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Friday, June 19, 2009

Saturday Family Favorite Movie

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To ensure a full profitable season, circus manager Brad Braden engages The Great Sebastian, though this moves his girlfriend Holly from her hard-won center trapeze spot. Holly and Sebastian begin a dangerous one-upmanship duel in the ring, while he pursues her on the ground. Subplots involve the secret past of Buttons the Clown and the efforts of racketeers to move in on the game concessions.


* Cecil B. DeMille was always demanding of his actors and actresses. He insisted that everyone truly learn to perform the circus stunts they were supposed to be performing. This meant that Betty Hutton really learned the trapeze and Gloria Grahame had to let an elephant rest its foot an inch from her face. Cornel Wilde probably had it the worst since he was portraying a high-wire artist. He was seriously afraid of heights in real life.

* Lucille Ball was Cecil B. DeMille's first choice for "Angel", but she became pregnant and was replaced by Gloria Grahame. Paulette Goddard also campaigned strongly for the role but was turned down owing to her reluctance to perform stunt scenes.

* Cameo: [Bob Hope] Circus spectator

* Cameo: [Diana Lynn] Circus spectator

* Cameo: [Bing Crosby] Circus spectator

* Cameo: [Merrill Reese] Circus spectator (Best known as the radio broadcaster for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1977-present, Reese was an unknown nine year old who happened to be at one of the filmed performances.)

* Special effects produced a green halo around Gloria Grahame and Betty Hutton in the Grand Parade scene, so a shot was added of green floodlights turning on above them.

* Rights to use of the title motto and the Ringling Bros.-Barnum & Bailey's facilities and performances were purchased for $250,000. DeMille advised the writers to view the German film Varieté (1925) as a model for the type of story he wanted. DeMille toured the Midwest for two months with the circus, collecting anecdotes, slang, and behind-the-scenes ideas. Publicity resulting from his involvement drew sell-out crowds to the performances.

* Charlton Heston was driving through Paramount Studios when he spotted Cecil B. DeMille, who he had never met. Heston waved. DeMille was so impressed by Heston's wave he made inquires that ultimately led to Heston being cast as Brad in this film. This was only Heston's third film and skyrocketed him to fame. One fan wrote a letter to DeMille on how much she enjoyed the movie and commented, "And I'm surprised how well the circus manager (Heston) worked with the real actors." Heston thought it was one of the best reviews he ever received.

* The first movie that Steven Spielberg ever saw. His father took him to the theater, promising him a trip to the circus. He was four years old at the time.

* Scenes of this motion picture were filmed at the actual winter quarters of the Ringling Bros.-Barnum & Bailey Circus in Sarasota, Florida. Additional scenes were also filmed at an actual circus performance in which the film's actors participated in the Grand Hippodrome Parade with the regular circus performers. If you look very closely at the bottom left-hand portion of the screen during a brief long-shot of the Grand Parade, you can see Mr. Demille's camera unit in a corner of the Hippodrome where the parade takes a turn around the ring, along with Mr. DeMille himself standing next to the camera.

* Cameo: [Mona Freeman] Circus spectator

* While filming this movie, Cecil B. DeMille presented Betty Hutton with the Photoplay Award for favorite actress of 1950 for Annie Get Your Gun (1950). The presentation was filmed and shown on a newsreel.

* During one scene Sebastian (Cornel Wilde) is hanging from the trapeze by his knees. He catches Holly (Betty Hutton) then pulls her up and kisses her. This shot took several takes and during one of the early takes Wilde tore the ligaments in his shoulder. He managed to make it through two more takes, then had to stop. He was unable to use his arm for several days so De Mille shot scenes where he was not needed.

* The voice of the barker is Edmond O'Brien.

* Actor William Boyd, who had become enormously popular playing the character Hopalong Cassidy in a series of films and on television, contributed his cameo in this film -- as himself -- as a favor to director Cecil B. DeMille in repayment for DeMille's having cast him in the showcase role of Simon of Cyrene during DeMille's production of The King of Kings (1927) nearly a quarter of a century earlier. The Simon of Cyrene role in the earlier DeMille production had contributed enormously to Boyd's film career.

* Although the film was shot in 35mm three-strip Technicolor, Paramount did shoot some test footage on the set using its newly developed wide-screen process Vistavision which ran 35mm film horizontally through the camera, exposing two standard frames, eight perforations wide. The footage still resides in the Paramount film library.

* This film is listed among The 100 Most Amusingly Bad Moves Ever Made in Golden Raspberry Award founder John Wilson's book THE OFFICIAL RAZZIE® MOVIE GUIDE.

* During the circus parade finale keyed to appropriate songs, Mickey Mouse and a group of other Disney characters walk around the ring to the tune of "It's A Hap-Hap-Happy Day" from the 1939 animated feature Gulliver's Travels (1939), which was released by Paramount, not Disney.

* Victor Young's big-top music brightened the last of his six consecutive scores for Cecil B. DeMille productions, which began with North West Mounted Police (1940).

* The movie is often cited as the least deserved Best Picture winner ever. It is widely believed the film only won because many members of the Academy were reluctant to vote for the anti-McCarthyite western High Noon (1952), whose screenwriter Carl Foreman had just been blacklisted from Hollywood.

* When Mary Pickford presented the film's producer Cecil B. DeMille with the Oscar for Best Picture (March 19, 1953), not only was it the first time the Academy Awards ceremonies had ever been televised, it was also Pickford's very first television appearance.


Revealing mistakes: When Sebastian misses his mark and falls to the ground, he can be clearly seen landing on a cushioned surface.


Holly: [singing] When things go wrong, and life's no song, and you're flat on your back, that doesn't mean you have to lie there: be a jumping jack!
Buttons: [singing] Keep on the hop, and if you flop, and everything looks black, stand on your head and holler "hi there!" Be a jumping jack!
Holly: When things go up, they must come down, and also visa verse. If things look bad, don't fret and frown - they could be ten times worse!
Buttons: Your train of luck, it may get stuck if something's on the track; give a good jump and you'll get by there...
Holly, Buttons: Be a jumping jack!

Narrator: We bring you the circus, pied piper whose magic tunes greet children of all ages, from six to 60, into a tinsel and spun-candy world of reckless beauty and mounting laughter and whirling thrills; of rhythm, excitement and grace; of blaring and daring and dance; of high-stepping horses and high-flying stars. But behind all this, the circus is a massive machine whose very life depends on discipline and motion and speed. A mechanized army on wheels, that rolls over any obstacle in its path, that meets calamity again and again, but always comes up smiling. A place where disaster and tragedy stalk the big top, haunt the backyard, and ride the circus train. Where death is constantly watching for one frayed rope, one weak link, or one trace of fear. A fierce, primitive fighting force that smashes relentlessly forward against impossible odds. That is the circus. And this is the story of the biggest of the big tops, and of the men and women who fight to make it "The Greatest Show on Earth."

Midway barker: That's all, ladies and gentlemen, that's all. Come again to the greatest show on earth. Bring the children. Bring the old folks. You can shake the sawdust off your feet, but you can't shake it outta your heart. Come again, folks. The Greatest Show on Earth. Come again.

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