Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Greatest Show on Earth

The Greatest Show on Earth; drama, USA, 1952; D: Cecil B. DeMille, S: Charlton Heston, Betty Hutton, Cornel Wilde, James Stewart

Brad is the owner of a circus show that travels from town to town. He is secretly in love with Holly who works as a trapeze artist, yet hires star Sebastian who is much better than her and who becomes the new main attraction. Besides that, Brad constantly has to repel con-artists from the circus territory. After Sebastian falls and breaks his arm, he loses confidence in himself so Holly directs all his attention to him. When some people try to rob the train that transports the circus, there is a crash and Brad gets hurt, yet clown Buttons heals him. Buttons gets arrested by the police who suspect him of killing his wife.

In '06, the American film magazine "Premiere" placed "The Greatest Show on Earth" on its list of the 10 worst Oscar winners of all time while the critics site gave it an average grade of only 5.2 out of 10. Indeed, after winning 3 Golden Globes (best picture - drama, director, cinematography) and 2 Oscars (best picture, screenplay), this film, Cecil B. DeMille's penultimate achievement, started becoming pretty disputed by critics worldwide who preferred other classics released that same year. Still, even though its running time is 150 minutes, "Show" is interesting almost every minute because it abounds with wacky details of Fellini's calibre (a giraffe with a soar throat; a surprised manager drops a pipe from his mouth; a fat man with a high-pitch voice; a priest that is blessing the train...) and mostly doesn't pretend to be something more than it is. In essence, "Show" is like a circus - it doesn't contain any answers or deep insights from life, but it's fun, humorous, vibrant and accessible. The time forgot this film, but it's still sympathetic in it's simple analysis of bitter-sweet lives of entertainers, while James Stewart has a small role as clown Buttons, a man who is constantly hiding his face behind make up.


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