire
events leading up to September 11th--at the very time the CIA was not even
trying to penetrate al-Qaeda, eight Americans had already joined al-Qaeda and
were training at one of Osama bin Laden's bases in Afghanistan. One of those
was John Walker Lindh, but there are about seven other native-born Americans
who had also joined up. And in my book "Pretext for War," I trace the whole
events of John Walker Lindh and how he got into Afghanistan and how he became
a member of al-Qaeda. And it's almost a blueprint of what the CIA should have
done to try to get somebody in there. He went to Yemen; he studied the Koran
there. He learned Arabic. Then he was sent to one of the religious schools
in Pakistan and became very familiar with the culture over there and was liked
by some of the people at the religious school. And then they sent him on to a
training school for mujaheddin for guerrilla fighters that were fighting
against the Indian government in Kashmir. And after that he said he didn't
want to fight in Kashmir; he wanted to fight in Afghanistan.

So they gave him a letter of introduction. He went to Afghanistan, and he
went to the Taliban office in Kabul. And they said that his language skills
weren't quite good enough to join the Taliban to fight the Northern Alliance,
but that there was another group down the street that might be good, because
he spoke good Arabic, but he didn't speak very good Pashtun or Dari. So they
sent him down to al-Qaeda, which was down the street. And he went down there,
and he said he wanted to fight the Northern Alliance. And I think it was
about 40 minutes or whatever he was only in there, and they said, `Fine.' And
they sent him to a little halfway house, until they had enough people after a
day or two to put on a bus. And they took them all to this bin Laden training
camp. And while he was there, he had a number of one-on-one meetings, as well
as the other Americans, with bin Laden himself and so forth.

So it's ironic that these people, without even trying, were able to penetrate
and actually get into the bin Laden training camps. And they were never
required to kill anybody. They never were killed if they said they were going
to leave. One person didn't like it and decided to leave halfway through, and
they said, `Fine.' And they just went back to the United States. So it's
tragic and ironic at the same time that the CIA never did the same type of
clandestine activity that John Walker Lindh did, which was learn Arabic, study
the Koran, get acclimated to the culture and attempt to penetrate al-Qaeda.

GROSS: You've devoted most of your career to studying American intelligence
agencies. You have a lot of sources inside intelligence agencies. And I'm
wondering what your confidence level is now in American intelligence?

Mr. BAMFORD: Well, it's not very good because the intelligence, when I was
writing about my last two books, were written during periods that we weren't
really focused on terrorism as much. The first book I wrote, "The Puzzle
Palace," back in 1982, we were in the middle of the Cold War. And the US was
doing a very good job in terms of collecting intelligence on the Russians and
what was happening. But they had 50 years of practice practically, and they
had a target that wasn't moving anywhere. And they knew pretty much that the
only attack was going to come from missiles, so we had satellites overhead
that could watch these missiles 24 hours a day.

The period now, though, however, after September 11th with terrorism being the
top of the agenda, the intelligence community is not really set up to do that
kind of thing. They're not set up to follow people around the world very
easily. It's very easy to hide if you really want to hide these days. You
can have cell phones that you could throw away after several uses. You can
have calling cards that don't give any indication as to who the person is
that's making the phone call. And there's all sorts of ways that a person can
really hide, as you can see from Osama bin Laden and even Saddam Hussein, who
we were after for a very, very long time, and we occupied his country. He
stayed hidden for many, many months before the United States was able to
locate him. So finding terrorists is a very difficult prospect for the
intelligence community, and the prospects are not very good.

GROSS: James Bamford is the author of "A Pretext for War: 9/11, Iraq and the
Abuse of America's Intelligence Agencies."

I want to let you know that on Friday's show, we're going to remember the
soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy. He died of cancer Friday at the age of 69.
We'll listen back to a 1997 interview with Lacy. Here's what he sounded like.
This is a 1996 recording of "Evidence," by Thelonious Monk, the composer and
musician who most influenced Lacy. Misha Mengelberg is featured on piano.

(Soundbite of "Evidence")

GROSS: Coming up, Lloyd Schwartz listens to the music from the film, "Around
the World in 80 Days," which has been released on DVD. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Review: New DVD of "Around the World in 80 Days" is released

Michael Todd's "Around the World in 80 Days" was a smash hit when it came out
in 1956. It won five Academy Awards, including best picture. Now a new DVD
restores the color and the correct proportions of the image for the first time
since its theatrical release. Our classical music critic Lloyd Schwartz loves
the film, so he took a look at this new DVD.

