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The Greatest Show on Earth
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The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) More at IMDbPro »

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Up 18% in popularity this week. See why on IMDbPro.
Fredric M. Frank (screenplay) &
Barré Lyndon (screenplay) ...
View company contact information for The Greatest Show on Earth on IMDbPro.
Release Date:
May 1952 (USA) See more »
The Heartbeat Story of Circus People, Filmed with the Cooperation of Ringling Bros. - Barnum and Bailey Circus! See more »
The dramatic lives of trapeze artists, a clown, and an elephant trainer against a background of circus spectacle. Full summary » | Add synopsis »
Won 2 Oscars. Another 5 wins & 4 nominations See more »
User Reviews:
"Ladies and Gentlemen and Children of All Ages.........." See more (98 total) »


  (in credits order) (verified as complete)

Betty Hutton ... Holly

Cornel Wilde ... The Great Sebastian

Charlton Heston ... Brad Braden

Dorothy Lamour ... Phyllis

Gloria Grahame ... Angel

Henry Wilcoxon ... FBI Agent Gregory

Lyle Bettger ... Klaus

Lawrence Tierney ... Mr. Henderson

Emmett Kelly ... Himself
Cucciola ... Himself
Antoinette Concello ... Herself
John Ringling North ... Himself
Tuffy Genders ... Himself
John Kellogg ... Harry
John Ridgely ... Assistant Manager

Frank Wilcox ... Circus Doctor
Robert Carson ... Ringmaster (as Bob Carson)
Lillian Albertson ... Buttons' Mother

Julia Faye ... Birdie

James Stewart ... 'Buttons' A Clown
Lou Jacobs ... Himself
The Alzanas ... Themselves
Trisco ... Himself
The Flying Artonys ... Themselves
Lilo Juston ... Herself
The Chaludis ... Themselves
The Idnavis ... Themselves
The Realles ... Themselves
The Fredonias ... Themselves
Luciana & Friedel ... Themselves
Buzzy Potts ... Himself
Ernie Burch ... Himself
Felix Adler ... Himself
Paul Jerome ... Himself
Miss Patricia ... Herself
Eddie Kohl ... Himself
Tiebor's Sea Lions ... Themselves
Mroczkowski's Liberty Horses ... Themselves
The Zoppes ... Themselves
Bones Brown ... Himself
Fay Alexander ... Himself
The Flying Concellos ... Themselves
Lola Dobritch ... Herself
The Hemadas ... Themselves
Christy and Gorilla ... Themselves (as Christy & Gorilla)
Tonito ... Himself
The Bokaras ... Themselves
Prince Paul ... Himself
Jimmy Armstrong ... Himself
Paul Horompo ... Himself
Paul Jung ... Himself
Charley Bell ... Himself
Gilbert Reichert ... Himself
C.H. Lindsey ... Himself
Peterson's Dogs ... Themselves
Rix's Bears ... Themselves
Arthur Burson ... Himself
La Norma ... Herself
Jeanne Sleeter ... Herself
Billy Snyder ... Himself (as Bill Snyder)
The Flying Comets ... Themselves
Veronica Martell ... Herself
Miss Loni ... Herself
The Romigs ... Themselves
Rusty Parent ... Herself
The Maxellos ... Themselves
Martha Hunter ... Herself
Truzzi ... Himself
Eugene Scott ... Himself
James Barnes ... Himself
Merle Evans ... Himself
Frank McClosky ... Himself
Mike Petrillo ... Himself
Peter Grace ... Himself
Bob Reynolds ... Himself
George Werner ... Himself
rest of cast listed alphabetically:

Lee Aaker ... Little Boy Spectator (uncredited)

Dorothy Adams ... Sam's Wife (uncredited)
Eric Alden ... Canvas Man (uncredited)
Erville Alderson ... Spectator (uncredited)
Stanley Andrews ... Spectator (uncredited)
Ross Bagdasarian ... Spectator (uncredited)
Vicki Bakken ... Vicki (uncredited)
Mary Bezemes ... Minor Role (uncredited)
Gladys Blake ... Spectator (uncredited)

Oliver Blake ... Spectator (uncredited)

