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Man on a Tightrope (1953)

Approved | | Drama, Thriller | 29 June 1953 (West Germany)
Czech circus owner-Clown and his entire troupe employ a daring stratagem in order to escape en masse from behind the iron curtain.

Director:

Elia Kazan

Writers:

Neil Paterson (story "International Incident"), Robert E. Sherwood
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Fredric March ... Karel Cernik
Terry Moore ... Tereza Cernik
Gloria Grahame ... Zama Cernik
Cameron Mitchell ... Joe Vosdek
Adolphe Menjou ... Fesker
Robert Beatty ... Barovic
Alexander D'Arcy ... Rudolph (as Alex D'Arcy)
Richard Boone ... Krofta
Pat Henning Pat Henning ... Konradin
Paul Hartman ... Jaremir
John Dehner ... The Chief
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Storyline

In 1950s Czechoslovakia circus manager Karel Cernik is planning an escape from Communism to freedom.His idea is to force his way across the guarded border using his entire circus.Three years in the making his idea is ready to be tested when he's suddenly summoned to a Secret Police routine questioning about his circus' program.To Cernik it's clear that he has an informer among his staff who reports his activities and private talks to the Secret Police. The Americans are just across the river in a nearby border village but Cernik needs a special permit from the Secret Police allowing his circus freedom of movement in the border areas to perform his shows.This hard to get permit is vital to his escape plan.To make matters worse his wife is being unfaithful, his daughter has fallen in love with the new stables boy,his circus is falling apart and his longtime rival, Barovik, wants to take over Cernik's circus. Written by nufs68

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The headline-hot drama of how a whole circus escaped the hand of terror !

Genres:

Drama | Thriller

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA | West Germany

Language:

English | German

Release Date:

29 June 1953 (West Germany) See more »

Also Known As:

International Incident See more »

Filming Locations:

Fall, Bavaria, Germany See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$1,200,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

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

Trivia

Hildegard Knef was supposed to play the female lead, but shortly before filming began, Elia Kazan cast Gloria Grahame instead. See more »

Goofs

When Fredric March is being interrogated, the inkwell in front of him is uncovered, when the camera switches between him & his interrogator, the inkwell's cover is on. See more »

Quotes

Rudolph: [to Cernik] The curse of my life is that I'm a handsome man.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in American Masters: None Without Sin (2003) See more »

Soundtracks

Chattanooga Choo Choo
(uncredited)
Music by Harry Warren
See more »

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User Reviews

 
A sleeper directed by Elia Kazan
17 February 2008 | by blanche-2See all my reviews

Fredric March is a "Man on a Tightrope" in this 1953 film also starring Terry Moore, Gloria Grahame, Adolphe Menjou, Richard Boone and Cameron Mitchell, Directed by Elia Kazan, this black and white film is about circus performers who and a daring plan to escape to Germany from Communist-controlled Czechoslovakia. The manager of the circus, Karel Czernik (Fredric March) is a seemingly weak man - in fact, his second wife (Grahame) detests him for it. When he's called before Communist authorities for one or another infraction committed by the circus, he's deferential and nervous. Behind all this, he has been planning the escape of the entire circus from Czechoslovakia for three years. Only a few people know - but when the Commmunists ask about a radio owned by Czernik, he realizes one of his friends is probably a traitor, though he can't accept it. He also has trouble accepting his daughter's (Terry Moore) taste in men (Cameron Mitchell).

I visited Czechoslovakia eight years ago. The thought of that beautiful country and those charming, stunning people having to live for so long under Communist rule is a heartbreaking thought. This film really brought it home.

One thing immediately noticeable about "Man on a Tightrope" is the circus and the depressing Eastern Europe atmosphere, heightened by the black and white photography and the broken-down circus. Then there is the look of the people in the circus - these aren't actor's faces, these are the faces of real people. Kazan used a real-life circus, the Brumbach Circus, for background and performances. You can almost feel the dust and the oppression of working under Communist rule.

Fredric March gives a wonderful performance as Karel, a true actor who appears to bow to the Communists and yet is no weakling. His love for both his wife and daughter is apparent, as is his determination to get out of the country and concern for the performers. Gloria Grahame is sexy and flirty as his wife, who has her eye on the lion tamer, until she realizes the stuff her husband is made of. Moore and Mitchell are convincing lovers. Adolphe Menjou, as a Communist official, is very good as the only one who pierces the act that March is putting on. Smart men bear watching, and so do nice men. Cernik is both.

Apparently due to the political climate at the time, this film wasn't widely shown or publicized. I caught it on Fox Movie Channel - hopefully FMC will be on more basic cable in the country, and also hopefully Fox will bring this film out on DVD. It deserves to be seen.


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