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.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.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.
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.
- Aug 23, 2017