THRILL TO CECIL B. DEMILLE’S PAGEANTRY AND EXCITEMENT!
Often labeled one of the worst Best Picture Oscar winners ever, this look at all the drama behind the scenes of a big top circus still is a grand epic. The main focus lies on the rivalry between two trapeze artists, one of whom is romantically involved with the general manager (Charlton Heston), and a clown with a secret past. Having James Stewart play the latter (in clown makeup throughout the movie) is a curious, amusing touch. Incredibly elaborate and colorful, with loads and loads of circus acts performed by real talents. The story is thin though and the spectacular train crash near the end is too obviously a contrivance.
1952-U.S. 153 min. Color. Produced and directed by Cecil B. DeMille. Story: Fredric M. Frank, Theodore St. John, Frank Cavett. Cinematography: George Barnes. Cast: Betty Hutton (Holly), Charlton Heston (Brad Braden), Cornel Wilde (The Great Sebastian), Dorothy Lamour, Gloria Grahame, James Stewart… Lawrence Tierney. Cameos: Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Van Heflin, William Boyd, Edmond O’Brien.
Trivia: Legendary circus manager John Ringling North appears as himself. Marlene Dietrich, Hedy Lamarr, Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas were allegedly considered for the lead roles; Lucille Ball for a smaller part. Followed by a TV series in 1963-1964.
Oscars: Best Picture, Motion Picture Story. Golden Globes: Best Motion Picture (Drama), Director, Cinematography.