The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)

Not Rated  |   |  Drama, Family, Romance  |  May 1952 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.7/10 from 8,898 users  
Reviews: 101 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 4 wins & 5 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?


Ex-trapeze artist Burt Lancaster was considered for Cornel Wilde's role as was Kirk Douglas. Both subsequently played trapeze artists. Lancaster in Trapeze (1956) and Douglas in The Story of Three Loves (1953). See more »


When Mickey Mouse and other Walt Disney characters walk around the ring, the band plays the song "It's A Hap-Hap-Happy Day" from Gulliver's Travels, which was released by Paramount, not Disney. See more »


[while Sebastian was speaking, romantically to Holly, Ruth, an elephant, was directed by Angel to pick up and take Holly away, from Sebastian, to Brad]
Sebastian: [Sebastian, speaking French] Qu'est-ce qu'al y a?
Holly: Let me go. Sebastian.
Angel: Never try to take anything from an elephant.
Holly: Sebastian, do something!
Sebastian: A lion I fight for you, a tiger! But the red-headed wildcat with an elephant, no.
[then he chuckled, with a big grin]
Holly: You make this two-tailed jackass put me down.
See more »


Featured in The 54th Annual Academy Awards (1982) See more »


Jingle Bells
(1857) (uncredited)
Written by James Pierpont
Played during the parade around the rings and briefly sung
See more »

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User Reviews

I like this one
7 November 2006 | by (Charlotte, NC, USA) – See all my reviews

I have seen this film several times and each time I am more impressed. I don't look at a film to rate the acting, but rather I look at a film for its entertainment qualities. This film shows a behind-the-scenes look into circus life that most people would never have a chance to see. The circus acts shown are typical and entertaining, the characters have some qualities that are not always seen in a movie of this magnitude. I am always interested in special effects and how they are used in a film. The train wreck is obviously done with models but it is so well done, it rates mention. There are many considerations in making special effects seem real and all of those are carefully used in this film. Of course, the circus acts were NOT done with special effects and are very entertaining. If you have not seen this picture, please do so with an open mind and expect to be impressed.

13 of 15 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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