The Smallest Show on Earth

Overview

The Smallest Show on Earth is a gentle, frequently uproarious takeoff of Britain's neighborhood-cinema industry. Real-life husband and wife Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna star as Matt and Jean Spencer, a middle-class couple who inherit a decrepit movie house in a tiny railroad whistle stop. They also inherit the theater's ancient, doddering employees: bibulous ticket-taker Percy Quill Peter Sellers, former silent-movie accompanist Mrs. Fazackalee Margaret Rutherford and doorman/janitor old Tom Bernard Miles. ...
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Overview

The Smallest Show on Earth is a gentle, frequently uproarious takeoff of Britain's neighborhood-cinema industry. Real-life husband and wife Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna star as Matt and Jean Spencer, a middle-class couple who inherit a decrepit movie house in a tiny railroad whistle stop. They also inherit the theater's ancient, doddering employees: bibulous ticket-taker Percy Quill Peter Sellers, former silent-movie accompanist Mrs. Fazackalee Margaret Rutherford and doorman/janitor old Tom Bernard Miles. Making the best of things, the Spencers set up shop going through the usual travails of small-time cinema owners: substandard projection and sound reproduction, a dismal selection of films all they can afford is American B-Westerns, and sundry mishaps with the audience. Just when they're about to write off the theater as a loss, crafty old Tom comes up with an underhanded but effective method to allow the Spencers to make a huge profit on their shaky enterprise. Though chock full of entertaining vignettes, the best and most poignant scene in The Smallest Show on Earth finds the three elderly employees tearfully reveling in a nostalgic screening of the 1924 silent film Comin' Thro' the Rye.
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Dan Friedman
The Smallest Show on Earth is a little slip of a film from Britain in the tradition of later films such as Cinema Paradiso and The Majestic, along with a hoard of others that try to incestuously convey what a wonderful experience going to the movies can be. Although that's a laudable and often entertaining premise, in this film it is literally the only thing going for it besides an early cinema appearance by Peter Sellers in a supporting role, giving an indication of his amazing versatility playing a septagenarian while in his thirties. There are very quaint and decent performances by the cast, including British stalwarts Virginia McKenna, Bill Travers, Margaret Rutherford, and Leslie Phillips. Travers and McKenna play a young couple who inherit a movie theater and find (surprise!) that it's a run-down antique and in danger of being bought out by the larger theater up the street. Naturally, they decide to refurbish it in the hopes of increasing the offer price but instead come to discover that the joy of the movies means a lot more than they thought it did. Clichés abound, but since the film was made in the late fifties, it's easy to see where a lot of later productions, whether intentionally or not, used many of the same conventions and made them rote. The film has been re-released on video as part of a Sellers collection but its inclusion in that category is paper-thin given his screen time. However, it is very enjoyable as a diversion and, for those who appreciate the days of film gone by, a well-crafted slice of entertainment.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 9/19/1997
  • UPC: 056775602338
  • Original Release: 1957
  • Rating:

  • Source: Madacy Records
  • Format: VHS

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Bill Travers Matt Spenser
Virginia McKenna Jean Spenser
Leslie Phillips Robin Carter
Peter Sellers Percy Quill
Margaret Rutherford Mrs. Fazackalee
Bernard Miles Old Tom
Francis de Wolff Hardcastle
June Cunningham Marlene Hogg
Sidney James Mr. Hogg
Michael Corcoran Taxi Driver
George Cormack Bell
George Cross Commissioner
Stringer Davis Emmett
Sam Kydd
Technical Credits
Basil Dearden Director
William Alwyn Score Composer
John Eldridge Screenwriter
Harry Frampton Makeup
Leslie Gilliat Associate Producer
Sidney Gilliat Producer
Oswald Hafenrichter Editor
Allan Harris Art Director
Frank Launder Producer
Muir Mathieson Musical Direction/Supervision
Anthony Mendleson Costumes/Costume Designer
John Pellatt Production Manager
Michael Relph Producer
William Rose Screenwriter
Jeff Seaholme Camera Operator
Douglas Slocombe Cinematographer
Wally Veevers Special Effects
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