Cecil B. DeMille's Greatest Show on Earth

1953 Oscar Winner for Best Picture.

I can’t quite decide if it’s a shockingly ill-conceived frankenstein hybrid of a documentary and a half-hearted drama - or a really neat, unique little movie.

However, there is one moment in the film that engenders so much goodwill with me that I can’t really dislike it - during a musical number by Dorothy Lamour, the camera pans in a closeup over some of the spectators, which include Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, munching away on popcorn as their “Road” movie co-star is performing.

It would’ve been a perfect moment if only they’d had a line or two, but even without, it was a nice touch.

It was Charlton Heston’s second feature film role, and in his autobiography he talked a lot about it. The panther, the elephants, and so on. He said that DeMille told him afterward that the studio got a letter from a fan, who complimented the acting of the “circus manager” amongst all the* real* actors. Heston said he didn’t know if he should feel good that he turned in a performance that was good enought to make someone think he was actually in the circus, or feel bad that someone thought he wasn’t a real actor.

Whatever else you might call this movie, it’s not little.

Personally I can’t stand it, but some of that is ancient ancestral prejudice. “The Greatest Show on Earth” was the theme for my mother’s senior yearbook and she was on staff, so she had to sit through the thing more times than any human should be made to endure.

Well, granted, it runs for 150 minutes, but only about 30 or 40 of that is plot.

It was also interesting to try and relate it to the other movies I saw this weekend - I try to pick out common threads between all the movies I watch over a short span - Fantastic Four; this, Rocky Horror Picture Show, and De Sade’s Justine.

I did manage it, though.