6 user 1 critic

Under the Big Top (1938)

Approved | | Action, Drama, Romance | 31 August 1938 (USA)
A pretty young circus trapeze artist is pushed by her domineering aunt to be the best aerialist in the world. When she begins to fall for one of the two men in her act, her mother ... See full summary »


Karl Brown


Marion Orth (screenplay), Llewellyn Hughes (original story) (as Lewellyn Hughes)




Complete credited cast:
Marjorie Main ... Sara Post
Anne Nagel ... Penny
Jack La Rue ... Ricardo Le Grande (as Jack LaRue)
Grant Richards ... Pablo Le Grande
George Cleveland ... Joe
Herbert Rawlinson ... Herman
Rolfe Sedan Rolfe Sedan ... Pierre
Betty Compson ... Marie
Fred 'Snowflake' Toones ... Juba (as Snowflake)
Harry Harvey ... McCarthy
Charlene Wyatt ... Penny as a Child
Speed Hansen Speed Hansen ... Marty


A pretty young circus trapeze artist is pushed by her domineering aunt to be the best aerialist in the world. When she begins to fall for one of the two men in her act, her mother determines to break up the romance. So does the other trapeze artist, who is also in love with her. Written by frankfob2@yahoo.com

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


GREATER by a thousand thrills than a ringside seat in the sawdust arena! (original print ad) See more »


Action | Drama | Romance


Approved | See all certifications »






Release Date:

31 August 1938 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Circus Comes to Town See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Monogram Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Mirrophonic)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


This film received its initial USA telecast Sunday 1 March 1942 on New York City's pioneer television station WNBT (Channel 1). Post WWII television audiences first got a chance to see it in Los Angeles Sunday 5 June 1949 on KTLA (Channel 5) and in New York City Sunday 3 July 1949 on WCBS (Channel 2). See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

So that's why we have insurance!
23 June 2010 | by MartinHaferSee all my reviews

Early in this film, a circus owner (Marjorie Main) is given custody of her sister's young daughter after the sister dies. Soon, the little brat burns down the circus and instead of beating the snot out of the kid, they celebrate because now they can make an insurance claim! I don't think insurance works that way and this seems like a rather dubious message to be passing on the the audience...but, after all, this is a rather dubious sort of film.

Years now pass following the fortuitous fire. Now the little brat has grown and is a star on the trapeze. I agree with another reviewer who hard a hard time accepting that she is, according to Main, "the world's greatest aerialist"! She was a lot better than me or my dog, but seemed far from the greatest. But, the actors in this film try their best to pull off the idea that she is terrific--as evidenced by the men who are smitten by her. What happens next is rather unexciting--as can be said of just about every circus film of the era. Dull writing, acting and action spell the recipe for a very sluggish film.

And, speaking of dull circus films, this genre has apparently died--thank goodness. Despite winning a totally undeserved Oscar, "The Greatest Show On Earth" was an amazingly dull film whose only advantage over "Under the Big Top" was a glossier look and bigger budget. "Circus World" was likewise very big and glossy--but even duller. About the only circus films that WERE worth seeing were films like "Circus of Fear" and "Berserk" because at least they were meant to be trashy horror films--not trashy and horrible films like the rest! By the way, this is yet another film with a supporting role for a black actor known as 'Snowflake'--a rather demeaning stage name for a man--more like a name you might expect for a trained animal. It's a sad sign of the times in which it was made. Other such ill-named black actors of the era included Farina, Buckwheat, Sleep 'n' Eat, and, of course, Steppin Fetchit. My how times have changed!

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