39 user 22 critic

Trapeze (1956)

Approved | | Drama, Romance | 30 May 1956 (USA)
A crippled circus acrobat is torn emotionally between two ambitious young trapeze artists, one a talented young American and a less-gifted but beautiful Italian.


Carol Reed


Max Catto (novel), Liam O'Brien (adaptation) | 1 more credit »

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3 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »


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Complete credited cast:
Burt Lancaster ... Mike Ribble
Tony Curtis ... Tino Orsini
Gina Lollobrigida ... Lola
Katy Jurado ... Rosa O'Flynn
Thomas Gomez ... Bouglione
Johnny Puleo Johnny Puleo ... Max (as John Puleo)
Minor Watson ... John Ringling North
Gérard Landry Gérard Landry ... Chikki (as Gerard Landry)
Jean-Pierre Kérien Jean-Pierre Kérien ... Otto (as Jean-Pierre Kerien)
Sidney James ... Snake Charmer
Gimma Boys Gimma Boys ... Circus Family Children
Los Arriolas Los Arriolas ... Specialty Act
Gamil Ratib ... Stefan
Pierre Tabard Pierre Tabard ... Paul
Edward Hagopian Edward Hagopian ... 3rd partner of Lola


Mike Ribble was once a great trapeze artist - and the only the sixth to have completed a triple somersault - before his accident. Tino joins the circus, and manages to convince Mike to teach him the 'triple'. Meanwhile Lola, a tumbler, wants to get in on the act. Written by Colin Tinto <cst@imdb.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


The wonder show of the world! See more »


Drama | Romance


Approved | See all certifications »





English | Italian

Release Date:

30 May 1956 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Trapez See more »


Box Office


$4,000,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording) (optical prints)| 4-Track Stereo (Western Electric Recording) (magnetic prints)



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Was the third highest grossing film of 1956. See more »


Bouglione: In my circus there is only one way... MY way.
See more »


Featured in Censura: Alguns Cortes (1999) See more »


Nocturne Op. 9 No. 2 in E flat major
Music by Frédéric Chopin
Played when Lola is trying to get Ribble to notice her
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

"In the end, you'll think about her in the middle of a triple and lose it"
15 March 2009 | by ackstasisSee all my reviews

Carol Reed was one of Britain's most interesting directors, and perhaps most intriguing about his work is his unique brand of stylised realism, the two conflicting moods astutely and unforgettably blended: the handsome, dream-like snow-storm in 'Odd Man Out (1947)'; the woozy war-torn streets of Vienna in 'The Third Man (1949)'; the blending of fantasy against a working-class London background in 'A Kid for Two Farthings (1955).' With 'Trapeze (1956),' Reed deliberately contrasts his use of fantasy and realism. The circus had long held an element of prestige, having spawned a tidy sub-genre of its own, encompassing everything from Lind's 'The Flying Circus (1912)' to DeMille's 'The Greatest Show on Earth (1952).' For decades, the circus has entertained the masses with daring acts of strength and bravery, dangerous animals and extraordinary human performers. But behind this glamour is a less enchanting side of the circus – endless practice sessions, money-hungry managers, and scheming performers who'd place their own interests before those whose lives are being placed in their hands nightly. 'Trapeze' deals with the collision of these two conflicting worlds.

Mike Ribble (Burt Lancaster) was once a great "flyer" of the trapeze, one of the few men who could execute a triple somersault. However, a tragic accident left him with a permanent limp, and Mike has since lost all interest in the sport he once dominated. That, at least, is until Tino Orsino (Tony Curtis) arrives in Paris, a keen acrobat who seeks Mike's expert instruction. That Ribble eventually agrees to the partnership is, of course, a given, and their ultimate accomplishments are never in any doubt, but the interplay between Lancaster and Curtis is authentic and entertaining. Reed depicts the indomitable circus prestige through audience applause and the cheerful melody of the "Blue Danube" waltz. When the antagonism being played out behind-the-scenes inexorably spills out into the performing arena, both the applause and the music comes to a standstill. Thus, interjecting into this fantasy world comes the realisation that the circus performers are only human. The reality suddenly becomes clear: one mistake will spell almost certain death.

Though Mike and Tino make a formidable team, a romantic complication arises in Lola (Gina Lollobrigida), an ambitious acrobat who'd betray her friends and promise love to anybody whom she thought could aid her career. Lola's exploits are contemptible throughout the film, garnering little sympathy from the audience; one might even suggest that the beating she receives at the hands of her former partners is almost justified by her actions. In any case, the film's conclusion is far too kind to her. Lola chases Mike down a quiet Paris street, perhaps a complementary allusion to Holly Martin's shameful snubbing in the final moments of 'The Third Man (1949).' Maintaining the optimism that Reed displayed previously in 'A Kid for Two Farthings,' this ending offers redemption rather than disgrace to Lola, who is seen to have betrayed her companions, much as Martins betrayed Harry Lime and Anna Schmidt. Most impressive of all is Robert Krasker's creative photography, frequently offering the audience a breathtaking "birds-eye" view of the trapeze routines, like leaning over a precipice into open space.

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