I love the Academy Awards and last year I realized how few of the “Best Picture” winners I’d actually seen. So I made it a goal to see all 83 winners and blog my thoughts about them along the way.

Why did it win? Should another movie have won instead? Has it become a beloved classic or do many of you not even recognize the title? I invite you, my friends and guests, to comment along with me. Do you agree/disagree? I should be fair and place a SPOLIER ALERT on this blog since I’ll be writing about various parts of the movie. So read at your own risk…

I have often told people that I have movie amnesia… I can see a movie and forget all about it years later. So for that reason, I am re-watching the 27 I’ve seen before. That said, if no one visits or reads my blog and I basically perform the online equivalent of talking to a brick wall, that’s fine; if for nothing else, it’ll be my own reminder. Enjoy!

And the Oscar goes to…

Monday, December 31, 2012

The Greatest Show on Earth, 1952

Not Rated

“The Greatest Show on Earth” is most certainly not the Greatest Movie on Earth. It’s such a bummer that I had to end this fun challenge with such a crummy film. The story is obviously one about the circus, Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey’s to be exact. Its part drama, a little comedy, and part documentary. A narrator comes in every once in a while and gives a detailed account (along with visuals) about the tedious jobs involved in setting up or tearing down traveling circuses. Watching the absolutely enormous canvas tents get laid out fascinated me a little bit, I’ll admit, but overall, I was bored throughout a majority of this movie. Many (long) scenes were just like watching a circus (ie. trapeze acts, elephants, tigers, clowns, parades around the rings….).

I’ve never been drawn to the circus, and it’s not for an obvious reason- I’m not afraid of clowns; I just don’t think they’re funny. They were my least favorite part of Cirque du Soleil. Circuses are just weird. I feel bad for the performing animals and hope they’re being taken care of with love. In watching this film, I wondered why it was ever appropriate to make fun of or laugh at homeless people, aka ‘hobos’.

As far as the storyline goes, Brad the circus owner, played pretty poorly by Charlton Heston, is a man “with sawdust in his veins”. He eats, thinks, and breathes his circus. So much so that he doesn’t have time for a high-flying artist, Holly, who apparently is his girlfriend. (Which reminds me… why was “pigeon” ever a term of affection? I remember the Tramp calls Lady that in the Disney movie. If my boyfriend/husband ever referred to me as a disgusting street bird scrounging for scraps of trash, I’d probably punch him in the throat.) Brad hires The Great Sebastian, another high-flyer who will work the center ring, in order to draw up more business. Holly, distraught over being bumped to the second ring is disappointed in Brad and ends up falling for the suave womanizer Sebastian. She yo-yos between the two vying for their love in return. Her character is absolutely pathetic, and Brad’s is a sap for not doing anything about it. Holly is such a poor example for women (almost as bad as Bella Swan from Twilight). She drove me up the wall the entire movie.

 Holly and Sebastian

The film also stars Gloria Grahame, as another circus performer, who is recognizable as Violet Bick in “It’s a Wonderful Life” and Ado Annie from “Oklahoma!”. James Stewart (the lead in “It’s a Wonderful Life”) is also in it… as the clown “Buttons”, who never takes off his make-up. He’s got a dirty little secret that eventually catches up with him. It is a very different role for him and I’m not convinced it was meant for him.
Heston and Stewart
I have no idea why this film won the coveted award. The story was long, melodramatic, and disjointed, the acting was pretty poor, and the special effects were laughable. I know I shouldn’t knock technology in the 50’s, but SO many scenes are obviously green-screened, that I wonder if these actors ever even left their living rooms. One of the most impressive scenes for the time, was the train wreck, which to me looked like bad special effects from an old Thomas the Train episode. By now, you can tell I wouldn’t recommend this film, but if for some reason, you’re dying to see some circus action and have no opportunity to see a real one, then by all means, grab some popcorn and “enjoy” this spectacle. (I’m sure that’s what director Cecil B. DeMille had in mind when this came out… attract crowds whose town couldn’t host a circus- although I wouldn’t call this a “kid’s movie”.)

My sentiments were confirmed when I read that this film has been considered the Academy’s worst choice for the top prize. Critics believe the Academy felt obligated to honor a great director who had not won an award before as his career was coming to an end. The film somehow was nominated for five awards and won two, including Best Writing: Original Story (please). This film’s befuddled competition was “High Noon” (“the western for people who don’t like westerns” which was expected to win), “Ivanhoe”, “Moulin Rouge”, and “The Quiet Man”. “The Bad and the Beautiful” won the most awards this night (5) but was snubbed a nomination for Best Picture. But most shockingly, “Singin’ in the Rain” also came out this year, was only nominated for two awards, and won none! This was the first year that the awards ceremony was televised- bummer it was such a disappointment.


I refuse to say that the circus stunts were my favorite since I’m convinced they were either involving stunt performers or the actors themselves were really only inches off the ground, I will go for a more human scene. Buttons knows the chances are high that he’ll get caught if he hangs around after the train wreck, but he stays to be a physician to the ailing Brad. It was a selfless move that really made me feel bad for him. That was a moment of decent acting.


Everyone makes mistakes. Academy, I hope you learned your lesson.

Work hard to pursue your dream but don’t trample on or ignore people completely on your way to the top.

Parents, do not raise your daughters to be like Holly, thinking she needs a man, any man, to complete her. Teach her to recognize what real love is.

1 comment:

  1. How funny that "singin' in the rain" a true classic not get nominated!!! It is interesting that there were good movies that year. When did the academy start life time achievement awards? So many good artist never do win for an individual film.
    I have enjoyed reading all about your cinematic adventures!