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 <email@example.com>
Although the film was shot in 35mm three-strip Technicolor, Paramount did shoot some test footage on the set using its newly developed wide-screen process Vistavision, which ran 35mm film horizontally through the camera, exposing two standard frames, eight perforations wide. The footage still resides in the Paramount film library. 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 »
[Holly and Sebastian are one-upping each other on the trapeze]
How long do you think this can go on before something happens?
It's circus, isn't it?
Do you believe in prayer?
See more »
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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