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The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)

Not Rated  |   |  Drama, Family, Romance  |  May 1952 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.7/10 from 8,795 users  
Reviews: 100 user | 43 critic

The dramatic lives of trapeze artists, a clown, and an elephant trainer against a background of circus spectacle.



(screenplay), (screenplay), 5 more credits »
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Title: The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)

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Won 2 Oscars. Another 5 wins & 4 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Emmett Kelly
Cucciola ...
Antoinette Concello ...
Antoinette Concello
John Ringling North ...
John Ringling North
Tuffy Genders ...
Tuffy Genders
John Kellogg ...
John Ridgely ...
Assistant Manager


To ensure a full profitable season, circus manager Brad Braden engages The Great Sebastian, though this moves his girlfriend Holly from her hard-won center trapeze spot. Holly and Sebastian begin a dangerous one-upmanship duel in the ring, while he pursues her on the ground. Subplots involve the secret past of Buttons the Clown and the efforts of racketeers to move in on the game concessions. Let the show begin! Written by Rod Crawford <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Mightiest of Motion Pictures! See more »


Drama | Family | Romance


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

May 1952 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Cecil B. DeMille's The Greatest Show on Earth  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$4,000,000 (estimated)


$36,000,000 (USA)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)



Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Charlton Heston was driving through Paramount Studios when he spotted Cecil B. DeMille, who he had never met. Heston waved. DeMille was so impressed by Heston's wave he made inquiries that ultimately led to Heston being cast as Brad in this film. This was only Heston's third film and skyrocketed him to fame. One fan wrote a letter to DeMille on how much she enjoyed the movie and commented, "And I'm surprised how well the circus manager (Heston) worked with the real actors." Heston thought it was one of the best reviews he ever received. See more »


Obvious split-screen background. It is known the production used detailed models for the trains in various scenes, and it is very obvious in the scene where the first section stops at the flare, as the engineer and other crewmen seemingly jump out of thin air to land on the ground next to the train. See more »


Klaus: Your legs are too thin, your hair is too red, you have lips like a cat. You're no good. You give me too much trouble.
Angel: Flattery rolls right off me.
See more »


Referenced in Jeopardy!: 2010 Tournament of Champions Semifinal 1 (2010) See more »


Oh! Susanna
(1848) (uncredited)
Music by Stephen Foster
Played during the opening scene
See more »

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User Reviews

Betty Hutton and Cornel Wilde are superb in their 'flyer' roles!
8 August 2001 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I saw this film in a theatre when it first came out and, had forgotten a great deal of it, until I saw it again last evening.

Much of the film is actual footage of the REAL Barnum and Bailey Circus, setting up, tearing down and loading up for the trip to the next venue.

I had also forgotten how superb both Betty Hutton and Cornel Wilde are doing a great deal of their own 'flying'! While you realize that they have a net just under the view of the camera, they both perform physically demanding stunts with the camers right in their faces! I can't stand on my head on the floor much less on a swinging trapeze!!

Wilde's front summersault from one swinging bar to another swinging bar is breathtaking!!

Some of the action is quite dated and the trainwreck is...well, DeMille's rendition of a massive trainwreck. The plot creaks a bit here and there, but the many performers do their bits with conviction.

Hutton and Wilde steal the show from Heston and Stewart. I recommend this film to Circus lovers everywhere and to people who appreaciate actors placing themselves in Harms Way to create illusions (be they VERY dangerous illusions) of the REAL thing! I give it an 8.

23 of 26 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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