The Big Circus (1959) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Big Circus (1959)





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Victor Mature, in one of his last leading man performances, plays Hank Whirling, the owner of a financially shaky circus who is trying to get back on his feet, despite cutthroat competition from a rival organization. He also has a younger sister (Kathryn Grant) to watch out for. After arranging for a bank loan, he discovers that he's got two new members of "management" to contend with: persnickety bank officer Randy Sherman (Red Buttons), who is put there to safeguard the loan, and press agent Helen Harrison (Rhonda Fleming), who is hired by Sherman to help get the Whirling Circus some publicity. Hank can't abide the presence of either of them, or, more to the point, the idea of sharing his authority, though Randy means well and Helen is very good to look at and does know her job. The circus owner can barely take the time to deal with either of them, however, with shows to give and an apparent saboteur at work, who grows bolder with each passing day and finally starts getting people killed. In the course of trying to save the show, aerialist Zack Colino (Gilbert Roland) commits himself to a headline-making publicity stunt -- covered heavily by television news as well -- that Helen merely rattles off without thinking, of walking a wire across Niagara Falls. Colino also figures heavily in the denouement, a tense chase under the big top that develops as the man responsible for the train wrecks, escaped animals, fires, and other sabotage is identified and goes on the run.more
Rating: Unrated
Genre: Drama, Action & Adventure
Directed By: ,
Written By: Irving Wallace, Charles Bennett, Irwin Allen
In Theaters:
On DVD: Jun 22, 2009
Warner Bros.


Rhonda Fleming
as Helen Harrison
Victor Mature
as Henry Jasper 'Hank' ...
Red Buttons
as Randy Sherman
Kathryn Grant
as Jeannie Whirling
Vincent Price
as Hans Hagenfeld
Gilbert Roland
as Aerialist
Peter Lorre
as Skeeter
David Nelson
as Tommy Gordon
Adele Mara
as Mama Colino
Howard McNear
as Mr. Lomax
Charles Watts
as Jonathan Nelson
Steve Allen
as Guest Star
Show More Cast

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Critic Reviews for The Big Circus

All Critics (1)

Backstage at the circus, with colorful acts, a look at the business aspects of a circus, and a pioneering feminist heroine.

Full Review… | August 16, 2012
Classic Film and Television

Audience Reviews for The Big Circus


Everything but the kitchen sink is thrown in to this colorful pageant about the struggle for a circus's survival . It's bright but empty however Peter Lorre playing a clown is genius casting.

jay nixon

Super Reviewer


Low-budget version of DeMille's "The Greatest Show on Earth." Here, future Master-of-Disaster Irwin Allen stages a couple minor disasters, and has one off camera (a train wreck, like in TGSOE). Is it wrong that I wanted to see the train wreck on camera? C'mon, it's Irwin Allen, creator of "The Poseidon Adventure," etc. Oh, well!

The movie's pretty routine, routinely cast, with the exception of Red Buttons, who is very good. Lots of melodrama, but some good circus sequences. And, it's in CinemaScope, unlike TGSOE, which came out a year before the widescreen process.

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