"The Greatest Show on Earth” in Vistavision?

Open, general discussion of classic sound-era films, personalities and history.
  • Author
  • Message
Offline
User avatar

realist

  • Posts: 129
  • Joined: Tue Mar 23, 2010 11:11 pm

"The Greatest Show on Earth” in Vistavision?

PostWed Jul 10, 2013 12:14 am

Recently I viewed this film on Amazon Prime in HD. It does look amazing. Its still hard to believe this film beat out “The Quiet Man” for best picture of the year, but it now plays more like a guilty pleasure. A lot of fun to watch, but not the "Greatest Picture of the Year." The Internet Movie Database lists under trivia this statement: “Although the film was shot in 35mm three-strip Technicolor, Paramount did shoot some test footage on the set using its newly developed wide-screen process Vistavision which ran 35mm film horizontally through the camera, exposing two standard frames, eight perforations wide. The footage still resides in the Paramount film library.”
Has anyone see this footage or know if it really exists?
Offline

TWhite

  • Posts: 8
  • Joined: Sun Jul 07, 2013 7:03 pm

Re: "The Greatest Show on Earth” in Vistavision?

PostWed Jul 10, 2013 5:00 pm

If the footage exists, it must have been VERY experimental, I would think--as I remember, the first VistaVision release from Paramount was two years later, with 1954's WHITE CHRISTMAS. Like you, I'd be interested to see if it does exist in the Paramount library, somewhere. I certainly agree with you--"Best Picture" seems very strange now, especially with some of the other fine films from 1952. However, it does have that thumping, spectacular train wreck (done with models, but very well), and some typically ripe deMille dialogue ("I'd hate to have your nerve in a tooth!").
Tom
Offline
User avatar

Mike Gebert

Site Admin

  • Posts: 6002
  • Joined: Sat Dec 15, 2007 3:23 pm
  • Location: Chicago

Re: "The Greatest Show on Earth” in Vistavision?

PostWed Jul 10, 2013 5:55 pm

It's a life achievement Oscar, but who deserved one more?

The irony being that The Ten Commandments would have actually deserved it, and it got beaten out by another award for effort more than for the actual movie (Around the World in 80 Days).
“I'm in favor of plagiarism. If we are to create a new Renaissance, the government should encourage plagiarism. When convinced that someone is a true plagiarist, we should immediately award them the Legion of Honor.” —Jean Renoir
Offline

ColemanShedman

  • Posts: 418
  • Joined: Thu May 26, 2011 6:34 am

Re: "The Greatest Show on Earth” in Vistavision?

PostWed Jul 10, 2013 7:24 pm

Looking at both of those years, 1952 and 1956, one could argue that the "Best" Pictures weren't even nominated. Those would be Singin' In The Rain and The Searchers, respectively.
Offline
User avatar

Jack Theakston

  • Posts: 1843
  • Joined: Tue Dec 18, 2007 3:25 pm
  • Location: New York, USA

Re: "The Greatest Show on Earth” in Vistavision?

PostWed Jul 10, 2013 9:21 pm

I'd doubt the story, to be honest. VistaVision was an extension of a need for a finer-grained 35mm print that came about because of the transition to widescreen the previous year (1953.) However, I've also heard that VV was an extension of a back-projection plate process created by Farciot Edouart, so it's possible.
J. Theakston
"You get more out of life when you go out to a movie!"
Offline
User avatar

Frederica

  • Posts: 4852
  • Joined: Wed Dec 19, 2007 1:00 pm
  • Location: Kowea Town, Los Angeles

Re: "The Greatest Show on Earth” in Vistavision?

PostThu Jul 11, 2013 9:28 am

Mike Gebert wrote:It's a life achievement Oscar, but who deserved one more?

The irony being that The Ten Commandments would have actually deserved it, and it got beaten out by another award for effort more than for the actual movie (Around the World in 80 Days).


I adore TGSoE and don't feel at all guilty about it. The more OTT DeMille gets, the better I like him. Still trying to wrap my head around Betty Hutton and Cornell Wilde, though. I don't get either of them.
Fred
"Screw the men. I've got the horse."
Helen B. (Penny) Chenery
http://www.nitanaldi.com"
http://www.facebook.com/NitaNaldiSilentVamp"
Offline
User avatar

Harlowgold

  • Posts: 468
  • Joined: Sat Apr 07, 2012 11:06 pm

Re: "The Greatest Show on Earth” in Vistavision?

PostTue Jul 23, 2013 2:06 am

Frederica wrote:
Mike Gebert wrote:It's a life achievement Oscar, but who deserved one more?

The irony being that The Ten Commandments would have actually deserved it, and it got beaten out by another award for effort more than for the actual movie (Around the World in 80 Days).