William Boyd ... Hopalong Cassidy (uncredited)
Ralph Brooks ... Spectator (uncredited)
Helen Brown ... Spectator (uncredited)
Arthur Q. Bryan ... Spectator (uncredited)
Bobby Burns ... Spectator (uncredited)
Paul E. Burns ... Spectator (uncredited)
Lonnie Burr ... Little Boy Spectator (uncredited)
Bruce Cameron ... Bruce (uncredited)
Charles D. Campbell ... Spectator (uncredited)
Malcolm Cassell ... Little Boy Spectator (uncredited)
Iphigenie Castiglioni ... Herself (uncredited)
Lane Chandler ... Dave (uncredited)
Ken Christy ... Tightrope Act Spectator (uncredited)
Davison Clark ... Farmer Sam (uncredited)
Lydia Clarke ... Circus Girl (uncredited)
Rus Conklin ... Rus (uncredited)
Gerald Courtemarche ... Little Boy Spectator (uncredited)
John Crawford ... Jack - Circus Attendant (uncredited)
Dorothy Crider ... Dorothy (uncredited)

Bing Crosby ... Spectator (uncredited)
Bob Crosby ... Spectator (uncredited)

Cecil B. DeMille ... Narrator (voice) (uncredited)
Bobby Diamond ... Little Boy Spectator (uncredited)
Lester Dorr ... Midway Game Barker (uncredited)
Gloria Drew ... Ann (uncredited)
Jimmie Dundee ... Utility Man / Stake Driver (uncredited)
Claude Dunkin ... Claude (uncredited)
Don Dunning ... Spectator (uncredited)
Art Dupuis ... Spectator (uncredited)
Rosemary Dvorak ... Rosemary (uncredited)
Daisy Earles ... Midget (uncredited)
Bonnie Kay Eddy ... Little Girl Spectator (uncredited)
Franklyn Farnum ... Spectator (uncredited)
Mary Field ... Spectator (uncredited)
Norman Field ... Truesdale (uncredited)
Bess Flowers ... Spectator (uncredited)

Kathleen Freeman ... Spectator (uncredited)
Mona Freeman ... Spectator (uncredited)
Gerry Ganzer ... Spectator (uncredited)
Nancy Gates ... Spectator (uncredited)
Slim Gaut ... Circus Man (uncredited)
Everett Glass ... Board Member (uncredited)
Joseph Granby ... Spectator (uncredited)
Greta Granstedt ... Spectator (uncredited)
Linda Green ... Little Girl Spectator (uncredited)
Dolores Hall ... Circus Girl (uncredited)
Scott H. Hall ... Spectator (uncredited)
William Hall ... Bill (uncredited)
John Hamer ... Little Boy Spectator (uncredited)
Chuck Hamilton ... Ambulance Driver (uncredited)

Peter Hansen ... Spectator (uncredited)
Charmienne Harker ... Charmienne (uncredited)
Joe Harper ... Little Boy Spectator (uncredited)
Kathleen Hartnagel ... Little Girl Spectator (uncredited)
Helene Hatch ... Spectator (uncredited)
Bradford Hatton ... Osborne (uncredited)

Jimmy Hawkins ... Little Boy Spectator (uncredited)
William Henry ... Little Boy Spectator (uncredited)
Paula Hill ... Spectator (uncredited)
Fay Holderness ... Spectator (uncredited)

Bob Hope ... Spectator (uncredited)
Jerry James ... Spectator (uncredited)
Adele Cook Johnson ... Mable (uncredited)
Brad Johnson ... Reporter (uncredited)

