The opening scene of the movie describes it best: "Once upon a time there lived in Denmark a great storyteller named Hans Christian Andersen. This is not the story of his life, but a fairy tale about the great spinner of fairy tales."
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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
When Brad is checking the baby gorillas after learning they may have contracted the mumps, a crowd of onlookers is gathered right behind, plainly staring at the camera filming the scene. See more »
Did he say you were like cognac? All fire in zee glass?
No, he said I was like champagne. I made his head spin.
Yeah, only you'll be the one who winds up with a hangover.
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It constantly amazes me that people carp that this won best Picture, as though no movie before or since ever won when maybe they shouldn't have. It was a big picture, it had a great story, it gave a lot of bang for the buck and that has always been a factor in grabbing the Oscar. It does seem a bit dated to us now, used to high flying special effects, different acting styles, and quick cut editing, instead of letting the scene play out as it so often does here, but it's such a great story. The circus itself is a character and the way Demille used the audience to make them seem so individual is wonderful. And I'm not just referring to the Hope/Crosby cameo. Remember the fat guy with the kid scarfing down the ice cream laughing his head off while the kid looked confused? You could tell he was reliving his childhood and he became EveryMan to us with only seconds of screen time. That's mastery. The integration of the real circus people with the actors was seamless and if nothing else this movie captures a time when the circus was really a circus. Carp all you want, guys. But I think you may be too spoiled by ultra realism to appreciate the subtler gems in this very respectable film.
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