The Greatest Show On Earth (1952)

CECIL B. DeMILLE

Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBBB

USA, 1952.  Paramount Pictures.  Story by , , , Screenplay by Fredric M. Frank, , Theodore St. John.  Cinematography by .  Produced by .  Music by .  Production Design by , .  Costume Design by , , .  Film Editing by .  Academy Awards 1952.  Golden Globe Awards 1952.  

Cecil B. DeMille’s tribute to the wondrous world of the Big Top is impressively entertaining, a silly choice for a Best Picture Oscar (the Academy was obviously dead set against awarding more dramatic fare like The Quiet Man or the politically controversial High Noon) but an enjoyable one all the same. An all-star cast comes together to tell the story of a troupe who is suffering financial crises and personal ones. Owner Charlton Heston decides to boost sagging ticket sales by hiring a magnificent trapeze artist (Cornel Wilde), thus bumping his girlfriend  out of the lead spot. Wilde and Hutton go head to head in the rings while, on the ground, the two men battling it on the ground.  James Stewart co-stars as a clown who uses his face paint to hide from a secret past that we learn about throughout the film’s generous 152 minute running time. DeMille never weighs the piece down with too much blather; the dramatic wrinkles are all predictable and suitably left on the fringe while the film concentrates more on its wondrous spectacle and exceptional performance pieces, of which there are plenty.

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