IMDb > Big Time Operators (1957)
The Smallest Show on Earth
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Big Time Operators (1957) More at IMDbPro »The Smallest Show on Earth (original title)

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Overview

User Rating:
7.0/10   1,040 votes »
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Director:
Writers:
William Rose (screenplay)
John Eldridge (screenplay)
Contact:
View company contact information for Big Time Operators on IMDbPro.
Release Date:
16 March 1962 (Finland) See more »
Genre:
Plot:
A young couple inherits a debt-ridden old movie theater, appropriately nicknamed "The Flea Pit," and the three eccentric senior citizens who work there. Full summary » | Add synopsis »
Awards:
Nominated for BAFTA Film Award. See more »
User Reviews:
Charming, and a wonderful for lovers of theatres. See more (31 total) »

Cast

  (in credits order) (verified as complete)

Virginia McKenna ... Jean Spenser

Bill Travers ... Matt Spenser
Margaret Rutherford ... Mrs. Fazackalee

Peter Sellers ... Percy Quill

Bernard Miles ... Old Tom
Francis De Wolff ... Albert Hardcastle

Leslie Phillips ... Robin Carter
June Cunningham ... Marlene Hogg
Sidney James ... Mr. Hogg
George Cross ... Commissionaire
George Cormack ... Bell
Stringer Davis ... Emmett
Michael Corcoran ... Taxi Driver
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
John Bush ... Cast Member (uncredited)
Marian Collins ... Ice-Cream Girl (uncredited)
Liz Fraser ... Girl in Cinema (uncredited)

Frazer Hines ... Cast Member (uncredited)
Billy Lawrence ... Cast Member (uncredited)
John Pike ... Cast Member (uncredited)
Lynne Roberts ... Cast Member (uncredited)
Michael Scoble ... Cast Member (uncredited)
Leslie Slysz ... Cast Member (uncredited)
The Blake Twins ... Cast Members (uncredited)

Directed by
Basil Dearden 
 
Writing credits
William Rose (screenplay & original story)

John Eldridge (screenplay)

Produced by
Leslie Gilliat .... associate producer
Michael Relph .... producer
Sidney Gilliat .... executive producer (uncredited)
Frank Launder .... executive producer (uncredited)
 
Original Music by
William Alwyn 
 
Cinematography by
Douglas Slocombe 
 
Film Editing by
Oswald Hafenrichter 
 
Art Direction by
Allan Harris 
 
Costume Design by
Anthony Mendleson 
 
Makeup Department
Hilda Fox .... hair stylist
Harry Frampton .... makeup artist
 
Production Management
John Pellatt .... production manager
 
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Eddie Pike .... assistant director
John Meadows .... second assistant director (uncredited)
Claude Watson .... third assistant director (uncredited)
 
Art Department
John Earl .... draughtsman (uncredited)
Roy Walker .... draughtsman (uncredited)
 
Sound Department
Buster Ambler .... sound recordist
Arthur Cox .... dubbing editor
John Cox .... sound supervisor
Bob Jones .... sound recordist
John Aldred .... dubbing crew (uncredited)
Jimmy Dooley .... sound camera operator (uncredited)
Ken Ritchie .... boom operator (uncredited)
 
Special Effects by
Bob Cuff .... special effects (as R. Cuff)
Wally Veevers .... special effects
 
Visual Effects by
Bob Cuff .... matte painter (uncredited)
George Samuels .... special processes (uncredited)
 
Camera and Electrical Department
Jeff Seaholme .... camera operator
Paddy Aherne .... focus puller (uncredited)
Ron Drinkwater .... focus puller (uncredited)
Norman Hargood .... still photographer (uncredited)
 
Editorial Department
Guy Ambler .... second assistant editor (uncredited)
Alan Corder .... second assistant editor (uncredited)
Eileen Daines .... second assistant editor (uncredited)
Alban Streeter .... assistant editor (uncredited)
 
Music Department
Muir Mathieson .... conductor
 
Other crew
Jane Buck .... continuity
Sidney Gilliat .... presenter
Frank Launder .... presenter
 
Crew verified as complete


Production CompaniesDistributors

Additional Details

Also Known As:
"The Smallest Show on Earth" - UK (original title)
See more »
Runtime:
80 min
Country:
Language:
Aspect Ratio:
1.37 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
Mono (Westrex Recording System)
Certification:

Did You Know?

