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The Greatest Show on Earth Reviews

Page 1 of 15
cosmo313
cosmo313

Super Reviewer

November 14, 2011
Directed by the legendary helmer of epics Mr. Cecil B. DeMille, this star-studded spectacle which takes a look at the cicrcus world during the golden age of rail-traveling circuses has garnered a reputation over the years for being a big stinkbomb, and one of the worst films to win the Oscar for Best Picture.

I will admit that the film really isn't all that great ,and that it didn't really deserve the top honors, but ya know what? It really isn't quite that bad, and it's reputation over the years is rather unfair. Oh sure, it is junk, but at least it's watchable junk.

The subject matter is fine, and this film isn't without its redeeming qualities, but it has plenty of issues as well. The main focus is on three interconnected storylines, all of which involve circus performers, love triangles, and various struggles to keep everything running smoothly despite all the drama.

The film is overlong, and defintiely in need of some serious trimming and tigtening up. It's also rather silly, cheeky, and somewhat dated. A fair amount of the acting is rather over the top, and at the times the film really descends into being a soap operish melodrama, but it is quite fun, and actually finds a way to not be boring.

Where the film really shines is in the great stuntwork, circus act perforances, and some great setpieces. There's even a train crash, which, while coming off as pretty phony now, is still decently done and entertaining. De Mille was rather insistent on making the actors do much of their own stunt work, and he employed real members of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circuses to serve as extras, consultants, and to help the actors be more authentic. It's mostly works. I mentioned some of the acting could have been better, but it's not all bad.

Charleton Heston stars as the big boss Brad BRaden, a no-nonsense guy who has a lot of things to deal with in order to ensure that things run smoothly and that the show goes on. The great Lawrence Tierney has a small role as a shadowy underworld figure named Henderson who has his sights set on taking control of Brad's operations. In probably the film's best role though, we get Jimmy Stewart as an enigmatic clown named Buttons.

All in all, this film is a mess, but it's not quite as bad as it gets made out to be. I am somewhat inflating my grade, but that's mostly because the film does have a lot of good stuff going on. I wouldn't have minded if there would have been a lot more depth and subtext, as well as some darker moments, but unfortunately Darren Aronofsky and Christopher Nolan weren't directing here. It'd be cool if either of them did something like this though, cuz you can bet the results would be quite awesome.

So yeah, it is flawed and it's more hollow fluff and spectacle than anything else, but I wasn't ever bored, and, it didn't deserve Best Picture, but there's plenty other wnners of the top prize that are far worse than this.
Matheus C

Super Reviewer

August 10, 2011
Para as gerações mais recentes, quando o circo é mencionado a primeira relação que deve ser feita é com os espetáculos pirotécnicos e acrobáticos de grupos como o Cirque Du Soleil. Para gerações passadas, as imagens relacionadas ao circo são de inocência e nostalgia: o grande espetáculo chegando à cidade, filas enormes de famílias agrupadas para terem a chance de ver um leão ou um tigre de verdade, crianças com a boca cheia de algodão doce e a grande lona abrigando palhaços e malabaristas. Apesar da atual decadência da arte circense, é este tipo de espetáculo que O Maior Espetáculo da Terra nos remete, de uma época onde o circo à moda antiga era uma grande atração. O filme foi dirigido pelo grande Cecil B. DeMille, conhecido por seus épicos grandiosos como Sansão e Dalila e Os Dez Mandamentos. Apesar de fugir do cenário bíblico de época, O Maior Espetáculo da Terra pertence à mesma categoria de filme espetáculo (como o próprio título diz) dos outros dois. De fato, ele foi popular o bastante na época para ganhar o Oscar de Melhor Filme de 1952, algo que hoje é considerado um dos maiores erros da Academia.

Acompanhado de uma pomposa narração feita pelo próprio DeMille, somos apresentados a uma equipe do circo Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey. Brad Braden (Charlton Heston) é o durão gerente do circo que vive pelo seu trabalho ("Você tem serragem nas veias" lhe dizem). Ele convence os chefões do espetáculo que este deve se apresentar por uma temporada completa, para a alegria de seus integrantes. Entre estes encontramos Holly (Betty Hutton), a trapezista da equipe que tem um flerte amoroso com Brad, e o palhaço Buttons (James Stewart), que apesar de ser adorado por todos possui um passado misterioso. Brad comunica que, para aumentar a popularidade do circo, irá contratar o Grande Sebastian (Coronel Wilde), um trapezista cuja fama deve assegurar a venda de ingressos. Holly, que estava disposta a se apresentar no picadeiro central, não se agrada com a idéia de ter de dividir a atenção do público, se mostrando disposta a fazer de tudo para ser o núcleo dos aplausos. O que ela não contava é que ela iria cair sob o charme de Sebastian, e enquanto os dois travam uma batalha no picadeiro, Holly também tem que cuidar para não deixar Brad ser encantado por sua rival Angel (Gloria Grahame).

