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The Wagons Roll at Night (1941)

Approved | | Drama, Romance | 25 April 1941 (USA)
After local grocery clerk rescues a baby from an escaped lion, a circus owner builds him into an attraction but balks when he falls in love with his sister.



(screenplay), (screenplay) | 1 more credit »

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Complete credited cast:
Flo Lorraine
Matt Varney
Mary Coster
Hoffman the Great (as Sig Rumann)
Cliff Clark ...
Charley Foy ...
John Ridgely ...
Mrs. Williams
Mr. Williams
Garry Owen ...


A lion escapes Nick Coster's carnival and is captured by grocery clerk Matt Varney whom Nick brings into the show and eventually makes chief lion tamer. When Nick finds out Matt has fallen for his convent-bred sister Mary he makes him go into the cage with the insane lion Caesar. Written by Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The surging drama...the teeming thrills...behind the circus scenes! See more »


Drama | Romance


Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

25 April 1941 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Carnival  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Starting with this film, Bogart would always receive top billing for the rest of his career. See more »


Nick Coster: [to Flo] When I get a break, I'll hang a jewelry store around that lovely neck of yours.
See more »


Version of Kid Galahad (1962) See more »


The Umbrella Man
Music by Vincent Rose and Larry Stock
Played when the taxi pulls into the carnival lot
See more »

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User Reviews

The lion tamer
7 December 2012 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Humphrey Bogart, Sylvia Sidney, Joan Leslie, Eddie Albert, and Sig Ruman star in "The Wagons Roll at Night," a 1941 film from Bogart, most likely made before Bogart really hit the big time with High Sierra and Maltese Falcon. 1941 was certainly an important year for him.

Bogart plays Nick Coaster, the head of a traveling carnival. When a lion escapes, he ends up in a grocery store where the clerk, Matt (Albert) saves the day and becomes a local hero. Coaster thinks the kid's a natural and talks him into learning the lion tamer trade. He needs him - his usual lion tamer, Hoffman the Great (Ruman) is usually drunk.

One night, Hoffman is too drunk to go on and despite objections from other members of the carnival, Coaster sends the novice Matt into the ring. He does such an excellent job that Nick fires Hoffman. Hoffman retaliates, gets into a huge fight with Matt, and ends up mauled by one of the lions. Matt has to get out of town fast, so Flo (Sidney) suggests they take him to Nick's farm. This is a big no-no because Nick is determined that his sister (Leslie) not mix with carnival people. You can guess the rest.

The young Albert was adorable, extremely likable in his role. Bogart is terrific as Nick, a tough as nails guy who considers all carnival people, including Flo and himself, the scum of the earth. Sidney shows her vulnerability here, as a woman who's been hurt by Nick but still cares for him, even while she's attracted to Matt.

Entertaining and predictable, and I have to make a disclosure here that Eddie Albert holds a special place in my heart. I interviewed him when he was in his 90s and quite frail, and after the article was published, I heard from some Navy veterans who wanted to publish the story of my father in a magazine - they'd known he was in the Navy but had no idea of his heroism. I wrote back and said fine, but Eddie Albert isn't my father, had I written something that made them think so? It turned out that Albert's daughter has the same first name as I do, and they got confused. My father, who died in 2007, got a huge kick out of that email and kept it.

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