Van Johnson ... Spectator (uncredited) (unconfirmed)
Lorna Jordon ... Lorna (uncredited)
Frances Karath ... Little Girl Spectator (uncredited)
Milton Kibbee ... Pickpocket Victim (uncredited)
Mona Knox ... Mona (uncredited)
Fred Kohler Jr. ... Train Fireman (uncredited)
Ethan Laidlaw ... Hank (uncredited)
Rudy Lee ... Little Boy Spectator (uncredited)
Herbert Lytton ... Foreman (uncredited)
George Magrill ... Circus Man (uncredited)
Anthony Marsh ... Tony (uncredited)
Sydney Mason ... Carson (uncredited)
Gay McEldowney ... Gay (uncredited)
Peggy McKim ... Little Girl Spectator (uncredited)
James McNally ... Spectator (uncredited)
William Meader ... Spectator (uncredited)
Frank Meredith ... Train Engineer (uncredited)
John Merton ... Chuck (uncredited)
Gertrude Messinger ... Gertrude (uncredited)
Patricia Michon ... Patricia (uncredited)
Royce Milne ... Little Girl Spectator (uncredited)
Ralph Montgomery ... Spectator (uncredited)
Beverly Mook ... Little Girl Spectator (uncredited)
Lyle Moraine ... Spectator (uncredited)
Clarence Nash ... Spectator (uncredited)
Howard Negley ... Truck Boss (uncredited)

Noel Neill ... Noel (uncredited)
Ottola Nesmith ... Spectator (uncredited)
Joel Nestler ... Little Boy Spectator (uncredited)
David Newell ... Spectator (uncredited)
Eric Nielsen ... Little Boy Spectator (uncredited)
Noralee Norman ... Little Girl Spectator (uncredited)
Judy Nugent ... Little Girl Spectator (uncredited)

Edmond O'Brien ... Midway Barker at End (uncredited)
Susan Odin ... Little Girl Spectator (uncredited)
Sammy Ogg ... Little Boy Spectator (uncredited)
Ruth Packard ... Spectator (uncredited)
John Parrish ... Jack Lawson (uncredited)
Luce Potter ... Midget (uncredited)
Hugh Prosser ... Hugh (uncredited)
Harry Raven ... Circus Man (uncredited)
Keith Richards ... Keith - Circus Attendant (uncredited)
William J. Riley ... Policeman (uncredited)
Peter Roman ... Little Boy Spectator (uncredited)
Angelo Rossitto ... Midget (uncredited)
Gladys Rosson ... Spectator (uncredited)
William Ruhl ... Circus Barker (uncredited)
Robert W. Rushing ... Policeman (uncredited)
Russell Saunders ... Circus Man (uncredited)
Syd Saylor ... Circus Barker (uncredited)
Queenie Smith ... Spectator (uncredited)
Robert St. Angelo ... Spectator (uncredited)
Mabel Stark ... Spectator (uncredited)
Robert R. Stephenson ... Spectator (uncredited)

Tony Taylor ... Little Boy Spectator (uncredited)
Roland Tiebor ... Himself - Sea Lion Trainer (uncredited)
Stuart Torres ... Little Boy Spectator (uncredited)
Dale Van Sickel ... Man in Train Wreck (uncredited)
Dorothy Vernon ... Spectator (uncredited)
Judith Ann Vroom ... Little Girl Spectator (uncredited)
Wally Walker ... Spectator (uncredited)

Beverly Washburn ... Little Girl Spectator (uncredited)
Joan Whitney ... Spectator (uncredited)
Josephine Whittell ... Spectator (uncredited)
Kay Wiley ... Spectator (uncredited)
Robin Winans ... Little Boy Spectator (uncredited)
Christine Wright ... Spectator (uncredited)
Fred Zendar ... Spectator (uncredited)
Alberto Zoppe ... Himself - Trick Rider (uncredited)

Directed by
Cecil B. DeMille 
Writing credits
Fredric M. Frank (screenplay) &
Barré Lyndon (screenplay) &
Theodore St. John (screenplay) (as Theodore St.John)

Fredric M. Frank (story) &
Theodore St. John (story) (as Theodore St.John) &
Frank Cavett (story)

Jack Gariss  additional writer (uncredited)

