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 <email@example.com>
A July 1957 Variety item noted that screenwriter Daniel Fuchs filed suit for $250,000 and one-sixth of the profits of Trapeze, charging infringement of copyright, break of implied contract and violation of a confidential relationship. Fuchs indicated he wrote a story for Collier's magazine in 1940 entitled "The Daring Young Man" and in 1946 hired Harold Hecht as his agent. Fuchs claimed that, in 1952, he gave Hecht a screenplay adaptation of the story which, by that time, was entitled "Trapeze." The suit charged that in 1955, Trapeze's writers produced and "copied in substantial part" Fuchs's original story. A May 1959 Daily Variety article noted that an out-of-court settlement, "believed to be one of the largest of its kind in motion picture history," ended the two-year litigation. Although none of the parties disclosed the amount of the settlement, one contemporary source estimated it to be about $50,000. See more »
I remember seeing "Trapeze" as a youngster in the mid-1950's. But watching it recently, many decades later, I was surprised at how well it has held up.
Set in a circus in Paris, Mike Ribble (Burt Lancaster), a famous trapeze artist crippled in a fall, trains a promising young aerialist, Tino Orsini (Tony Curtis).
They form a strong bond and aim for Tino to complete a dangerous triple somersault. However, beautiful, ambitious Lola (Gina Lollobrigida) manipulates her way into the act, and the ensuing love triangle proves more dangerous than any somersault.
In the novel that the film was based on, "The Killing Frost" by Max Catto, Mike Ripple's feelings towards Tino Orsini are beyond mere friendship, and he resents the arrival of the woman not just because she is interrupting their training schedule. His jealously leads to murder at the end of the book. Now a gay theme was never going to get past the censor in a 1956 movie so the ending plays out differently, but there is an undercurrent.
It was shot for the most part in the Cirque d'Hiver in Paris. The director Carol Reed and Photographer Robert Krasner, who worked together on "The Third Man", caught the high-flying trapeze work just as brilliantly as they had captured Harry Lime scurrying down those Viennese sewers.
Burt Lancaster with his circus background did many of his own stunts, but Tony Curtis and Gina Lollobrigida also did some: climbing tricky rope ladders and swinging from the platform - enough for you to believe they are really up there.
Kate Buford in her book "Burt Lancaster: An American Life" relates how Burt Lancaster and Gina Lollobrigida did not get on, however it gave their performances bite. Lancaster looks amazing in this film; muscles, teeth and intensity. Curtis really was a star on the rise; he and Lancaster hit it off and starred together again in the brilliant "Sweet Smell of Success". But 'La Lollo' more than holds her own. She looks sensational with a full figure and a waist you could close your hands around.
If I have a criticism, it is with the Malcolm Arnold's score. Arnold scored many British films in the 50's and 60's, and most of them sounded the same - he didn't change gears much for this one.
Uninspired score aside, "Trapeze", with its powerhouse trio of stars and its authentic look, is a film I can happily revisit.
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