In the early years of the 20th century, Matt Masters takes his rambling Wild West Show to Europe. His decision is prompted by his desire to find Lili Alfredo, who disappeared fourteen years earlier following the death of her husband, The Flying Alfredo. At the time it was believed that Alfredo dived to his death deliberately when he realized his wife loved Matt and not him. Toni, a beautiful trapeze performer, raised by Matt is actually Lili's daughter, and she is in love with Steve McCabe, one of the stars on Matt's show. Doing their first show in Barcelona, aboard a ship, the ship keels over and Matt loses his show. Now broke, he leaves for Paris with Toni, Steve and his long-time friend, Cap Carson, to seek a job with Colonel Purdy's Wild West Show. But a year later, Matt has rebuilt his own show. First to be signed is a remarkable 12-year-old wire-walker named Giovana, and her guardian, Tojo the Clown, whose real named is Aldo Alfredo, formerly of the Flying Alfredos. Continuing ...Written by
Les Adams <email@example.com>
Whilst the film is taking place in 1901, there are several mistakes with the European flags. One example is the Finnish flag that is seen in the movie. Finland didn't achieve independence (and the flag) until 1918. See more »
Kid? I am a Woman... with Sicilian blood in her. You ever hear of a vendetta?
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"Circus World" (1964), a grandiose Cinerama film directed by a Hollywood veteran Henry Hathaway, is a paradoxical case. The film was a big production, it had great stars, an acclaimed director, a highly appreciated screenwriter (Ben Hecht), and an even more celebrated writer behind the story (director Nicholas Ray), but yet the film has been, for the most part, forgotten. This is arguably justified since many do not feel that the film has the quality one might hope for. To my mind, the film's peculiarity is mainly due to its strange nature where the elegiac longing is combined with an extravagant approach. The story is very simple (an untold past tragedy casts its shadow on the present as a circus director, played by John Wayne, tries to create a successful show in Europe where he is reunited by his former lover, played by Rita Hayworth), but there's more than that to the film.
By this I do not mean that Hathaway had elaborated a subtle subtext to the film in question or anything like that. I am merely talking about the art of history. First of all, "Circus World" is a film directed, written, and starred by old Hollywood legends. It was also made half a decade after the old studio system started to crumble. Many contemporary critics have later felt that films such as "The Searchers" (1956), "Rio Bravo" (1959), and "North by Northwest" (1959) were the last ones of a kind. "Circus World", on the other hand, is as though a posthumous legacy, in a somewhat similar sense as "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" (1961). Moreover, the film takes place in the early 20th century and dives into the nostalgic world of the circus which often represents a carefree existence of play and work (closely studied in the film of Federico Fellini, for one). While the historical setting seems to echo the film's own production time in this sense (reminiscing about the good old days before the world wars, semi-analogous to the good old days of Hollywood), the film's melancholic tone is further enhanced by the fates of its leading stars. It is well-known that "Circus World" was not only the last film John Wayne made before his lung cancer operation but also the first film where Hayworth's alleged Alzheimer's disease started acting up, causing numerous problems with production. It is as if everyone involved had been through their best days, inevitably casting an impact on the quality of the film in question as well, but still came together to perform in the wild circus world.
This is why, in my opinion, the film's slow pace, effortlessly simple style, and naive story seem appropriate. It all seems to speak to the spectator on another level, so to speak. The film begins with emptiness and ends with fullness. "Circus World" is a film where an old world is softly breathing with modesty and ambition combined.
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