The story of the great American showman and promoter.



Nominated for 2 Primetime Emmys. Another 8 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Natalie Radford ...
Young Charity
Francis Olmsted
(General) Tom Thumb
James Anthony Bailey
Samuel Hurd
Nancy (Fish)
John Genin
Isabelle Cyr ...
Caroline (Barnum)
David Thompson
Helen (Barnum)


This series illustrates the life and career of P.T. Barnum, America's greatest showman and promoter. Starting as a young man who managed an old woman who was supposedly George Washington's nursemaid, we see his career as he finds success promoting curiosities and attractions with panache and a judicious mix of truth and creativity, whether it be promoting his museum or characters like the midget General Tom Thumb. Yet because the demands of his businesses, his family life is troubled and marred by tragedy. All the while, events lead to his greatest creation, the Ringling Brothers/Barnum & Bailey Circus. Written by Kenneth Chisholm <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Biography | Drama






Release Date:

12 September 1999 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Barnum Cirkusz  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


This movie shows P.T. Barnum naming Jumbo. In fact, when Barnum bought Jumbo that was already his name. Keepers at the London Zoo (Jumbo's owners before Barnum) named him Jumbo, a derivation of an African word for elephant. The publicity Barnum brought to Jumbo eventually coined the word "jumbo" as meaning large. See more »

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User Reviews

Where's the freaks?
11 October 1999 | by (Chicago, Illinois, USA) – See all my reviews

I'm afraid I only caught the second half of this miniseries, but what I saw was appalling! Doing a movie about Barnum is such a great opportunity to produce something colorful and exciting and hilarious. When will I learn not to waste time on TV miniseries? while I haven't had the opportunity to see the old 1930's film with Wallace Beery playing Barnum, it MUST have outdone this one. Quite honestly, why should I be so enthralled by the day-to-day minutiae of the private lives of Barnum and his relatives? It only makes a legendary, larger-than-life character that much more mundane.

Typically, we would see about 25 seconds of a routine circus act, followed by 25 minutes of tedious soap opera in period costume. Ah, we get an understanding of the personal demons that drove the man! Oh,Blah...blah...blah!!! In a biography of Barnum, I expect to see outrageous flim-flams and the dumbest of rubes, bearded ladies, flashy and dangerous aerial acts, elephants -- and lots of them, dammit! This was the greatest show on earth. And freaks! A gifted screenwriter could do a whole hour on how one finds a set of Siamese twins, how they're recruited and under what circumstances they've been living, how they're exhibited, what their personalities are like, what they and Barnum thought of each other, what the public reaction was, etc., etc. These aspects of his life and career seem to me a lot more interesting than the fact that he didn't get along with all his daughters or in-laws very well, or that his wife was ill.

Sorry I got carried away.

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