I adore TGSoE and don't feel at all guilty about it. The more OTT DeMille gets, the better I like him. Still trying to wrap my head around Betty Hutton and Cornell Wilde, though. I don't get either of them.


Love Betty Hutton, superb comedienne and excellent musical performer but perhaps not the best casting for the lead here, she still does a good job IMO. Cornel Wilde is ok, it's Heston that I can't "get" with his stiff performance. Wish James Stewart and Dorothy Lamour had more to do in the movie, the latter's part seems to have been a major victim of cutting room floor in this very long film.

I don't think TGSOE's win is that big of a surprise; it received very good reviews and was far and away 1952's biggest hit, surely at least a nomination was expected. For DeMille after 40 years in the business to have two consecutive films become the year's top grosser (1949's SAMSON AND DELILAH was reportedly the biggest hit of the 1940's outside of GWTW which was a 1939 release even if most of America didn't see it until 1940 and 1941), perhaps it's not that big a surprise that he came out on top at the Oscars this year.
Offline
User avatar

Ray Faiola

  • Posts: 1022
  • Joined: Tue Jan 08, 2008 10:18 am
  • Location: Ellenville, NY

Re: "The Greatest Show on Earth” in Vistavision?

PostTue Jul 23, 2013 5:30 am

I think Hutton is superb and she did all her own stunt work (except for the extreme long shots). A real triumph. I love this film.
Classic Film Scores on CD
http://www.chelsearialtostudios.com
Offline
User avatar

OLM

  • Posts: 12
  • Joined: Wed Jun 16, 2010 10:00 am
  • Location: Toronto

Re: "The Greatest Show on Earth” in Vistavision?

PostTue Jul 23, 2013 3:55 pm

Ray Faiola wrote:I think Hutton is superb and she did all her own stunt work (except for the extreme long shots). A real triumph. I love this film.


As do I!!

I saw it three times during its initial first-run engagement (at fifteen cents a ticket). Well, actually I only had to pay for it twice: while standing in line to get in the second time, I found two tickets that someone had dropped in the snow on the sidewalk outside the Paramount theatre in Edmonton... so my buddy and I went back the next day to see it again at no cost to us. It thrilled me then and it thrills me still!
Offline

Hope We Click

  • Posts: 1
  • Joined: Thu Jul 25, 2013 9:53 pm

Re: "The Greatest Show on Earth” in Vistavision?

PostThu Jul 25, 2013 10:17 pm

RE the lament that Dorothy Lamour was not given more to do: In Cecil B. DeMille's autobiography, he stated that his stars in the film did most of their own stunts, and he mentioned that, when we see Lamour hanging by her teeth, it's really her, not a stuntwoman. In the picture, she plays a performer whose specialty is hanging by her teeth.

But she is never seen performing that stunt, indicating that her part was trimmed. She does get a nice song in a sarong. Maybe after she sings the song, she was filmed twirling with the other women and hanging by her teeth; but, if so, that section was cut.

I read in a biography about DeMille that Lamour wanted the elephant girl role (so did Paulette Goddard) but DeMille decided to go with Lucille Ball (who had to be replaced when she became pregnant). However, according to the book I read, DeMille was conscious of Lamour's long history with Paramount, and he always admired company loyalty, so he had a part for her written into the script, which explains why she doesn't have much to do with the central plot.

I wish she or Goddard had won the role of the elephant girl. Gloria Grahame is fine and actually the right age; both the Paramount stars were a bit old by then to be playing the young vixen trying to make herself available to Heston. Since they were both longtime Paramount stars, I would have accepted them in the role. Goddard angered DeMille in a previous film and wouldn't even consider her, although he reportedly was gracious in turning her away.

I love the film: the beautiful Technicolor, the big-name cast, gag cameos like Bob & Bing watching Lamour's act, and the impressive train wreck. A fun film for DeMille fans.
Offline
User avatar

Ray Faiola

  • Posts: 1022
  • Joined: Tue Jan 08, 2008 10:18 am
  • Location: Ellenville, NY

Re: "The Greatest Show on Earth” in Vistavision?

PostFri Jul 26, 2013 5:42 am

When I first saw the film on WNEW in New York many years ago, the train wreck totally shattered me. It was the most horrific sequence I had ever seen (up to that time).
Classic Film Scores on CD
http://www.chelsearialtostudios.com
Offline

IA

  • Posts: 126
  • Joined: Tue Jul 21, 2009 3:09 pm

Re: "The Greatest Show on Earth” in Vistavision?

