The amazing biography of legendary circus impresario and unparalleled showman, P.T. Barnum.



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Cast overview, first billed only:
John Roney ...
Sandor Raski ...
Patty Maloney ...
Laura Press ...
Kirsten Bishop ...
Michael Higgins ...
Phineas Taylor
Andrew Bednarski ...
Little Phineas
Joe Cazalet ...
James Gordon Bennett
Rob Roy ...
Bronwen Mantel ...
Coley Draper


Phineas T. Barnum looks back at his life, starting when he is just a little boy. The movie shows how he muddled through his life and how he finally became a successful circus-master. But to get there he had to risk everything he had and show enormous courage. Written by R. Kessen <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Biography | Drama


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Release Date:

30 November 1986 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Barnum cirkuskungen  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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User Reviews

I Invented You, The Audience
14 August 2008 | by (Buffalo, New York) – See all my reviews

The only problem I have with the movie Barnum is that this was a role Burt Lancaster could have and should have done 20 years earlier. Still we have to give credit to the Canadian makeup people who managed to youthen Lancaster so he could do more than narrate his film from the grave so to speak.

Other than Hannah Schygulla the German film star who played Jenny Lind, the supporting players were all Canadian and the film was shot mostly in and around Montreal. Two other actors Andrew Bednarski and John Roney played Phineas T. Barnum in his adolescence and as a young man. Laura Press played his first wife, a pious Yankee Congregationalist who never quite understood her mercurial husband.

Lancaster was 72 when he did Barnum and he's perfect in the part. The man was a master publicist in fact he set the standard for the job. As he put it, he never cheated anyone he sold them fantasy and entertainment.

The film is a fond nostalgic trip through the lighter side of the 19th century in America. Barnum before he became a circus owner had a museum that was similar to Ripley's Believe-It-Or-Not. He exhibited a talented midget in General Tom Thumb to the crowned heads of Europe, a phrase he might have coined. One of my favorite scenes is of the little guy meeting Queen Victoria with a beaming Lancaster looking on. He brought and ballyhooed Jenny Lind, dubbed the Swedish Nightingale to America for an amazingly successful tour.

Another favorite scene of mine is the shrewd Ms. Lind negotiating with Barnum for the right deal. It reminded me of another great Scandinavian star of the next century, Sonia Henie and what a shrewd businesswoman she was reputed to be.

Barnum's name survives today because of the famous circus his name is still attached to. As Lancaster explains he did little, but use his well known talent for publicity to get the show started. It was partner Bailey who was the driving force behind the circus and we never even meet him. That probably is a film unto itself. After Barnum's death the show merged with the Ringling Brothers show to form what it is still known today as Ringling Brothers&Barnum&Bailey Circus. Which was forever immortalized by Cecil B. DeMille in The Greatest Show On Earth.

The film is a fine made for television product one of the best ever done.

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