Com um enredo tão simples e em vezes até medíocre, é uma surpresa que O Maior Espetáculo da Terra também tenha ganhado o Oscar de Melhor História (precursor do prêmio de Melhor Roteiro Original). O melodramático triângulo amoroso parece ser apenas uma desculpa para unir todas as inumeráveis cenas de picadeiro, com os rasos personagens recebendo pouca atenção, especialmente o palhaço interpretado por James Stewart que tinha o potencial para se tornar o mais interessante deles. Charlton Heston aparece em seu primeiro papel de destaque e divide a atenção da heroína com o canastrão Coronel Wilde. Seu Brad Braden é o único personagem que parece realmente ser apaixonado pelo seu trabalho no circo - ainda que esta paixão seja mais de um ponto de vista administrativo e megalomaníaco do que artístico, e de uma condição do roteiro do que da atuação do ator. Quanto ao resto dos personagens, eles são apresentados como trabalhadores e esforçados, mas não existe entre eles a preocupação de criar a mágica e a ilusão do circo. Todos seus interesses parecem ser meramente interessados nos olhso do público (ao menos até os momentos finais), como Holly e seu desejo de ocupar o picadeiro central. Por não entrar ilustrar melhor tais detalhes e por fugir de mostrar a hierarquia entre os profissionais por trás da grande lona, O Maior Espetáculo da Terra falha ao tentar apresentar uma visão dos bastidores da vida circense.

Como já mencionado, a produção se destaca na categoria de "cinema espetáculo", e sua maior intenção parece ser apresentar o circo na tela grande. Intercalado em meio ao ralo enredo (ou seria ao contrário) são diversas cenas em que vemos o mundo circense ganhar vida em "glorioso Technicolor". Em uma enorme parada de cores e vestuários suntuosos, vemos trapezistas saltando sobre a platéia, carros alegóricos cruzando o picadeiro e até mesmo alguns números musicais. Feito em associação com o verdadeiro circo Barnum and Bailey, o filme se destaca no quesito de produção, dando uma autêntica ilusão de como era um espetáculo circense da época (ao menos um de alto orçamento). De fato, DeMille parece tão preocupado com a sedução visual que a maior parte da exagerada duração do filme (152 minutos) é gasta com tais cenas. Para criar alguma tensão nos momentos finais, um personagem surge do nada afim de alguns problemas para o grupo, mas tudo soa apenas como mais uma manobra calculada do roteiro.

Apesar de não ser um filme verdadeiramente ruim, o fato de ter ganhado o Oscar de Melhor Filme colocou O Maior Espetáculo da Terra na posição número um de várias listas de "piores filmes a terem ganhado o Oscar". Ainda que tais afirmações sejam sempre discutíveis dependendo da ótica sob a qual o filme é analisado, a produção de DeMille é um deleite aos olhos como um picadeiro colorido, mas oco como uma lona vazia. Para melhores filmes ambientados no mundo circense, procure O Circo de Charles Chaplin, Monstros de Tod Browning ou até mesmo Dumbo de Walt Disney.
deano
deano

Super Reviewer

February 26, 2007
The 1952 Oscar winner for best picture succeeds in the same manner as its subject, the circus; it's enjoyable family entertainment. Three major stories of backstage circus life all work and blend well in this film.
Jason O

Super Reviewer

September 13, 2009
Wow, can't believe the negative ratings this movie's getting. Sure, the love story part of the plot is a bit overbearing at times, but to watch all the acrobats and the circus!! I've only ever been to one circus, but this makes me want to go back to one as soon as I can, and I loved the movie altogether. Take your bad ratings with you when you go, and while I go to the circus. Very deserving movie.
Fernando Rafael Q

Super Reviewer

June 27, 2009
Although I've only seen 22 of them, I seriously doubt "The Greatest Show on Earth" is the worst "Best Picture" Oscar winner ever.

TGSOE only suffers from a slightly long running time and some overacting by Betty Hutton and Charlton Heston. The rest is really fun and enjoyable, just as the circus should be.

