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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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The Greatest Show on Earth -- Cecil B. DeMille's The Greatest Show on Earth is a lavish tribute to circuses, featuring three intertwining plotlines concerning romance and rivalry beneath the big top. DeMille's film includes spectacular action sequences, including a show-stopping train wreck. The Greatest Show on Earth won Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Story.


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Popularity: ?
Down 16% 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:
A colourful, light hearted and entertaining epic See more (101 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 ... Emmett Kelly
Cucciola ... Cucciola
Antoinette Concello ... Antoinette Concello
John Ringling North ... John Ringling North
Tuffy Genders ... Tuffy Genders
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 ... Lou Jacobs
The Alzanas ... The Alzanas
Trisco ... Trisco
The Flying Artonys ... The Flying Artonys
Lilo Juston ... Lilo Juston
The Chaludis ... The Chaludis
The Idnavis ... The Idnavis
The Realles ... The Realles
The Fredonias ... The Fredonias
Luciana & Friedel ... Luciana & Friedel
Buzzy Potts ... Buzzy Potts
Ernie Burch ... Ernie Burch
Felix Adler ... Felix Adler
Paul Jerome ... Paul Jerome
Miss Patricia ... Miss Patricia
Eddie Kohl ... Eddie Kohl
Tiebor's Sea Lions ... Tibor's Sea Lions
Mroczkowski's Liberty Horses ... Mroczkowski's Liberty Horses
The Zoppes ... The Zoppes
Bones Brown ... Bones Brown
Fay Alexander ... Fay Alexander
The Flying Concellos ... The Flying Concellos
Lola Dobritch ... Lola Dobritch
The Hemadas ... The Hemadas
Christy and Gorilla ... Christy & Gorilla (as Christy & Gorilla)
Tonito ... Tonito
The Bokaras ... The Bokaras
Prince Paul ... Prince Paul
Jimmy Armstrong ... Jimmy Armstrong
Paul Horompo ... Paul Horompo
Paul Jung ... Paul Jung
Charley Bell ... Charley Bell
Gilbert Reichert ... Gilbert Reichert
C.H. Lindsey ... C. H. Lindsey
Peterson's Dogs ... Peterson's Dogs
Rix's Bears ... Rix's Bears
Arthur Burson ... Arthur Burson
La Norma ... La Norma
Jeanne Sleeter ... Jeanne Sleeter
Billy Snyder ... Bill Snyder (as Bill Snyder)
The Flying Comets ... The Flying Comets
Veronica Martell ... Veronica Martell
Miss Loni ... Miss Loni
The Romigs ... The Romigs
Rusty Parent ... Rusty Parent
The Maxellos ... The Maxellos
Martha Hunter ... Martha Hunter
Truzzi ... Truzzi
Eugene Scott ... Eugene Scott
James Barnes ... James Barnes
Merle Evans ... Merle Evans
Frank McClosky ... Frank McClosky
Mike Petrillo ... Mike Petrillo
Peter Grace ... Peter Grace
Bob Reynolds ... Bob Reynolds
George Werner ... George Werner
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)
Jeanne Browning ... Girl (uncredited)
Arthur Q. Bryan ... Spectator (uncredited)
Donna Burke ... Girl (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)
Frances Campbell ... Minor Role (uncredited)
Malcolm Cassell ... Little Boy Spectator (uncredited)
Iphigenie Castiglioni ... Iphigenie Castiglioni (uncredited)

Lane Chandler ... Dave (uncredited)
Nathalie J. Christian ... Minor Role (uncredited)
Ken Christy ... Tightrope Act Spectator (uncredited)
Archie D. Clark ... Train Engineer (uncredited)
Davison Clark ... Farmer Sam (uncredited)
Ronnie Clark ... Boy (uncredited)
Lydia Clarke ... Circus Girl (uncredited)
Rocky Clinton ... Barker (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)
C.L. Elslander ... Father C.L. Elslander (uncredited)

Franklyn Farnum ... Spectator (uncredited)
Mary Field ... Spectator (uncredited)
Norman Field ... Truesdale (uncredited)
Elizabeth Fillman ... Girl (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)
Otto Griebling ... Circus Performer (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)
Erin Hennessey ... Girl (uncredited)
Patsy Henry ... Girl (uncredited)
William Henry ... Little Boy Spectator (uncredited)
Bette Hill ... Girl (uncredited)
Paula Hill ... Spectator (uncredited)
Fay Holderness ... Spectator (uncredited)
Ronny Hooker ... Boy (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)
Larry Lapham ... Minor Role (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)
Pattie McKenzie ... Girl (uncredited)
Peggy McKim ... Little Girl Spectator (uncredited)
James McNally ... Spectator (uncredited)
William Meader ... Spectator (uncredited)
David M. Mee ... Little Boy (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)
Bruce Riley Jr. ... Boy (uncredited)
William J. Riley ... Policeman (uncredited)
Peter Roman ... Little Boy Spectator (uncredited)
Angelo Rossitto ... Midget (uncredited)
Gladys Rosson ... Spectator (uncredited)
Robert E. Royal ... Policeman (uncredited)
William Ruhl ... Circus Barker (uncredited)
Robert W. Rushing ... Policeman (uncredited)
Russell Saunders ... Circus Man (uncredited)
Syd Saylor ... Circus Barker (uncredited)
Ritz Schroder ... Harlequin (uncredited)
Queenie Smith ... Spectator (uncredited)
Squeaky ... Squeaky (uncredited)
Robert St. Angelo ... Spectator (uncredited)
Mabel Stark ... Spectator (uncredited)
Robert R. Stephenson ... Spectator (uncredited)

