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The Big Circus (1959)

 |  Drama  |  5 July 1959 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.3/10 from 444 users  
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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.



(screenplay), (screenplay), 2 more credits »
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Cast overview:
Henry Jasper 'Hank' Whirling
Randy Sherman
Helen Harrison
Jeannie Whirling
Hans Hagenfeld
Zach Colino - the aerialist
Tommy Gordon
Maria 'Mama' Colino
Mr. Lomax
Charles Watts ...
Jonathan T. Nelson - Banker
Himself - Cameo appearance


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


By Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster
See more »

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User Reviews

Another Greatest Show on Earth
30 July 2015 | by (Los Angeles) – See all my reviews

After losing his business partner, "Whirling Circus" manager Victor Mature (as Henry "Hank" Whirling) must borrow a half million dollars so that the show can go on - a US tour. He gets the money, but must accept two new staff members to insure a profitable return on the loan. Joining the troupe are full-figured publicist Rhonda Fleming (as Helen Harrison) and penny-pinching banker Red Buttons (as Randy Sherman). Having a female press agent irks Mr. Mature, but you wouldn't want to bet against a kiss before the closing credits. This being a circus movie, you might suppose a lion could be let loose, at some point. Also, figure on one or more mysterious accidents, which might actually be murder...

This closely follows the circus picture pattern, especially Cecil B. DeMille's hit "The Greatest Show on Earth" (1952). "The Big Circus" has a smaller budget, but producer Irwin Allen makes less look bigger than expected. It's colorful and bland, but must have been a cool way to spend time in the summer of 1959. The cast member shining is former "silent" screen star Gilbert Roland (as Zach Colino), looking incredibly fit as the circus' main attraction. "Ozzie and Harriet" son David Nelson (as Tommy Gordon) is also fit, as a younger model. Bing Crosby's second wife Kathryn Grant (as Jeannie Whirling) is likewise sexy in tights. Looking sneaky and clownish are veterans Vincent Price and Peter Lorre.

***** The Big Circus (1959-07-05) Joseph M. Newman ~ Victor Mature, Gilbert Roland, Red Buttons, Rhonda Fleming

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