Solid work by the cast and director DeMille, as well as a very special appearance by the great Jimmy Stewart.
Lafe F

Super Reviewer

August 15, 2007
A circus which has every cool act imaginable. It gets a bit soap-operish.
garyX
garyX

Super Reviewer

March 3, 2007
Films about circuses are invariably rubbish, and this is no exception. Clumsy melodramatic soap opera that's wall-to-wall cliches. Only James Stewart's enigmatic clown piques any interest at all.
Leigh R

Super Reviewer

October 17, 2006
So cool...
John B

Super Reviewer

October 3, 2013
Likely the least memorable best picture of all time. It doesn't get steady airplay for good reason. The train wreck is of course the highlight and it doesn't stand the test of time in terms of leaving an impression on the viewer.
Cameron W. Johnson
Cameron W. Johnson

Super Reviewer

June 3, 2012
This is most certainly not the greatest show on earth, as the critics nowadays will surprisingly tell you. Overly nostalgiac critics have deemed most everything by everyone and, especially, their grandmother from '70s and back a masterpiece, so you know that this film has to be a mess, and yet, it still won Best Picture. No wonder a lot of the filmmakers and marketers were more lenient, almost to the point of thinking that we're stupid, because we must have actually been stupid. Either that, or the Oscars really were never credible; it's just that they didn't have enough critics back in the 1950s to tell them what to like and what not to. Maybe people were just so disappointed that they fooled themselves into thinking that this was bad, because when they here that Charlton Heston is in an epic (Wow, really, he is?) that has "The Greatest" in the title, they were expecting much more, because this wasn't the last Charlton Heston epic to flaunt "The Greatest" in its title, only to fall quite decidedly flat on those promises with the critics. Of course, this is not quite as underrated as "The Greatest Story Ever Told", though it is still not quite as bad as some would make it sound. Still, make no mistake, the critics aren't entirely wrong in their, well, criticisms.

At 152 minutes, this production wears the disguise of being an epic, when in actuality, it is merely yet another awesome testament to the common flaw of padding within classic storytelling, with hardly enough sweep to drown out the excess. Tremendous over focus on the circus and other rather superfluously overused aspects riddled the film and becomes fairly repetition fairly quickly, though not quite as much as the plot, such as it is. The film's story structure is limited in material, leaving repetition so quickly set in and plague the storyline to no end, leaving it on a loop underwhelming happenings and redundance, with the aforementioned superfluous material breaking up the plot points so frequently to where it exacerbates the emotional rift. Still, what is just as problematic about the story, if not more so, is the fact that it is just so startlingly and laughably melodramatic, plagued with cliched histrionics and cheesiness to further damage substance value, while it, by its own right, goes further tainted by poor dialogue and a small of remarkably terrible performances that really can't afford to be terrible, whether it be the overbearing Betty Hutton or, well, the once again dated and hammy Charlton Heston. So, to summarize, the film is padded out, uneven, repetitious, often poorly acted, laughably melodramatic and with limited plot, and yet, it still won Best Picture. Still, while the film is certainly not Best Picture material, as many will tell you now, it remains a likable effort. True, the effort misses quite a bit, to where it can never fully recover to the state of genuinely good, yet what the film lacks in substance, it all but makes up with entertainment value, or if nothing else, style.

The film heavily revolved around the production, and if it's going to do that, and hardly anything else, it better be a good show. Well, sure enough, while this is certainly not as good of a show as it says it is in the title, the art direction remains pretty sharp, with lively and elaborate designs of dazzling style to both capture the spectacle of the circus and the audience's attention. This fine style captures the audience's aesthetic side, yet what is most likely to really win an enjoying viewer over has got to be the atmosphere spawned by an emotional dissatisfying, yet effectively charming direction by Cecil B. DeMille. The innocence of the picture is piercing, providing a comfortable tone of pure entertainment, something that this film is, if nothing else. The film's ambition is palpable, and there in lays the film's saving grace of winning charm, when it could have gone saved by mere sympathy. The film is genuinely entertaining, with nifty concepts and livliness that stands to be immensely better groomed for substance's sake, yet still go kept alive by the inspiration behind the film's themes. Don't get me wrong, mediocrity looms over this film through and through, yet never lands that strike, with competence in style and atmospheric charm fighting back and ultimately pulling this picture from the mud to the admirable state of, not camp, but bonafide fun.

As the show shuts down, it's hard to forget the familiar, or rather, the cliches, as well as notable poor dialogue and lead performances that haunt this overly melodramatic plot of limited prevalence, creating an emotional distance pushed further back by repetition, unevenness and unrelenting excess material, yet with a handsome style winning over the aesethic side of the audeince, as well as a commendably inspired atmosphere of charm winning over the entertainment hungry, "The Greatest Show on Earth" survives its falls to stand as a heavily flawed, yet undeniably enjoyable and dazzling example of classic cinematic entertainment.

