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The Big Circus (1959)

Approved | | Drama | 5 July 1959 (USA)
A circus owner tries to keep his financially troubled circus on the road, despite the efforts of a murderous saboteur who has decided that the show must not go on.


Joseph M. Newman


Irwin Allen (screenplay), Charles Bennett (screenplay) | 2 more credits »
1 nomination. See more awards »




Cast overview:
Victor Mature ... Henry Jasper 'Hank' Whirling
Red Buttons ... Randy Sherman
Rhonda Fleming ... Helen Harrison
Kathryn Grant ... Jeannie Whirling
Vincent Price ... Hans Hagenfeld
Gilbert Roland ... Zach Colino
Peter Lorre ... Skeeter
David Nelson ... Tommy Gordon
Adele Mara ... Maria 'Mama' Colino
Howard McNear ... Mr. Lomax
Charles Watts Charles Watts ... Jonathan T. Nelson
Steve Allen ... Steve Allen


After splitting with his longtime business partner, Hank Whirling is about to take his big top circus on tour. He manages to get a loan and some investment money but has to take on one of their employees, Randy Sherman, to keep an eye on the finances. Sherman immediately hires a new press agent, Helen Harrison, over Hank's objections. After a series of accidents, they soon realize that they have a saboteur in the company. With financial problems increasing, Whirling looks to take the the show to New York City before his former partner Jules Borman can get his circus there. He realizes that he'll need a lot of publicity and trapeze and high wire artist Zach Colino agrees to walk the wire across Niagara Falls. After the circus train is sabotaged - killing Zach's wife and several others - they race to Niagara Falls to complete the high wire act but Zach may not be up it. The saboteur working for Borman bides his time and is planning another death. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Hear the New Song Hit! "THE BIG CIRCUS" See more »




Approved | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


Adele Mara last movie and worked only in TV series until 1978. See more »


The human cannonball is shown climbing up the cannon, kneeling at the top, then swinging around and sliding into its mouth. In the next shot, showing the net in the foreground and the cannon behind, he's seen at the top of the cannon, swinging around and sliding into its mouth a second time. See more »


Skeeter: [as they are watching the Colinos do their act at the press party] Damper, have you ever seen an act like that before in your bank?
Randy Sherman: No, but the air conditioning was much better.
Skeeter: Ohh!
See more »


Referenced in Rubberface (1981) See more »


Nearer To Heaven
Music by Sammy Fain, Paul Sawtell and Bert Shefter, Lyrics by Paul Francis Webster
Performed by Gus Levene Orchestra And Chorus
Sung by Rhonda Fleming
See more »

User Reviews

Better than I expected.
22 March 2016 | by MartinHaferSee all my reviews

"The Big Circus" is going to be a hard film for me to like. After all, the other three big circus spectaculars I've seen ("The Greatest Show on Earth", "Billy Rose's Jumbo" and "Circus World") were incredibly dull films. The only circus-themed films I can recall enjoying were comedies and so I am questioning now why I bothered to watch "The Big Circus"...perhaps I am just a glutton for punishment.

When the film begins, Hank Whirling (Victor Mature) is trying to arrange for a loan to keep his circus afloat. However, the bank is hesitant to make the loan and come up with an idea. Instead of just loaning the money, they'll send one of their people, Randy (Red Buttons), to go hang out with the circus for a few weeks to see if it really is worth the money. In addition, they assign a press agent, Helen (Rhonda Fleming) to go along as well and see if she can do anything to increase business and make the circus more profitable. Not surprisingly, Whirling is not the least bit thrilled by this but since he really has no other choice he accepts the proposition. Through the course of the film, lots of problems pop up but as the saying goes "The Show Must Go On!". But some of these problems might not be accidents...someone might just be deliberately sabotaging the circus!

"The Big Circus" is a bit different from the other three circus films I already mentioned. It seems a tiny bit smaller in scope and the actors tend to be more second-tier in stature. This is NOT necessarily a bad thing as the film seems to rest less on big names and concentrates a little more on entertaining the audience with a script that is at least modesty interesting and entertaining. I didn't love the film but found it kept my interest much more than the other circus epics and is actually worth seeing. I especially liked learning the identity of the saboteur...a really, really interesting choice!

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Release Date:

5 July 1959 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Big Circus See more »


Box Office


$2,000,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Westrex Recording System)



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

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