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A drab woman scientist, working on machine to harness solar energy, and a pert concert singer look-alike being courted to play her in a movie swap identities and find personal growth, professional success, love, and happiness.
US - Vaudeville dancer Marion Dixon is with her German manager von Kneischitz on tour - in Moskau. Her act includes a gun shooting her to the trapeze, the stage director there wants a copy of this act for the USSR. She falls in love with a Soviet enginer, but von Kneischitz blackmails her with her dark spot in her life, she has a colored baby, to leave Moskau. Written by
Stephan Eichenberg <firstname.lastname@example.org>
In the scene where people sing a lullaby in various languages to the black child, the bit sung in Yiddish by Solomon Mikhoels was cut out of the film for distribution in the USSR, for a time when a state-backed anti-Semitism campaign was unleashed. See more »
Grigori Aleksandrov's film Circus is an entertaining piece of Stalinist/Socialist propaganda that differs greatly from Eisenstein's historical, earlier film October. October mainly serves the purpose of commemorating and remembering the Bolshevik Revolution and to help reinstate the strength and effectiveness of socialism to the people. Eisenstein's documentary style not only celebrates the revolution, but also aims to help the public better understand the historical process of the political revolution. On the contrary, Circus is a film that touts the greatness of life under Stalin and the superiority of the Soviet state. It contains all the elements of a Socialist Realism film. Through a pro-socialist narrative, Aleksandrov manages to cover many aspects of the Soviet state and current life of the people.
Circus tells the story of an American named Marion who is banished from the US because a black man impregnates her. Marion escapes to Russia to start a new life in the circus and joins up with lustful, anti-Russian ringmaster who happens to be in love with her. The ringmaster knows her secret about the black baby and threatens to reveal it unless she marries him. The problem is that Marion has fallen in love with a Russian acrobat and later out of sheer jealousy, the ringmaster reveals the identity of the woman's child in front of the circus audience. Rather than ostracize the woman, the Soviet audience embraces the child and sings him to sleep. Next we see Marion and the acrobat as a couple leading a huge parade through Red Square singing about the freedoms that Soviet Russia provides. Circus displays the elements of ethnic equality, new and productive construction, and the glory of life under Stalin many times in the film. Ethnic equality is evidently portrayed during the acceptance of the black baby and his talented, but flawed American mother Marion. At the beginning of the film, Marion retreats to Russian as some sort of free land of acceptance, far more tolerable than her native America. The message is clear that socialism is a society of acceptance and capitalism (or the United States in this case) cannot tolerate diversity.
When the non-Russian reveals the black baby, Marion finds great comfort in the fact that she is welcome among Soviets. The crowd proves this emotion when they embrace and protect the child from the ringleader while singing him a lullaby in several different languages. The lyrics of the song include lines that say the baby has a bright future awaiting him in Russia. Also, Marion's acrobatic lover says to her, "I always considered you to be a socialist." The message is that good people are all socialists. Concerning new construction and soviet productivity, there is a scene towards the end that shows the brand new underground subway system. It is obvious that the system is new and it is a symbol of the work and rewards of socialism. We see many people using the transportation system and a shot of the mammoth escalator leading to the subway points out the difficulty in building the system.
Perhaps the most absurd and blatant form of propaganda comes and the end during the massive parade that is lead by Marion and her acrobatic lover. They are marching with a giant banner of Stalin and Marion is asked, "Do you understand? (the socialist system)" and she replies, "Now I do." I think it is amusing that it takes a huge march through Red Square singing about freedoms to the backdrop of their leader and claiming to be the "most democratic of democratic constitutions" to understand the Soviet system. Perhaps this was put in the film so the viewers would walk out of the film thinking they too "understand" the system.
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