Sawdust and Tinsel (1953) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • The complicated relationships between a circus ringmaster, his estranged wife and his lover.

    Will S
  • While traveling in caravan through the country of Sweden, one member of the decadent Alberti Circus tells the owner and ringmaster Albert Johansson a sad story about the clown Frost: seven years ago, his wife Alma was surprised by him bathing naked in a lake with a regiment. When the circus arrives in the town where Albert's wife Agda and sons live, he decides to pay a visit with his young mistress Anne to a famous local troupe to borrow some capes, hats and vests for their tonight show. They are humiliated by the director Mr. Sjuberg, but he lends the pieces, and the lead actor Frans gives an unsuccessful pass on Anne. When Albert decides to visit Agda, the jealous Anne meets Frans, who seduces her with an apparently valuable necklace, and they have a love affair. Anne finds that the necklace is actually worthless and returns to the circus. Meanwhile, Agda refuses to accept Albert back and he sees Anne leaving the theater and going to the jewelry. During the exhibition, Albert and Anne are submitted to humiliations by Frans.

  • Gruff and aging Albert Johansson is the owner and operator of the Alberti, a fourth rate traveling circus in Sweden. Albert seemingly loves the traveling circus life, which was the reason he abandoned his first wife, Agda, and their then two infant sons, as she hated that life. However Albert laments not making any money - unlike what he believes his American counterparts are doing - an issue both in paying his employees and keeping the circus afloat. Albert is now married to Anne, the bareback rider of the circus. The next stop for the Alberti Circus is the town where Agda lives. Albert plans on visiting her and their now two adolescent sons, the three who he hasn't seen in three years. This visit is against Anne's wishes, she who believes he only wants to see Agda to return to his old family while abandoning Anne and the circus. Because of what she believes Albert is going to do, Anne takes action in the only way she knows how, which involves Sjuberg's traveling theater troupe currently in the same town, and from which Albert borrowed costumes. Their stop shows both Albert and Anne how they feel about their current lot in life.

  • On a gray morning, a circus caravan arrives in the town where Albert the ringmaster's family lives. He hasn't seen them for three years and has taken a mistress, the young and buxom Anne. Albert calls on his wife; Anne, jealous and wanting out, visits a theatrical troupe and lets an actor, Frans, seduce her in exchange for a necklace he says is valuable. Anne finds out it's worthless at about the same time Albert's wife declines to let him live with the family. Albert and Anne are stuck with the circus and each other; there's a show tonight, Frans will be there smirking and sardonic, the bear is mangy, the clown is as sour as they come, and suicide offers an exit.


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