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In the early years of the 20th century, Matt Masters takes his rambling Wild West Show to Europe. His decision is prompted by his desire to find Lili Alfredo, who disappeared fourteen years earlier following the death of her husband, The Flying Alfredo. At the time it was believed that Alfredo dove to his death deliberately when he realized his wife loved Matt and not him. Toni, a beautiful trapeze performer, raised by Matt is actually Lili's daughter, and she is in love with Steve McCabe, one of the stars on Matt's show. Doing their first show in Barcelona, aboard a ship, the ship keels over and Matt loses his show. Now broke, he leaves for Paris with Toni, Steve and his long-time friend, Cap Carson, to seek a job with Colonel Purdy's Wild West Show. But a year later, Matt has rebuilt his own show. First to be signed is a remarkable 12-year-old wire-walker named Giovana, and her guardian, Tojo the Clown, whose real named is Aldo Alfredo, formerly of the Flying Alfredos. Continuing ... Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
John Wayne was suffering from the early stages of lung cancer during filming (although he didn't know it at the time). After the near fatal fire scene accident he started having a chronic cough and that night started spitting up spots of blood (he continued to smoke still unaware of the real cause). The intense fire stunt seemed to inflame his condition. See more »
While the film is taking place in 1901, there are several mistakes with the European flags. One example is the Finnish flag that is seen in the movie. Finland didn't achieved independence (and the flag) until 1918. See more »
Apart from JET PILOT and THE CONQUERER, this is my choice for worst John Wayne film once he became a bona fide star. Sure, some of his very early B-movies were rough and silly, but considering he was young and had little star power, I wouldn't count these films. Plus, despite their shortcomings, the B-westerns were fun. CIRCUS WORLD, on the other hand just isn't any fun. Imagine, someone making a movie about circuses and there being no fun at all in the film...as well as some of the worst writing I've seen in an A-movie...ever.
The movie already starts out with a major handicap with the casting. While Claudia Cardinale is a lovely woman, she was 102% wrong for the film. She is supposed the to be the daughter of an American and an Italian who was raised since a very early age by John Wayne in the United States. So, why does she have this French accent?!?! She sounds NOTHING like Wayne (who raised her) or her mother (Rita Hayworth--who abandoned her) or her long-dead Italian father. What gives?!
Apart from that, the writing was the single worst problem with the film. Much of the dialog was clichéd, unbelievable and silly. Frankly, considering the considerable clout Wayne had at the time, it's amazing he'd have allowed such a terribly written script. If you read the trivia on IMDb, director Frank Capra left over changes in the script by Wayne--perhaps it WAS a good script until he "fixed it" but we'll never know for sure. The problems extend from scene to scene, where some characters (especially the emotionally labile Miss Cardinale) jump from one emotion or motivation to another. There simply is no consistency. For example, late in the film, Cardinale goes nuts and tells Wayne and Hayworth that she hates them. Then, 30 seconds later, she is clinging to them and all is well. This is the sort of emotional "flexibility" that you'd expect...in a mental patient! Also, many times, plots are simply lost in the shuffle. For a 2-1/4 hour movie, you'd think there'd be time to work out these dangling plot elements!! For example, the identity of who painted over the posters and how the fire began all seem to be forgotten by the time the movie ends...as well as exactly who hates Wayne and Hayworth so much...as well as why there was the affair many years ago (Wayne keeps saying that he'll have to explain it all to her...and never does). So, the writing is very broad, unbelievable and sloppy--like chunks of the film must have been missing it was that bad.
Otherwise, I guess I should say something about what I liked. Some of the animals were cute and some of the big spectacle scenes are not completely horrible (though unnecessary). And,...well,...that's it.
A bad film, even if John Wayne lovers would disagree. I love most of his films, but I'm calling it like I see it--a big, bloated, overblown mess. And, by the way, Wayne is completely miscast as well--what is this great western star doing running a circus that goes on tour to Europe?!?
By the way, my wife adds that SOMEONE must have had some incriminating pictures of Wayne to get him to make this film. My guess (and she does NOT agree) is that maybe he was kissing a Communist or burning an American flag...it had to have been THAT bad to merit making this film.
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