The Greatest Show On Earth is really just that, an amazing visual spectacular. Following around a fictionalized version of Ringling Bros.-Barnum and Bailey circus as they take their show all over the country, the movie feels like, at many times, you are sitting front row snacking on some popcorn.
As I am watching these older movies, I often sit and imagine what it would have been like to see them in their original release. There was no such thing as home theater systems in the 1950's, and I can only imagine that this would have been the event of the decade to catch on the big screen.
Apart from the grand scale of the film, after all it was directed by the master of the epic, Cecil B. DeMille, I am confused as to why it won the Best Picture Oscar. Sure, the story brings some high circus related drama, but the only thing I really enjoyed about the actual story was whenever Jimmy Stewart walked on screen. Playing a clown who's always in character (who, we find out, continually keeps all the face paint on for a reason...), Stewart is always a shining light in every movie he is in.
Since the plot line was not always stimulating, much of the time during the extended performance scenes my brain was working a mile a minute. Mostly, I was recalling circus movie memories. Even though it gives me the ugly cry, I couldn't continue this post without mentioning the greatest circus elephant; Dumbo!
This movie also came up on my list at, coincidentally, a time when my interest in the circus is peaked at an all time high. Real life circus performers from The Big Apple Circus are part of a 6 part documentary, called Circus, which is currently airing on PBS. This is a favorite of mine at the moment.
People are still sacrificing everything in their life just to perform in an art form, that I had no idea was still relevant in today's world! I mean, when was the last time you saw someone walk on a tight rope? The passion of those performing and those who work hard behind the scenes, is at times heartbreaking to watch, but at the same time it reminds us all to continue seeking out what we really want at any cost.
The documentary even follows several people who just picked up and ran away to join the circus crew! This is still an option, and not just an old joke? I might take someone up on that.