Produced by
Cecil B. DeMille .... producer
Henry Wilcoxon .... associate producer
Original Music by
Victor Young (music score by)
Cinematography by
George Barnes (director of photography)
Film Editing by
Anne Bauchens 
Art Direction by
Hal Pereira 
Walter H. Tyler  (as Walter Tyler)
Set Decoration by
Sam Comer 
Ray Moyer 
Costume Design by
Edith Head (costumes)
Dorothy Jeakins (costumes)
Miles White (circus costumes)
Makeup Department
Wally Westmore .... makeup supervisor
Production Management
Roy Burns .... unit manager (uncredited)
C. Kenneth Deland .... unit manager (uncredited)
Andrew J. Durkus .... unit manager (uncredited)
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Arthur Rosson .... unit director
Edward Salven .... assistant director
Frank Baur .... second assistant director (uncredited)
Daniel McCauley .... assistant director (uncredited)
Walter H. Tyler .... assistant director (uncredited)
Art Department
Norman Bel Geddes .... designer: big top (uncredited)
Gene Lauritzen .... construction coordinator (uncredited)
Jack Senter .... assistant art director (uncredited)
Dwight Thompson .... props (uncredited)
Sound Department
John Cope .... sound recording
Harry Lindgren .... sound recording
Special Effects by
Harold V. McKenzie .... special effects assistant (uncredited)
Barney Wolff .... special effects (uncredited)
Visual Effects by
Devereaux Jennings .... special photographic effects (as Devereux Jennings)
Gordon Jennings .... special photographic effects
Paul K. Lerpae .... special photographic effects (as Paul Lerpae)
Polly Burson .... stunts (uncredited)
Chuck Hamilton .... stunts (uncredited)
Russell Saunders .... stunts (uncredited)
Galla Shawn .... stunt double: Betty Hutton (uncredited)
Dale Van Sickel .... stunts (uncredited)
Camera and Electrical Department
W. Wallace Kelley .... additional photography (as Wallace Kelley)
J. Peverell Marley .... additional photography
Costume and Wardrobe Department
Joan Joseff .... costume jeweller (uncredited)
Music Department
John Murray Anderson .... stager: circus musical and dance numbers
Sidney Cutner .... orchestrator (uncredited)
George Parrish .... orchestrator (uncredited)
Leo Shuken .... orchestrator (uncredited)
Other crew
Richard Barstow .... choreography
Robert Brower .... Technicolor color consultant
Arthur M. Concello .... general manager: Ringling Bros.-Barnum & Bailey Circus
John Ringling North .... president: Ringling Bros.-Barnum & Bailey Circus
John Ringling North .... technical advisor
Henry Ringling North .... vice president: Ringling Bros.-Barnum & Bailey Circus
Pat Valdo .... general director of performance: Ringling Bros.-Barnum & Bailey Circus
James Vincent .... dialogue supervisor
Lynn Couch .... aerialist coach: Cornel Wilde (uncredited)
Barlow Simpson .... animal handler: elephant (uncredited)
Crew verified as complete

Production CompaniesDistributorsOther Companies

Additional Details

Also Known As:
"Cecil B. DeMille's The Greatest Show on Earth" - UK (complete title), USA (complete title)
See more »
152 min
Color (Technicolor)
Aspect Ratio:
1.37 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
Mono (Western Electric Recording)
Argentina:Atp | Australia:G | Australia:PG (TV rating) | Brazil:Livre | Canada:PG | Finland:K-16 | Netherlands:12 | Netherlands:14 | Sweden:15 | UK:U (original rating) (cut) | UK:U (video rating) (1988) (uncut) | USA:Not Rated | USA:Approved (certificate #15440) | West Germany:12 (nf)
Filming Locations:

Did You Know?

Cameo: [Mona Freeman]Circus spectatorSee more »
Factual errors: When Klaus is seen waving to stop the second section as the engine speeds towards him, the right Cylinder on the Locomotive are discharging steam. When Klaus' car is hit by the locomotive, there is no steam in sight. As a side note, the left Cylinder cock is not discharging steam, in fact both would very quickly alternate on and off.See more »
[last lines]
Midway barker:That's all, ladies and gentlemen, that's all. Come again to the greatest show on earth. Bring the children. Bring the old folks. You can shake the sawdust off your feet, but you can't shake it outta your heart. Come again, folks. The Greatest Show on Earth. Come again.
See more »
Movie Connections:
Wiener Blut (Vienna Blood), Op.354See more »


This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.
52 out of 56 people found the following review useful.
"Ladies and Gentlemen and Children of All Ages..........", 18 September 2005
Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York

The Greatest Show on Earth is a Cecil B. DeMille extravaganza, maybe the best one he ever produced and directed. Unlike his religious films or his historical films, this film is a nice tribute to an American institution, the Ringling Brothers&Barnum&Bailey Circus and as such it does not attract the controversy of some of his other films.

