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The Big Circus (1959)

 |  Drama  |  5 July 1959 (USA)
6.3
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Ratings: 6.3/10 from 435 users  
Reviews: 18 user | 4 critic

Hank Whirling tries to keep his financially troubled circus on the road despite the efforts of a saboteur who has determined that the show must not go on.

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(screenplay), (screenplay), 2 more credits »
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Cast

Cast overview:
...
Henry Jasper 'Hank' Whirling
...
Randy Sherman
...
Helen Harrison
...
Jeannie Whirling
...
Hans Hagenfeld
...
Zach Colino - the aerialist
...
Skeeter
...
Tommy Gordon
Adele Mara ...
Maria 'Mama' Colino
...
Mr. Lomax
Charles Watts ...
Jonathan T. Nelson - Banker
...
Himself - Cameo appearance
Edit

Storyline

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

Taglines:

YOU are part of THE BIGGEST SHOW IN THE WORLD! The most exciting behind-the-scenes drama of the Big Top ever told! YOU catapult through the air on a flying trapeze! YOU face the snarling fangs of the King of Beasts! YOU...walk a swaying tight-rope across thundering Niagara! YOU are a human bullet...blasted out of a mighty canon! See more »

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

5 July 1959 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El gran circo  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

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

Goofs

The human cannonball is shown climbing up the cannon, kneeling at the top, then swinging around and sliding into its mouth. In the next shot, showing the net in the foreground and the cannon behind, he's seen at the top of the cannon, swinging around and sliding into its mouth a second time. See more »

Connections

Referenced in You Bet Your Life: Episode #9.34 (1959) See more »

Soundtracks

THE BIG CIRCUS
By Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Copying DeMille
27 February 2007 | by (Buffalo, New York) – See all my reviews

Unfortunately for The Big Circus, The Greatest Show On Earth by Cecil B. DeMille set the standard for circus films that will be pretty hard to match. One hasn't come out in many years now, probably the market isn't there. Pity too, in this age of computer graphics, the potential to out DeMille DeMille is there.

This film can still stand on its own however as good entertainment. As in The Grestest Show On Earth, someone is out trying to sabotage the circus. The villain here isn't doing it for some nefarious scheme to enrich, it's a very psychologically disturbed individual who is not unmasked until the very end.

The leads here are Victor Mature in the role of circus boss and he's got financial troubles. Working to help straighten out the circus's finances are Rhonda Fleming and Red Buttons. Both aren't quite used to the culture of the circus, but Vic works the old heavy lidded charm and he's got a sister in Kathryn Crosby who brings the circus out in banker Buttons.

In The Greatest Show on Earth James Stewart took a supporting role as a clown because he always wanted to play one. Peter Lorre departs from his usual villainy to play a similar kind of clown, kind of a father confessor to the show.

But my favorite in the film is Gilbert Roland. He plays the patriarch of a high wire act and the high point of the film is his walk across Niagara Falls as a publicity stunt for the financially strapped show. Roland is under a lot of pressure, his wife, Adele Mara, having been the only fatality in a planned train wreck.

In fact The Big Circus took so much from The Greatest Show on Earth like the train wreck and other things that producer/director Irwin Allen was rightly criticized for a lack of originality. It seems he was just trying he could do the same things on the screen better than DeMille.

Nevertheless The Big Circus is a fine film on its own, entertaining and colorful for children of all ages.


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