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The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)

Passed | | Drama, Family, Romance | May 1952 (USA)
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 »
Reviews
Won 2 Oscars. Another 5 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:

Love! Laughter! Thrills! Wonders! Suspense! Spectacle! Heart! See more »

Genres:

Drama | Family | Romance

Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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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 »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

On 14 January 2017, Feld Entertainment -- the owner of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus -- announced that they were ceasing operations of the circus after 146 years, due to declining attendance. The circus operated two shows at the time: Circus Xtreme, which was scheduled to have its last performance in Providence, Rhode Island on 7 May 2017; and Out of This World, which was scheduled to have its last performance in Uniondale, New York on 21 May 2017. See more »

Goofs

When Klaus is seen waving to stop the second section as the engine speeds towards him, the right Cylinder on the Locomotive are discharging steam. When Klaus' car is hit by the locomotive, there is no steam in sight. As a side note, the left Cylinder cock is not discharging steam, in fact both would very quickly alternate on and off. See more »

Quotes

Buttons' Mother: [just after giving gifts to circus spectators, Buttons secretly goes to his Mother and they whisper to each other] They've been around again, asking questions.
Buttons: [whispering] I know Mother. They'll never find me, behind this nose.
Buttons' Mother: [whispering] Be very careful, dear.
Buttons: [whispering] Now, how about a nice smile, that I can remember until next year?
Buttons' Mother: [whispering] God be with you my boy.
Buttons: [whispering] It's all right Mother.
[...]
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Mau Mau Sex Sex (2001) See more »

Soundtracks

(I Wish I Was in) Dixie Land
(1860) (uncredited)
Music by Daniel Decatur Emmett
Played as the crowd arrives at the last circus set-up
See more »

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User Reviews

 
A colourful, light hearted and entertaining epic
13 September 2000 | by CalystaSee all my reviews

It would validate this film best if I state outright at this point that I am a great fan of the movie SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, also released in 1952 and generally ignored by the Academy, seemingly due to the shower of accolades handed out to AN AMERICAN IN PARIS. THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH did not win many Oscars beyond the coveted best picture award, but even this fact has poisoned my viewpoint of the justification of the Academy's decision, and that this in itself displays the incomprehensible factor that the statuette ended up at Paramount, not MGM.

However, my eventual purpose of viewing this film was threefold: to see Jimmy Stewart, Dorothy Lamour and one of the final best pictures of the 1950s, which I had not seen. All my SINGIN' IN THE RAIN prejudices aside, I was very pleasantly surprised.

Cecil B. DeMille's opinions of the circus as a ‘human machine made up of many parts' is interesting as it evokes the assemblage of any motion picture, and certainly, an enormous production such as this one. The script, generally convincing in its theme, can deliver on its expectations and bring to life a drama-comedy-epic-action-romance-musical that actually works, all elements and sub-plots played alongside. Even if these aspects make for melodramatic story lines, I have assumed that the purpose of the film is generally basic entertainment. And the basic story…the dramatic lives of circus performers culminating and reaching their peak underneath the glamour and colour of the big top isn't too bad either. DeMille's well-handled direction is intriguing and always expectantly, a job well done.

There are many good examples of an all-star ensemble cast, but this one ranks close to the top…Betty Hutton, Cornel Wilde, Charlton Heston, Jimmy Stewart, Dottie Lamour, Gloria Grahame…each may bear no resemblance to their character's personalities, but play their parts interestingly well. Generally, I found Stewart's portrayal as Buttons the clown, masked behind a multiple personality, to be the best performance in the film. It is difficult also not to mention the many great and entertaining real-life circus performers that truly made up the spirit of THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH, and continue to do so in their differed entertaining medium today, so it is really quite a nice tribute to their dedication.

To satisfy the varied genres of the film, each character is where they are to fuel the particular element. Angel (Grahame) enhances the comedy with her natural talents, and Phyllis (Lamour) and Holly (Hutton) to fill out the musical aspects with an extensive musical program, including `Jumpin' Jack' and the title song. Romance is demonstrated in a series of different love triangles involving five of the six lead characters. Drama is seen with the integration of all these aspects, involving Buttons (Stewart), tension between Sebastian (Wilde) and Brad (Heston), and the case of post ANNIE GET YOUR GUN competitive one-upmanship between Holly and Sebastian on the trapezes. Finally, in the case of action, the sensationalism of the train scene brings all these emotions to a halt…to create one of the biggest epics of 1950s Hollywood, and to destroy some of the colourful and glamourous illusions of circus life.

Despite the fact the film definitely exceeded my original expectations of it and the fact that it filled its three-hour plus running time certainly impressed me. However, I would like to continue to retain my position on the unfair juxtaposition of SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, and it is doubtful my opinion will swing to favour THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH any time soon.

Rating: 8/10


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