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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 8,783 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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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


The Heartbeat Story of Circus People, Filmed with the Cooperation of Ringling Bros. - Barnum and Bailey Circus! 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?


When Mary Pickford presented the film's producer-director Cecil B. DeMille with the Oscar for Best Picture (The 25th Annual Academy Awards (1953), Thursday, March 19, 1953), not only was it the first time the Academy Awards ceremonies had ever been televised, it was also Pickford's very first television appearance. 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: You always have a smile for that high-flying peacock.
Angel: Well, what do you want me to do, cry over him?
See more »


Featured in The 80th Annual Academy Awards (2008) See more »


Lovely Luawana Lady
By John Ringling North and E. Ray Goetz
Sung by Dorothy Lamour (uncredited)
See more »

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User Reviews

Brassy Big Top Corn
12 April 2007 | by (Biloxi, Mississippi) – See all my reviews

Every one was shocked when THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH won Oscars for Best Motion Picture and Best Screenplay; there was nothing about the film that could be considered "great art." At the same time, however, SHOW was a lot of fun, and certainly audiences of the day flocked to it, making it the single biggest grossing film of 1952.

The story is purple-prose soap opera. Circus manager Brad Braden (Charleton Heston) is doing a balancing act between rival arielist stars Sebastian (Cornel Wilde) and Holly (Betty Hutton)--the later of whom is torn in her affections between the two. Add in a lovely but common show girl (Dorothy Lamour), a jealous elephant trainer (Lyle Bettger), the object of his affections (Gloria Graham), a clown with a mysterious past (Jimmy Stewart), high wire accidents, and a train wreck--all mixed well by Cecil B. DeMille's eye for larger-than-life spectacle. The result is brassy, silly, corny, and thoroughly enjoyable.

Seen today, the big attraction here is the chance to see the circus when it was still traveling by rail and performing under "the big top." Filmed with the cooperation of Ringling Brothers-Barnum and Bailey, SHOW allows us to see what was involved in organizing the lavish show that was the circus in the 1950s, a world filled with roustabouts, elephants, barkers, peanut vendors, acrobats, and all the rest. One of the more interesting aspects of this is Emmett Kelly, one of America's greatest clowns, who appears throughout the film as himself.

THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH is lots of flash and dazzle, a little song and dance, Charleton Heston in his first major role, Betty Hutton in one of her final films (she did most of her own stunt work), and lots of corny charm. It might not really be the "greatest" show on earth, but it is very picturesque. The film isn't restored, but it isn't in bad condition; sadly, there are no bonuses at all.

GFT, Amazon Reviewer

11 of 13 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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No African-American faces in crowd scenes? sshistory
Retroactively give Best Picture to Singin' in the Rain for 1952 nielw
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*WHY* it's the worst Best Picture ever jeremy_shops
The 'pornography' of the movie jonjax71
Bette Hutton + Gloria Grahame safari41
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