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|Charlton Heston||Brad Braden|
|James Stewart||Buttons, a Clown|
|Henry Wilcoxon||Gregory of the FBI|
|Emmett Kelly Jr.||Himself|
|John Ringling North||Himself|
|John Ridgely||Jack Steelman, Assistant Manager|
|Frank Wilcox||Circus Doctor|
|Lillian Albertson||Buttons' Mother|
|Ross Bagdasarian Sr.||Man|
|Robert St. Angelo|
|Bill Boyd||Hopalong Cassidy|
|Lydia Clarke||Circus Girl|
|Lester Dorr||Circus Barker|
|Jimmie Dundee||Utility man|
|Everett Glass||Board member|
|Lou Jacobs||Himself (clown)|
|Fred Kohler Jr.||Fireman|
|Howard Negley||Truck boss|
|John Parrish||Jack Lawson|
|Dale Van Sickel||Man in train wreck|
|Sid Saylor||Circus barker|
|Cecil B. DeMille||Director, Producer|
|Sam Comer||Set Decoration/Design|
|John Cope||Sound/Sound Designer|
|Fredric M. Frank||Screenwriter|
|Edith Head||Costumes/Costume Designer|
|Dorothy Jeakins||Costumes/Costume Designer|
|Gordon Jennigns||Special Effects|
|Devereaux Jennings||Special Effects|
|W. Wallace Kelley||Cinematographer|
|Paul K. Lerpae||Special Effects|
|Harry Lindgren||Sound/Sound Designer|
|J. Peverell Marley||Cinematographer|
|Ray Moyer||Set Decoration/Design|
|Hal Pereira||Art Director|
|Theodore St. John||Original Story, Screenwriter|
|Walter Tyler||Art Director|
|Miles White||Costumes/Costume Designer|
|Henry Wilcoxon||Associate Producer|
|Victor Young||Score Composer|
Much of this film holds up very well. It is not the great film that Cecil B. Demille was trying to make, but a lot of it is beautiful and a lot is effective and moving.
Betty Hutton, Cornel Wilde, Gloria Graham and James Stewart are excellent. Hutton should have received an academy award nomination as she is absolutely convincing as a trapeze artist. Wilde plays a wonderfully amusing arrogant French trapeze artist. Gloria Graham as a cynical elephant trainer and James Stewart, hiding under clown make-up for almost the entire movie, are quite moving in roles that could easily have been cliches.
On the other hand, Charlton Heston's screen debut is rather inauspicious. He looks like a male model, overacts (probably taking too much direction from Demille) and lacks emotional range. Dorothy Lamour is sadly wasted in a bit part. After starring in three films in 1949 that did not do well, her terrific career went into a death spiral. This film did not help.
The main plot involves a love quadrangle with Hutton, Graham, Heston and Wilde. This is complex and involving. Two subplots involving competition between Hutton and Wilde for star billing and Stewart trying to escape his past work very well too. A fourth subplot concerning a robbery is childish and almost ruins the picture.
The movie won an Oscar for best picture of 1952. It was not a great year for films, but "Singing in The Rain" and "High Noon" both should have beaten it. It was also the highest grossing movie at the box office that year.
The movie attempts to show a time when the circus was "the Greatest Show on Earth". It actually succeeds in this rather well. The acts are quite entertaining and they add enough "wow" to make this a near great film. It may not be the greatest show on Earth, but this film is one of the good films of the 1950's.
Posted May 7, 2010
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