Film and Food

Movies reviews with matching food – eat, watch, enjoy

Best Picture – The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)

Starring Betty Hutton, Cornel Wilde & Charlton Heston

Rating 2/10

Firstly, I do not particularly like circuses so I start this review with a slight bias. It’s not that I can’t appreciate the show but  to me it is all sparkle and way too much animal cruelty . A lot like this film.

A lot of grace is required when watching retro films. You know there will be more sexism, racism and political incorrectness seeping out. This movie is full of them; from mocking the obese and the minature to glorifying womanising men. This forms the foundation of this hollow film.

The story is fairly conventional. Circus manager, Brad (Heston) and trapeze artist, Holly  (Hutton) are in love. Then, dash and darn it, that love is threatened when trapeze bad boy ‘The Great Sebastian’ (Wilde) appears. Trouble brews as Holly competes with Sebastian to see who deserves the spotlight in the centre ring. They fall in love, or do they or don’t they or who else falls in love with whoever else? It is confusing and shallow and I just didn’t care.

The circus moves on and there’s more feats of bravery (or stupidity), parades, clowns and music. I swear, if there were no scenes of circus brilliance, the film would have been thirty minutes long. The film moves ssssloooowly through these repetitive scenes with dashes of dialogue thrown in for good measure and a spot of storytelling. Buttons the clown (James Stewart) is slightly intriguing with the makeup that never comes off and his mysterious past but that alone couldn’t save the film.

The only saviours of this film were the costumes, the crash scene and some of the trapeze. But really the film was overloaded in circus nuttery and moved at a snail’s pace for no other obvious reason except to show off how darn clever those circus folk were.

Heston was Heston and Hutton was disgraceful as ditzy Holly without a substantial bone in her body. She flitted between men like she was changing her shoes… quite annoying and really, who would put up with such behaviour?

An Oscar winner? Seriously? Cecil B., surely you could have done better! Having said all that, check it out, it is a spectacle and if you like the circus, you may just like this film.

The Greatest Show on Earth Trivia:

  • Budget – Around $4 000 000
  • All actors/actresses were expected by Cecil B. DeMille to master the circus tricks of the trade for their roles. Which was very scary for Wilde as he was desperately scared of heights and was playing a trapeze artist. Gulp!
  • You know you’ve got a famous director when all the stars want to make cameo appearances in his film. Including: Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Diana Lynn, Mona Freeman, Hopalong Cassidy and Merrill Reese.
  • Heston was cast after waving to Cecil on a Paramount set. He was a relative unknown actor and this was the film to change that.
  • Hutton was cast when she sent DeMille a floral arrangement costing $1000 (is that bribery?). Cecil cast her on the condition that she lose weight on her hips! Growl to you Mr B!

Ok. The rather disappointing circus movie has been done! Tick! Now to a real classic. Next time we are watching From Here to Eternity. Say “Aloha” to Burt Lancaster, Deborah Kerr, Donna Reed and Frank Sinatra… just to mention a few.

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2 comments on “Best Picture – The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)

  1. Pingback: 1983 Oscar Winners | Guide to be a winner

  2. Pingback: Undeserving Best Picture Winners « Oscarclub's Blog

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