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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 »
4,869 ( 138)

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


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Cast overview, first billed only:
FBI Agent Gregory
Mr. Henderson
Cucciola ...
Antoinette Concello ...
Antoinette Concello
John Ringling North ...
John Ringling North
Tuffy Genders ...
Tuffy Genders
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 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)

Gross USA:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)



Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


When Mary Pickford presented the film's producer-director Cecil B. DeMille with the Oscar for Best Picture, 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 »


[to Holly, as his blood is being transfused into Brad]
Sebastian: If he should make love well after this, pay no attention - it will be me.
See more »


Referenced in An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn (1997) See more »


Three Blind Mice
Played in the score
See more »

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User Reviews

Amusing and and entertaining film about circus world for children of all ages
24 June 2011 | by See all my reviews

Spectacular and overlong story of a traveling three circus combined show , plenty of diverse characters as a tough manager (Charlton Heston) , a swaggering ringmaster , and a mysterious clown (James Stewart ) with a dark secret who never takes off his disguise . Furthermore , it includes the aerialist acrobat girlfriend (Betty Hutton) , a French somersault artist rival (Cornel Wilde) , and an evil elephant trainer (Lyle Bettger) , among others .

Cecil B. DeMille is an expert in realization of high-budget films with glamour where the greatness does not lack even a moment , here gets to make a nice tribute to the circus world and its surroundings . This hugely agreeable film is a faithful reflection of the title . This is tone of the best Cecil B. De Mille, here in all his epic glory , he is the great director of the greatness. It has a fantastic scenario, great mass movement, and even spectacular scenes for the time, as a car driving toward a train on the railroad tracks and subsequently crash. The story is fine , wrought with romance , love stories , and impressive scenes with enormous pedigree. The film is a melodramatic and romantic tale with the classic triangular love story between Heston-Hutton-Wilde and meshing drama with events offstage along with some scenes in documentary style . The movie is wrought with romance and glamour but is a simple , and also contains an intriguing story about a doctor pursued by the justice . It packs some patently faked ones with players in front of obvious blue real projection. This colorful and dramatic flick packs amazing shows and exciting final . Extraordinary cast and good performances , especially from Charlton Heston and James Stewart as likable clown , both of whom are top notch under Cecil B De Mille's correct direction . Furthermore , some scenes the actors perform their own stunts . Some surprising guest-star cameos as Bob Hope , Bing Crosby watching their usual partenaire , Dorothy Lamour . Lavishly produced Henry Wilconson who plays a police , he's Cecil B. De Mille's usual . Unfortunately the circus at present time , in total downfall, is far from the magic in which they lived in that time. Here are united the Ringling Bros , Barnum and Bailey in combined shows and three-ring circus with colorful parades . The movie deservedly won two Oscars as Best Picture and Story , however the complaints of reviewers and moviegoers ever since , who don't believe it worthy of the honor . Although long-term, it becomes very entertaining and does not superfluous nor a minute. It's a fantastic and spectacular film that achieved big success at Box office . There are frames that children may never forget as the train wreck and an aerialist falling to the soil . Rating : Better than average . Worthwhile seeing .

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