The dramatic lives of trapeze artists, a clown, and an elephant trainer are told against a background of circus spectacle.

Director:

Cecil B. DeMille

Writers:

Fredric M. Frank (screenplay), Barré Lyndon (screenplay) | 4 more credits »
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Won 2 Oscars. Another 7 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Betty Hutton ... Holly
Cornel Wilde ... The Great Sebastian
Charlton Heston ... Brad Braden
Dorothy Lamour ... Phyllis
Gloria Grahame ... Angel
Henry Wilcoxon ... FBI Agent Gregory
Lyle Bettger ... Klaus
Lawrence Tierney ... Mr. Henderson
Emmett Kelly ... Emmett Kelly
Cucciola Cucciola ... Cucciola
Antoinette Concello Antoinette Concello ... Antoinette Concello
John Ringling North John Ringling North ... John Ringling North
Tuffy Genders Tuffy Genders ... Tuffy Genders
John Kellogg ... Harry
John Ridgely ... Assistant Manager
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Storyline

To ensure a full profitable season, circus manager Brad Braden engages The Great Sebastian, though this moves his girlfriend Holly from her hard-won center trapeze spot. Holly and Sebastian begin a dangerous one-upmanship duel in the ring, while he pursues her on the ground. Subplots involve the secret past of Buttons the Clown and the efforts of racketeers to move in on the game concessions. Let the show begin! Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The motion picture for everyone! See more »

Genres:

Drama | Family | Romance

Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Ex-trapeze artist Burt Lancaster was considered for Cornel Wilde's role, as was Kirk Douglas. Both subsequently played trapeze artists, Lancaster in Trapeze (1956) and Douglas in The Story of Three Loves (1953). See more »

Goofs

Jimmy Stewart's character, Buttons, has sharp edges around his mouth and eyes. It is said that round corners are softer and more appealing to children. Sharp corners are frightening and provoke fear. See more »

Quotes

Holly: [Very frustrated] I send Angel for a doctor and she comes back with an *elephant*!
Angel: [Filled with sarcasm] You better let Birdie bandage up the pixie if you want to say good bye to our boyfriend!
Holly: [Horrified] Brad!
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Connections

Referenced in The Odyssey: The Greatest Show on Earth (1994) See more »

Soundtracks

(I Got Spurs That) Jingle Jangle Jingle
(1942) (uncredited)
Music by Joseph J. Lilley
Played while Sebastian rides in the parade
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User Reviews

 
Brassy Big Top Corn
12 April 2007 | by gftbiloxiSee all my reviews

Every one was shocked when THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH won Oscars for Best Motion Picture and Best Screenplay; there was nothing about the film that could be considered "great art." At the same time, however, SHOW was a lot of fun, and certainly audiences of the day flocked to it, making it the single biggest grossing film of 1952.

The story is purple-prose soap opera. Circus manager Brad Braden (Charleton Heston) is doing a balancing act between rival arielist stars Sebastian (Cornel Wilde) and Holly (Betty Hutton)--the later of whom is torn in her affections between the two. Add in a lovely but common show girl (Dorothy Lamour), a jealous elephant trainer (Lyle Bettger), the object of his affections (Gloria Graham), a clown with a mysterious past (Jimmy Stewart), high wire accidents, and a train wreck--all mixed well by Cecil B. DeMille's eye for larger-than-life spectacle. The result is brassy, silly, corny, and thoroughly enjoyable.

Seen today, the big attraction here is the chance to see the circus when it was still traveling by rail and performing under "the big top." Filmed with the cooperation of Ringling Brothers-Barnum and Bailey, SHOW allows us to see what was involved in organizing the lavish show that was the circus in the 1950s, a world filled with roustabouts, elephants, barkers, peanut vendors, acrobats, and all the rest. One of the more interesting aspects of this is Emmett Kelly, one of America's greatest clowns, who appears throughout the film as himself.

THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH is lots of flash and dazzle, a little song and dance, Charleton Heston in his first major role, Betty Hutton in one of her final films (she did most of her own stunt work), and lots of corny charm. It might not really be the "greatest" show on earth, but it is very picturesque. The film isn't restored, but it isn't in bad condition; sadly, there are no bonuses at all.

GFT, Amazon Reviewer


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Frequently Asked Questions

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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Russian

Release Date:

May 1952 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Cecil B. DeMille's The Greatest Show on Earth See more »

Filming Locations:

Cedar City, Utah, USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$4,000,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$36,000,000

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$36,000,000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Paramount Pictures See more »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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