Starring: Charlton Heston, Betty Hutton, Cornel Wilde, Jimmy Stewart, Dorothy Lamour, Gloria Grahame
Director: Cecil B. DeMille
Summary: A circus manager and an egotistical trapeze artist vie for the love of a pretty acrobat
Other Nominations: Director, Story*, Color Costume Design, Film Editing
-It’s Cecil B. DeMille, he knows one mode which is big-budget spectacle and he does it well, even if most of the credit goes to Ringling Brothers & Barnum and Bailey because all the footage is from their circus and performers. Back in 1952, seeing this must have been pretty grand and you couldn’t have gotten it from anywhere else. This was the first movie Steven Spielberg ever saw, and he said it helped get him interested in movies.
-Jimmy Stewart and Charlton Heston are the highlights. Stewart is good as always, but I was most impressed by the fact that he does a really good job as an actual circus clown. Heston is his entertaining and hammy self, with his voice reminding me of Phil Hartman if he took himself seriously. This was his breakout role, and he’s the standout among the three leads.
-This movie is incredibly bloated at 2 and a half hours. The biggest problem is the plot is constantly being interrupted by long sequences showing off all the different circus acts which are fun to start, but get old after a while. This was probably a condition for RB&BB to allow their name and performers to be used, but it adds an incredible amount of length to the movie and it makes the whole film seem start-stop.
-There’s a lot of very noticeable green screening in this movie, and a lot of it seems totally unnecessary. Why would you greenscreen a long conversation between two people in an empty arena, a location you clearly have extensive access to since you use it throughout the movie?
This does not live up to its reputation as a bad movie, but it is a bad Best Picture winner. I liked some of the performances and the story is fine, but it has a ton of padding and the grandness of the circus hasn’t aged well in an era where you can just pull up a youtube clip of the circus at any time. It’s just mediocre.