Tony Taylor ... Little Boy Spectator (uncredited)
Roland Tiebor ... Roland Tiebor (uncredited)
Nina Torres ... Girl (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)
Gil Warren ... Minor Role (uncredited)

Beverly Washburn ... Little Girl Spectator (uncredited)
Joan Whitney ... Spectator (uncredited)
Josephine Whittell ... Spectator (uncredited)
Kay Wiley ... Spectator (uncredited)
Dickie June Williams ... Girl (uncredited)
Robert N. Wilson ... Motorcycle Cop (uncredited)
Robin Winans ... Little Boy Spectator (uncredited)
Christine Wright ... Spectator (uncredited)
Fred Zendar ... Spectator (uncredited)
Alberto Zoppe ... Alberto Zoppe - 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 recordist
Harry Lindgren .... sound recordist
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 .... choreographer
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 (DVD Rating) | USA:Approved (certificate #15440) | West Germany:12 (nf)
Filming Locations:

Did You Know?

Special effects produced a green halo around Gloria Grahame and Betty Hutton in the Grand Parade scene, so a shot was added of green floodlights turning on above them.See more »
Revealing mistakes: 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 »
Angel:[Sebastian almost drives his car into the elephant Angel is riding] Hey! Don't crowd, mister! Can't you see an elephant or do I have to paint her red?
Sebastian:I was blinded by the memory of a beautiful night in Paris.
Angel:[to the other circus performers] Blow up your water wings, girls, here comes the big wave!
[to Sebastian]
Angel:How come no husband ever shot you?
Sebastian:I never offer a sitting target.
Angel:I thought I'd seen the last of you when you got mixed up with that wire walker in Lisbon.
Sebastian:You will never see the last of me, Angel.
[shouting loud]
See more »
Movie Connections:
Lovely Luawana LadySee more »


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14 out of 17 people found the following review useful.
A colourful, light hearted and entertaining epic, 13 September 2000
Author: Calysta from Sydney, Australia

It would validate this film best if I state outright at this point that I am a great fan of the movie SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, also released in 1952 and generally ignored by the Academy, seemingly due to the shower of accolades handed out to AN AMERICAN IN PARIS. THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH did not win many Oscars beyond the coveted best picture award, but even this fact has poisoned my viewpoint of the justification of the Academy's decision, and that this in itself displays the incomprehensible factor that the statuette ended up at Paramount, not MGM.

However, my eventual purpose of viewing this film was threefold: to see Jimmy Stewart, Dorothy Lamour and one of the final best pictures of the 1950s, which I had not seen. All my SINGIN' IN THE RAIN prejudices aside, I was very pleasantly surprised.

Cecil B. DeMille's opinions of the circus as a ‘human machine made up of many parts' is interesting as it evokes the assemblage of any motion picture, and certainly, an enormous production such as this one. The script, generally convincing in its theme, can deliver on its expectations and bring to life a drama-comedy-epic-action-romance-musical that actually works, all elements and sub-plots played alongside. Even if these aspects make for melodramatic story lines, I have assumed that the purpose of the film is generally basic entertainment. And the basic story…the dramatic lives of circus performers culminating and reaching their peak underneath the glamour and colour of the big top isn't too bad either. DeMille's well-handled direction is intriguing and always expectantly, a job well done.

There are many good examples of an all-star ensemble cast, but this one ranks close to the top…Betty Hutton, Cornel Wilde, Charlton Heston, Jimmy Stewart, Dottie Lamour, Gloria Grahame…each may bear no resemblance to their character's personalities, but play their parts interestingly well. Generally, I found Stewart's portrayal as Buttons the clown, masked behind a multiple personality, to be the best performance in the film. It is difficult also not to mention the many great and entertaining real-life circus performers that truly made up the spirit of THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH, and continue to do so in their differed entertaining medium today, so it is really quite a nice tribute to their dedication.

To satisfy the varied genres of the film, each character is where they are to fuel the particular element. Angel (Grahame) enhances the comedy with her natural talents, and Phyllis (Lamour) and Holly (Hutton) to fill out the musical aspects with an extensive musical program, including `Jumpin' Jack' and the title song. Romance is demonstrated in a series of different love triangles involving five of the six lead characters. Drama is seen with the integration of all these aspects, involving Buttons (Stewart), tension between Sebastian (Wilde) and Brad (Heston), and the case of post ANNIE GET YOUR GUN competitive one-upmanship between Holly and Sebastian on the trapezes. Finally, in the case of action, the sensationalism of the train scene brings all these emotions to a halt…to create one of the biggest epics of 1950s Hollywood, and to destroy some of the colourful and glamourous illusions of circus life.

Despite the fact the film definitely exceeded my original expectations of it and the fact that it filled its three-hour plus running time certainly impressed me. However, I would like to continue to retain my position on the unfair juxtaposition of SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, and it is doubtful my opinion will swing to favour THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH any time soon.

Rating: 8/10

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No African-American faces in crowd scenes? sshistory
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Retroactively give Best Picture to Singin' in the Rain for 1952 nielw
cornel wilde's physique will115
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