Trivia:
The films shown at the Bijou (all fictional and presumably filmed just for this movie) are: - Killer Riders of Wyoming - The Mystery of Hell Valley - Devil Riders of Parched PointSee more »
Goofs:
Continuity: When Carter is told by the Spensers "We've seen the cinema", his glasses shift from his face to his hand in consecutive shots.See more »
Quotes:
Hardcastle:A nice young couple like yourself, you've no business in this business. If you'd seen your great uncle what it did for him in the end! That old battle-ax Mrs. Fazackalee! I remember when she was a wee slip of a thing, pretty as a picture - a "B" picture, mind yuh!
[laughs]
See more »
Movie Connections:
Featured in A Bit of Scarlet (1997)See more »

FAQ

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.
28 out of 28 people found the following review useful.
Charming, and a wonderful for lovers of theatres., 20 December 2002
Author: jimor (jimor2@yahoo.com) from Milwaukee, Wis. USA

'THE SMALLEST SHOW ON EARTH' may not have been exactly that since there were certainly smaller, but it was a case of a fictional small "electric theatre" (the once British way of differentiating a movie theatre from a legitimate theatre or 'music hall,' as they designated their version of the American vaudeville). This delightful British film is as heart warming and sometimes hilarious as the other reviewers here describe, but it is the wonderful interaction between the story, the sets, and the actors that balance the film and make it a classic. This 19th century 'kinema' was styled in the manner of the traditional British 'music hall' of live performers, but held early projection equipment (hence the double entendre about projectionist Peter Sellers' 'equipment.') Such asides will be over the heads of the kiddies, but the pleasant pacing and careful dialogue of the actors will please the adults for whom this comedy is intended.

The story of a young couple inheriting a cinema and finding that it is not quite the money-maker they imagined would have been prosaic were it not for the clever settings and the three fossils who maintained the old "Bijou" (French for 'jewel'). If it were ever a jewel, it had lost its luster as the years passed and patrons flocked to the newer nearby movie palace, the "Grand." Desperate to keep their jobs, the 'fossils' (veteran scene-stealers: Peter Sellers, Margaret Rutherford, and Bernard Miles) took pains to refresh the old place to please new owner Bill Travers, a too seldom used actor of mild presence but uniquely suited to this role. The character of the Bijou's "commissionaire" (doorman, janitor, and boiler keeper) Miles in the end tries too hard and creates the only jarring note in the film, which is otherwise tender and memorable. The device of having latter day elevated trains roar past the cinema was inspired and created some memorable scenes, as when the building shakes to the slow start up of the train, or when Bill Travers' character is almost rattled off the ladder as he attempts to relight the old roof sign. There are many wonderful sight gags and other fine bits that one will long remember.

For those who also like old theatres, it may be of interest to know that the exterior of the Bijou was actually a set created at the meeting of two existing elevated train bridges on Christchurch Ave. at the Kilburn LT station in London. The interior was also a set, but so well done that you would swear that you were in a real 19th century 'opera house.' The design is thought to be derived from the real Palace of Varieties at Camberwell. The movie palace with the pipe organ - "the Grand" - was actually the Gaumont Palace (later the Odeon, now Apollo) in Hammersmith, London. And the use of the fictional name of "Sloughborough" for the town is another little joke since it means 'low place or mire.' These details can be confirmed in the journal of the British "Cinema Theatre Association's" magazine "PICTURE HOUSE," No. 19, Winter 93-94, pages 37 and 38, (where there are photos in this and the previous issue) furnished to this reviewer courtesy of Mr. Brian J. Hall of England.

One reviewer said that the only flaw was that the story was too short and I must concur in that, and that is the only real flaw I can find in the film as well. There is a difficulty, however, in appreciating the quality of the film from the most common versions of the VHS-NTSC format videos now available. IMDB/Amazon lists two ASIN numbers of versions made by the same French Canadian firm, Madacy, which produced them in EP speed, rather than the usual SP speed that allows for quality. Since Amazon never indicates the speed of a tape, I cannot tell if their third variation produced by 'VCI Classics (American Prudential)' is also in this slow speed of poor quality. Not only is the image poor, but the sound is downright difficult to understand! Amazon's sister company, The Internet Movie Data Base, now lists two CD versions about to be released, and we can but hope that they were made from restored masters and are the pleasure that the original film is.

P.S.: Two years before the movie "Majestic" (starring Jim Carrey) debuted, the director wrote on the THEATRE HISTORICAL SOCIETY'S web site that he was searching for information about historic theatres for his forthcoming unnamed movie. This reviewer responded with information and said that the description of it he gave sounded something like "The Smallest Show on Earth." He responded that he was amazed that anyone remembered the 1956 British film, but that it was indeed an inspiration for his movie. Look closely at the lobby in "Majestic" and you will see it clearly resembles that in the 'Bijou,' even if the facades were much different. These films turned out very differently, but at least the architecture rewards lovers of theatres

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Message Boards

Discuss this movie with other users on IMDb message board for Big Time Operators (1957)
Recent Posts (updated daily)User
peter sellers old?? kateyk12
Goofs ? Greenman58
No Margaret Rutherford Near the End? smthdonovan
Bill Travers jeremy3
Did the couple come from north Wales? jeremy3
Check out the DVD mam13143
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