2.5/5 - Fair
Stephen E

Super Reviewer

January 12, 2013
"The Greatest Show on Earth" has been called the worst of the Best Picture Oscar winners, and for pretty good reason, too. What starts as a promising drama about circus life (as dumb as that sounds) ends as a bloated, motionless mess. The two and a half hour running time certainly hinders its capabilities as a drama; there's so much time wasted on pointless musical numbers and circus acts that we stop caring about what happens next. Besides a spectacular train crash sequence, Charlton Heston's sturdy performance and James Stewart in clown garb, "The Greatest Show on Earth" isn't all that great. It's ambitious, yes, but a small failure nonetheless.
Over the Rising Sun
Over the Rising Sun

Super Reviewer

May 15, 2010
Despite being an ostentatious and colorful production, Cecil B. Demille's Oscar Winning circus extravaganza begs you not o watch it with pungent melodrama, glacial pacing, and awful direction. Easily the worst movie to ever win Best Picture. 32/100
Lord Naseby
Lord Naseby

Super Reviewer

April 26, 2010
do you ever have people tell you how much a certain movie sucks and then you watch it and go "they're exactly right". that was my experience with this film.I cannot deny the visuals of this movie (it is probably the only reason that it won). the rest of the film was horrible. There were two okay parts about this movie, Jimmy Stewart and the visuals. nothing else. The acting was bad, the plot was bad, it was just a bad movie. there is little else to say. the thing is is that the film thinks it is really good. you can tell the film makers thought that they were making a great movie (and they did win Best Picture incorrectly might I add). Final Verdict: it sucked. the Best Picture win was a HUGE mistake. Replacement Winner (as of right now): The Quiet Man.
Ivan D

Super Reviewer

April 15, 2010
Very enjoyable and genuinely suspenseful, like watching a live top rate circus show, only this time, with a special pass in the backstage for some Hollywood drama. The only reason why it's one of the few best picture winners with a rotten rating in the tomatometer is because it has defeated more superior films for the Best Picture. Now, forget about that Oscar notoriety for a while, and you still have great entertainment in its purest form, with good performances from Charlton Heston and especially James Stewart as Buttons. Maybe "The Greatest Show on Earth" is not art, but its not trying to be, because its mere target is to present the thrills and excitement of a live circus show, and merge it with the scope of cinema.
lizzardb72688
lizzardb72688

Super Reviewer

May 31, 2008
A highly entertaining, suspenseful extravaganza... I'm gonna type that word again... extravaganza... cool...
February 18, 2013
Best Picture Winner of 1952, this movie is usually referenced as one of the worst Best Picture winners. While it might not be as deep or groundbreaking as most films, this docu-drama about the behind the scenes of a traveling circus works because of its showstopping acts. The drama in between is standard fare, but its A-list stars and director pull all the stops to make it an entertaining two and-a-half hours.

Grade: B
rodjeckrich
December 9, 2012
Unfairly known as the worst Best Picture Oscar, which is subjective anyways as anyone can argue a case for every win int he Academy's history. This does give a look inside the circus in the 50's and captures a magic that isn't seen in movies today. Yes some of it is a little hammy but Stewart as the clown as well as a lot of the circus authenticity make this entertaining, at least for me.
December 19, 2011
an entertaining film on a grand and epic scale....a very authentic-feeling circus experience. in a way I would have just liked this to be a 2 and a half hour circus show, because although some of the acts (like the whole parade sequence) dragged, they were a heck of a lot better than the love story. definitely not one of Charlton Heston's finer performances, and the whole love triangle with Hutton and Wilde was really bland. Gloria Grahame's character was much more interesting and amusing--if only she was featured more. there were still plenty of highlights though--the clowning of Jimmy Stewart and Emmett Kelly, the cameo of Hope and Crosby in the audience during Dorothy Lamour's number, the animal acts, the trapeze artists...all very entertaining. the weakest part about this movie was the plot. everything else was fine.
jscottcorley
July 27, 2010
Although the exposition and forced drama make the first 30 minutes a bit painful to get through, I have to give this 3 stars for the spectacle of the circus and how it was brought to the screen. A Wonderful World of Disney-esque narrated section in the middle makes me think DeMille could have made an amazing documentary instead of just an average epic.
catbox9
March 5, 2010
Cecil DeMille's The Greatest Show on Earth is a story about a circus. The movie is full of real circus acts. It stars Charlton Heston as the circus manager along with a bunch of other people. There's a story mixed in but it's more circus acts than anything. The film won best picture over more highly-acclaimed films and is often cited as amongst the worst best picture winners of all-time.

72/100
C-
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