Review by Tres
The Greatest Show on Earth first arrived in 1952 directed by none other than Cecil B. DeMille, who also insisted on being the narrator for his film. It is an extravaganza of images of the circus. My first introduction to this film was with my great-grandfather when I was in third grade. Grandma made us some homemade chocolate chip cookies and I sat on the floor in front of his gigantic 13 inch television watching with amazement. The nostalgia of my great-grandparents laughter and us enjoying this movie is one of my fondest memories of them.
The main character is a young Charlton Heston who plays Brad the circus manager. This was early on in his career, before Ben Hur, Moses, and George Taylor from Planet of the Apes, and yet his charisma was ever present.
His gal pal that is in love with him, though he doesn’t focus on her is a young Betty Hutton. Her character is the star of the center ring at the beginning of the movie, until financial problems force her Beau to replace her. Her other most popular roll is from the 1950 Annie Get Your Gun. Though not acting in many movies, her voice has been heard on many even up through 2011’s God Bless America.
On top of that is an endearing character, Buttons, played by my favorite actor, Jimmy Stewart. Jimmy is credited for almost a hundred films from playing the Marsh Williams, Elwood Dowd in Harvey, and the ever popular George Bailey from It’s a Wonderful Life. Though you never see Jimmy’s face, pother than in a snap shot, his familiar voice and facial expressions shine through the make-up.
We begin with a financially struggling Ringling Bros circus where the shareholders and owners only want to do a partial season. Speaking for all of the circus performers, Brad argues to get a full season for the circus performers and all the small towns who deserve a circus as well. The main problem is having an act to bring in the crowds; The Great Sebastian, played by Cornel Wilde, is the answer. The problem with the Great Sebastian is that he is a wild womanizer that pushes things too far.
Throughout the movie you’re treated to the amazing scenes of true actors and actresses doing their own performances. A little known fact is that DeMille required all of his actors and actresses to learn their skill set: trampolines, high wires, elephants stepping on your face, etc. He wanted it to look real and that is exactly what you get.
This movie has everything you could look for in a movie: action, drama, romance, comedy, suspense, mystery and even a massive train wreck.
The negatives of the film; according to today’s standards, some of the filming leaves a little to be desired and the biggest negative is the train wreck. The train is obviously a model when the wreck takes place. However, those are the only two negatives that I have for this movie.
I connect with Brad (Heston) who is focused on his job. His job comes first. He takes care of everyone and everything. He knows what the circus people need and want. He knows what the animals all need and how to cure their ailments. He also knows every safety measure to make the circus a success. He puts himself and his needs to the side to make sure the circus has the best. Jesus did that for us on the Earth. He didn’t worry about his comforts or his needs. He put God’s work first and focused on the needs of his kingdom. He knew what the church needed and he delivered it.
As I mentioned earlier, Buttons (Stewart), is my favorite actor. He plays a clown who is always in make-up, even when the circus isn’t performing. There’s a reason for this, which adds the suspense and mystery to the movie. [I won’t give key points away here.] Buttons offers advice, counseling, and true friendship to the circus family. In the end, he has to make a tough decision; a basic right versus wrong. It’s a decision we face every day in our lives: to do the right things which is the toughest choice, or to go the easy way though it’s the wrong path. Jesus referred to this when he compared the wide path of destruction and the narrow path to heaven. Few would choose to take the difficult path that Buttons does. Sadly, few will take the path to heaven that Jesus has established for us as well.
I would recommend this movie to anyone. It’s a classic, must see. 50’s superstars doing their own stunts and performing with live animals all the time. A heartfelt to desire to make a family entertaining
movie for the whole family. A Classics success!
From me, I give it a 4.5 out of 5. Some of the filming leaves things to be desired, but it is 61 years old.
The Greatest Show on Earth is truly one of the greatest movies on earth (for me).