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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.


Cecil B. DeMille


Fredric M. Frank (screenplay), Barré Lyndon (screenplay) | 4 more credits »

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Won 2 Oscars. Another 5 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »


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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


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


The Heartbeat Story of Circus People, Filmed with the Cooperation of Ringling Bros. - Barnum and Bailey Circus! See more »


Drama | Family | Romance


Passed | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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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 »


Box Office


$4,000,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Paramount Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)


Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Features five Academy Award winners Charlton Heston, Gloria Grahame, James Stewart, Bing Crosby and Edmond O'Brien, and one other Academy Award nominee Cornel Wilde in the acting categories. See more »


When the view from the cab of the second section train is shown approaching the rear of the first section, the first section is parked on a right hand curve in the tracks. However, when the second section is shown colliding with the first section from the viewpoint of the middle of the first section as well as in some previous shots, it is obvious that the first section is parked on a left hand curve. See more »


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 »


Be a Jumping-Jack
By Victor Young and Ned Washington
Sung by Betty Hutton (uncredited) and James Stewart (uncredited)
See more »

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User Reviews

Amusing and and entertaining film about circus world for children of all ages
24 June 2011 | by ma-cortesSee all my reviews

Spectacular and overlong story of a traveling three circus combined show , plenty of diverse characters as a tough manager (Charlton Heston) , a swaggering ringmaster , and a mysterious clown (James Stewart ) with a dark secret who never takes off his disguise . Furthermore , it includes the aerialist acrobat girlfriend (Betty Hutton) , a French somersault artist rival (Cornel Wilde) , and an evil elephant trainer (Lyle Bettger) , among others .

Cecil B. DeMille is an expert in realization of high-budget films with glamour where the greatness does not lack even a moment , here gets to make a nice tribute to the circus world and its surroundings . This hugely agreeable film is a faithful reflection of the title . This is tone of the best Cecil B. De Mille, here in all his epic glory , he is the great director of the greatness. It has a fantastic scenario, great mass movement, and even spectacular scenes for the time, as a car driving toward a train on the railroad tracks and subsequently crash. The story is fine , wrought with romance , love stories , and impressive scenes with enormous pedigree. The film is a melodramatic and romantic tale with the classic triangular love story between Heston-Hutton-Wilde and meshing drama with events offstage along with some scenes in documentary style . The movie is wrought with romance and glamour but is a simple , and also contains an intriguing story about a doctor pursued by the justice . It packs some patently faked ones with players in front of obvious blue real projection. This colorful and dramatic flick packs amazing shows and exciting final . Extraordinary cast and good performances , especially from Charlton Heston and James Stewart as likable clown , both of whom are top notch under Cecil B De Mille's correct direction . Furthermore , some scenes the actors perform their own stunts . Some surprising guest-star cameos as Bob Hope , Bing Crosby watching their usual partenaire , Dorothy Lamour . Lavishly produced Henry Wilconson who plays a police , he's Cecil B. De Mille's usual . Unfortunately the circus at present time , in total downfall, is far from the magic in which they lived in that time. Here are united the Ringling Bros , Barnum and Bailey in combined shows and three-ring circus with colorful parades . The movie deservedly won two Oscars as Best Picture and Story , however the complaints of reviewers and moviegoers ever since , who don't believe it worthy of the honor . Although long-term, it becomes very entertaining and does not superfluous nor a minute. It's a fantastic and spectacular film that achieved big success at Box office . There are frames that children may never forget as the train wreck and an aerialist falling to the soil . Rating : Better than average . Worthwhile seeing .

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