The Big Circus (1959)

 |  Drama  |  5 July 1959 (USA)
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A circus owner tries to keep his financially troubled circus on the road, despite the efforts of a murderous saboteur who has decided that the show must not go on.



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Cast overview:
Henry Jasper 'Hank' Whirling
Randy Sherman
Helen Harrison
Jeannie Whirling
Hans Hagenfeld
Zach Colino
Tommy Gordon
Maria 'Mama' Colino
Mr. Lomax
Charles Watts ...
Jonathan T. Nelson
Steve Allen


After splitting with his longtime business partner, Hank Whirling is about to take his big top circus on tour. He manages to get a loan and some investment money but has to take on one of their employees, Randy Sherman, to keep an eye on the finances. Sherman immediately hires a new press agent, Helen Harrison, over Hank's objections. After a series of accidents, they soon realize that they have a saboteur in the company. With financial problems increasing, Whirling looks to take the the show to New York City before his former partner Jules Borman can get his circus there. He realizes that he'll need a lot of publicity and trapeze and high wire artist Zach Colino agrees to walk the wire across Niagara Falls. After the circus train is sabotaged - killing Zach's wife and several others - they race to Niagara Falls to complete the high wire act but Zach may not be up it. The saboteur working for Borman bides his time and is planning another death. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


No one seated during the last 10 minutes so you will completely enjoy the surprise ending! P.S. And please do not reveal the identity of the villain! See more »




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Release Date:

5 July 1959 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El gran circo  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Final film of veteran character actor Dick Rich--he worked exclusively on television until his retirement in 1961. See more »


While Red Buttons flirts around the shooting range, a small boy in a checked shirt behind him disappears and reappears between shots. See more »


Referenced in Introducing... Janet (1983) See more »


By Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster
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User Reviews

Big-Top melodrama that's rich with easy on the eye formula.
7 April 2011 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

The Big Circus is directed by Joseph M. Newman and jointly written by Irwin Allen (who also produces) and Charles Bennett. It stars Victor Mature, Red Buttons, Rhonda Fleming, Kathryn Grant, Vincent Price and Peter Lorre. Plot sees Mature as Hank Whirling, the owner of The Whirling Circus, where, having seen his partner break away to form his own show, he finds he has to beg a loan off the bank to keep the Whirling show going. The bank agree to the loan but on condition that their financial whizz Randolph Sherman (Buttons) travels along with the show to keep an eye on the finances. He in turn hires publicity agent Helen Harrison (Fleming) to professionally sell the product, but both of them are not wanted by Whirling. However, there are more pressing concerns for the show, there is a saboteur at large and it seems whoever it is will stop at nothing to finish off the Circus.

Looking for a Sunday afternoon time filler full of colour, vibrancy and delightful circus sequences? Then look no further than Irwin Allen's The Big Circus, an entertaining and tidy picture that seems to have been forgotten in the wake (fall out) of The Greatest Show On Earth. Making no bones about it, Allen follows the formula of the Cecil B. DeMille behemoth pretty much all the way, only the budget is considerably smaller so it obviously isn't as gargantuan as the 1952 Best Picture Winner. Fair to say there's some overacting, notably from Mature, but the mystery element is played close to the chest, with pretty much everyone under suspicion, and the high wire/trapeze antics are joyous. Nice cast, nice film and easy to recommend to the undemanding crowd. 6.5/10

4 of 4 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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