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The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)

Not Rated | | Drama, Family, Romance | May 1952 (USA)
The dramatic lives of trapeze artists, a clown, and an elephant trainer are told against a background of circus spectacle.



(screenplay), (screenplay) | 4 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 <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The motion picture for everyone! 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 »


The Walt Disney characters are seen getting their costume heads prior to the parade. When the characters are seen on parade inside the tent, they are in different costumes to what they were wearing when they got the heads. See more »


Angel: Did he say you were like cognac? All fire in zee glass?
Holly: No, he said I was like champagne. I made his head spin.
Angel: Yeah, only you'll be the one who winds up with a hangover.
See more »


Featured in Nova: Memory Hackers (2016) See more »


Wiener Blut (Vienna Blood), Op. 354
(1873) (uncredited)
Music by Johann Strauss
Played after Sebastian cuts down the net
See more »

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User Reviews

Hey, doesn't anyone remember Last Emperor?
28 December 2005 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

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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