The Best Picture Oscar for 1952 that this film won was more of a tribute to a Hollywood institution. Cecil B. DeMille in fact directed the first Hollywood made film, The Squaw Man, forty years earlier and this Oscar was essentially a tribute to him for the work of a lifetime. Not the first time or the last time the Motion Picture Academy has done that.

This is DeMille spectacle at it's best. The circus as a cinema subject, so full of color and life, is ideal for a DeMille production. Wonderful camera work marks this film, both of the circus acts and the reaction shots into the crowd of the children of all ages.

Cecil B. DeMille himself narrates portions of the film showing the work involved in putting on the Greatest Show on Earth. His was a familiar voice to the American public because for 10 years DeMille came into American households via radio narrating the Lux Radio Theater. In fact until Alfred Hitchcock got his own anthology TV series, DeMille's voice was probably the most known to the American public of a film director.

And only his name and that of Walt Disney's of people behind the camera were guaranteed box office in the days of the Hollywood studio system.

Spectacle was his thing and DeMille was the master. As a director of players and a judge of good modern writing, DeMille left a lot to be desired. Because of the nature of the subject, no great historical or religious events, the grandiloquent dialog present in so many DeMille films is kept to a minimum here.

This was Charlton Heston's first big break as a star and his second film under a Paramount contract. He had done a film called Dark City, a good noir thriller that got good reviews, but did little for him personally. DeMille saw the six foot two Heston walking on the Paramount lot one day and just said to himself that this was to be the circus ramrod for this film.

But Heston was fourth billed behind Betty Hutton, Cornel Wilde, and Gloria Grahame, all better known than him at the time. Wilde and Grahame were independents as was James Stewart who played a clown with a hidden past.

Stewart in fact had always wanted to play a clown and took this supporting role with smaller billing just for the opportunity. At the time he agreed to do this, his wife Gloria was pregnant with their twin daughters. Stewart had it in his contract a clause that gave him permission to leave the film temporarily to be with Gloria when her time was near. In fact Gloria McLean Stewart had a rough time with the birth and Jimmy exercised that option and totally enraged DeMille who had to shut down production for a few days. He and DeMille did not get along after that though Stewart finished the film and was great in it.

Gloria Grahame may not have been the most beautiful woman in Hollywood, but she was the most seductive operating in 1952. That was a banner year for her. She got a Best Supporting Actress for The Bad and the Beautiful on top of this DeMille film. As the elephant girl she attracts the unwanted attentions of Lyle Bettger who plays an elephant trainer.

Bettger was a great player at that time who played a lovely variety of psychopaths on the screen. He pulls out all the stops here and its his unwanted attentions to Grahame that set up the final scenes.

Dorothy Lamour was here also in a supporting part and she gets to sing Lovely Luawanna Lady in sarong and the reaction shots of the crowd focus on a couple of familiar faces who panted after her in a few Paramount films.

The story itself is a standard four sided triangle involving Heston, Hutton, Wilde, and Grahame with Bettger horning in. You have to see the film to find out who winds up with who.

However the high point of the film involves a circus train wreck. DeMille got a lot of notice for wrecking a train in Union Pacific back in 1939. So he doubles the excitement and wrecks two trains here with circus animals pouring out of busted cages. Great stuff.

Betty Hutton was coming close to the end of her film career. This and Annie Get Your Gun would be her biggest triumphs. Given DeMille's limitations on directing players, Hutton is surprisingly subdued here and effective. She also sings a couple of nice songs here as she bids adieu to Paramount in her next to last film for them.

When The Greatest Show on Earth came out and was doing great box office, Charlton Heston related a story that DeMille came over to him on the Paramount lot and gave him a newspaper clipping and said he would never get a better notice ever, no matter how long a career he had. Heston read the thing and the critic from some small town paper praised all the actors like Stewart, Wilde, Hutton, Grahame, and Lamour said they were great, but that C.B. DeMille must be the greatest director in the world to get a performance out of that circus ramrod.

For all of DeMille's faults here, he created a circus picture that set the standard for any to follow.

Was the above review useful to you?
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