(Soundbite of music from "Around the World in 80 Days")


I never read Jules Verne's novel, "Around the World in 80 Days," but I fell in
love with the story when I saw the film. Watching it on television or on
videotape, with its image diminished to fit the small screen, the film seemed
diminished, too. But on the dazzling new wide-screen DVD, I fell in love with
it all over again, with its sensational new photographic process, Todd-AO, and
the continuous spectacle that really fills the screen, with the witty script,
mostly by one of my favorite writers, S.J. Perelman, and with the
exhilarating discovery every few minutes of yet another famous star, perfectly
cast in what producer Mike Todd christened a cameo role.

If, as Stanislavsky said, there are no small parts, only small actors, in this
movie no part was too small, and all the actors were big. Marlene Dietrich
and Frank Sinatra are denizens of a Barbary Coast saloon. Buster Keaton is
the conductor of a train passing through Indian territory, a wonderful
reminder of the silent comedy genius in his great film, "The General."

(Soundbite of train whistle)

SCHWARTZ: Sir John Gielgud is a valet complaining to employment agent Noel
Coward about the tortures he'd undergone in the service of the super-punctual
Phileas Fogg, the hero of the story, played with wonderful aplomb and touching
dignity by David Niven.

"Around the World in 80 Days" immediately became my favorite movie, but I
could afford to see it only once because of the special ticket prices for the
limited seatings. But I played the best-selling Decca soundtrack LP over and
over again. This background music may have been the first time I ever became
conscious of a film's score.

(Soundbite of music from "Around the World in 80 Days")

SCHWARTZ: The composer, Victor Young, was obviously having a field day.
"Around the World in 80 Days" was part adventure, part travelogue. Every
working film composer had to write genre music, folk themes for Westerns,
exotic modal music for exotic locales like India or Japan, music for
bullfights, speeding trains and ocean voyages, English anthems and French
music hall tunes. But how many composers ever got to do them all in a single
film? The wonderful main title music is a soaring waltz that seems perfect
not only for a flight over the Alps in a balloon, but also for falling in
love. Words were added later, but the music is really better without them.

(Soundbite of music from "Around the World in 80 Days")

SCHWARTZ: One of my favorite musical passages was for the exhilarating train
ride through India's countryside. I've never gotten it out of my head.

(Soundbite of music from "Around the World in 80 Days")

SCHWARTZ: Victor Young was a great song composer. He wrote such memorable
standards as "Sweet Sue" and the haunting jazz favorites "Ghost of a Chance"
and "Stella by Starlight," and dozens of movie scores for films as varied as
Douglas Sirk's sizzling melodrama "Written on the Wind" and Cecil B.
DeMille's biblical epic "Samson and Delilah," for the scintillating "The Palm
Beach Story," directed by Preston Sturges and for two of Hollywood's most
extraordinary Westerns, Nicholas Ray's deranged "Johnny Guitar" and George
Stevens' poignant "Shane." Young was nominated 22 times for Academy Awards,
but he only won one, for "Around the World in 80 Days," which in a way was
like writing music for 22 different films.

"Around the World" was both lucky and unlucky for some of its participants.
Robert Newton walked away with some of his best reviews as Fogg's nemesis, the
obsessed Inspector Fix, but it turned out to be his last role. It was Michael
Todd's first movie, and he was already planning his next project, "Don
Quixote," when he was killed in a plane crash. At least he lived long enough
to marry Elizabeth Taylor and to win a best picture Oscar. But sadly, Victor
Young died before the Academy Awards ceremony.

GROSS: Lloyd Schwartz is classical music critic for the Boston Phoenix. He
reviewed the new DVD of Michael Todd's "Around the World in 80 Days" from
Warner Bros.


GROSS: I'm Terry Gross.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

You May Also like

Did you know you can create a shareable playlist?


Recently on Fresh Air Available to Play on NPR


Has Tucker Carlson created the most racist show in the history of cable news?

The NY Times did an exhaustive survey of the Fox News hosts' broadcasts. Reporter Nicholas Confessore says Carlson's show is based on ideas that were once "caged in a dark corner of American life."


British 'Office' co-creator Stephen Merchant isn't afraid to fuse comedy with tragedy

Merchant co-created the British Office and Extras with Ricky Gervais. His new show, The Outlaws, is about people court-ordered to do community service for low-level crimes. He spoke with producer Sam Briger about what inspired the new series, his best writing advice, and how being very tall (6'7") has informed his personality.

There are more than 22,000 Fresh Air segments.

Let us help you find exactly what you want to hear.
Just play me something
Your Queue

Would you like to make a playlist based on your queue?

Generate & Share View/Edit Your Queue