The Greatest Show on Earth | Chicago Reader

The Greatest Show on Earth

Cecil B. De Mille in anachronistic decline, though a few critics insist it's his most personal film. Charlton Heston is the circus manager, James Stewart impersonates a clown, and Betty Hutton and Cornel Wilde are a pair of trapeze artists who, for unaccountable childhood reasons, I remember vividly to this day. There's also a train crash and plenty of manufactured incident, all of which strings out like . . . well, like a circus parade—imperially coarse and bumptious, a formal mirror of its narrative self. It won best-picture Oscar for 1952, but God (De Mille's favorite walk-on, strangely absent here) only knows why. 152 min.

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