The Greatest Show on Earth, a two-time Oscar winner, makes its arrival on Blu-ray for the first time via the Paramount Presents line.
In watching this film, I couldn’t help but notice a few things. It won Best Picture over High Noon and the not-nominated-for-Best Picture Singin’ in the Rain. The latter of which is one of the best films ever. You can consider 1952 a year in which the Academy would award another film if they could do it over. That may be just me but who knows. In addition to Best Picture, the film also won for Best Story. The film was also nominated for Director, Editing, and Costume Design.
Perhaps what made this film so impressive for the era was how DeMille incorporated the actual Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey’s Circus. This film may have been the top money earner of 1952 but it’s very telling that it’s taken almost 70 years for a Blu-ray release. Blu-rays have been around for many years and yet, this is the first-ever release! The circus not aging well doesn’t help matters either. Moreover, there’s no way a film of this nature could be made today. Also, once you see James Stewart in full makeup as a clown, you can’t unsee it and are traumatized for life.
It’s possible that the film won because of the political climate at the time. DeMille was a staunch anti-Communist during the 1950s. High Noon producer Carl Foreman was about to be blacklisted because of having been a member of the Communist Party. One of the Ivanhoe screenwriters, Marguerite Roberts, was also blacklisted. If you ask me, the Best Picture win was more of a lifetime achievement Oscar for DeMille. The filmmaker would release his final film with The Ten Commandments in 1956. By this point, DeMille had only received an Honorary Award in 1950. The Ten Commandments may have its flaws but it’s a better spectacle than The Greatest Show on Earth. The National Film Registry has only honored two DeMille films for preservation: The Ten Commandments and The Cheat.
Paramount’s newly restored Blu-ray comes courtesy of a 4K scan of the original negative. As with the 15 previous Paramount Presents titles, the film comes with collectible packaging. Like some of the recent releases, a Digital copy is also included.
The Greatest Show on Earth captures the thrills, chills and exhilaration of the circus. Featuring three intertwining plotlines filled with romance and rivalry, DeMille’s film includes spectacular action sequences, including a show-stopping train wreck.
- Filmmaker Focus: Leonard Maltin on The Greatest Show on Earth
DIRECTOR: Cecil B. DeMille
SCREENWRITER: Fredric M. Frank, Barre Lyndon, and Theodore St. John
CAST: Betty Hutton, Cornel Wilde, Charlton Heston, Dorothy Lamour, Gloria Grahame, and James Stewart