PostFri May 18, 2018 3:15 pm

My interest in King of Jazz led me to this film, since KOJ director John Murray Anderson was credited for staging the circus musical and dance numbers. Anderson, famous as a master of the revue format, had staged productions of "The Greatest Show on Earth" for Ringling Brothers since 1942, including spectacles like the Elephant Ballet (whose specially commissioned music from Stravinsky made the elephants trumpet in unison). His autobiography discusses de Mille's film:

In 1943 I suggested to Robert Ringling that a motion picture, bearing the title The Greatest Show on Earth might be a great proposition. Robert gave me authority to explore its possibilities and on my return to New York from Sarasota I presented the idea to my oId friend, Gil Boag, who had successfully promoted several motion pictures, with the result that Lowell Thomas was engaged to compile a biography of the Ringling Brothers. The book was completed by Thomas, but apparently was never published. Meanwhile, I lost contact with Robert Ringling, who subsequently died. I suggested the same idea to John Ringling North when he renewed activities with the Circus. The next development was that North was planning to do a picture called The Greatest Show on Earth with David Selznick. That fell through, and somebody else arranged a deal with Paramount and Cecil B. de Mille.

When it came to the final arrangements with Paramount, I found myself on the fence. Mr. de Mille claimed that he had made a contract with North permitting him to use in his picture any part of the Circus. A clause in my contract gave the Circus the rights to use my production numbers in the Circus only, and I insisted on being paid a separate fee for the picture rights, plus screen credit for all of my production in the picture. Mr. de Mille's representatives said that the director had never shared screen credit for production in his entire career. I was adamant and Paramount finally agreed. Although a large percentage of the visible picture is the result of my handiwork, the final screen credit, while living up to the letter of the contract, is relegated to the "also rans." As for the fee--my business manager was told that "Mr. de Mille always strikes a hard bargain."

He did.

By reason of the terms of my contract, I had to spend two additional weeks in Sarasota, while the Paramount unit was in action shooting the "backstage" scenes of the Circus. My own contribution was not shot, nor could it have been shot until after the New York engagement at Madison Square Garden. I found picture-making On location much the same as picture-making in Hollywood. I regarded Cecil B. de Mille as a giant--surrounded by the usual coterie of "yes men" and by bullying business executives, vested in a little brief authority. To de Mille, a perfectionist of the highest order,nothing was too much trouble. All of the cast in the picture were excellent, particularly my oId pal from the Casa Manana and
Two for the Show days--Betty Hutton.

The picture opened in New York at the Radio City Music Hall, where it established a long run record, and became an immediate success throughout the world. There may be those who dispute the merits of its plot. There can be none to gainsay its merits as a superb documentary of circus life. Regardless of all the splendor of its spectacle, to me the most effective shot in the entire picture is one in which no human being appears. It is the sequence depicting the rising of a vast sea of blue canvas against the sky of early dawn, which becomes, as if by the magic of unseen hands, the Big Top. This was made by what is known as the "B" unit of the picture-making gang, under the direction of Stanley Goldsmith.

Good and all as de Mille's The Greatest Show on Earth is, the real story of the Circus remains to be written. In my opinion the book Gus the Great is much more akin to the real thing than anything yet done.

As for the Circus itself, it is beginning to emulate Broadway, with a slice of the big arena shows thrown in. Each year its appeal seems to be more for the adult and less for the children. It has even begun to stress sex appeal. Shades of "Popcorn and Lemonade!"


The film gives a generous look at the sort of costumes and spectacle Anderson gave the circus, especially in the parade sequence around the big top. A tribute to the 1890s features in both Greatest Show and King of Jazz.

Greatest Show is an odd duck--half idealizing documentary, half outrageously fake and intentionally corny backstage melodrama--but not a dull dog. And I bet it's far more effective on the big screen. The best performance belongs to Charlton Heston, who's wonderfully harsh as the obvious stand-in for de Mille. He doesn't beg for the sympathy of the audience, he barks at it. De Mille was initially hesitant to cast Heston, saying he had "a sinister quality." An astute observation, and part of what gave Heston screen presence.
Offline

Ken Viewer

  • Posts: 67
  • Joined: Fri Jul 09, 2010 6:01 am

Re: "The Greatest Show on Earth” in Vistavision?

PostFri May 18, 2018 5:19 pm

ColemanShedman wrote:Looking at both of those years, 1952 and 1956, one could argue that the "Best" Pictures weren't even nominated. Those would be Singin' In The Rain and The Searchers, respectively.


"The Searchers," which for my money, is perhaps the greatest motion picture I've seen in almost 70-years of movie-going, never had a chance for Oscars, because it was owned by Cornelius Vanderbuilt Whitney (the guy who put up the money to make it), John Ford and its producer, "King Kong" legend Merian C.Cooper, and only released through Warner Bros. Since Warners didn't own the copyright (they eventually bought it from the Whitney prodco), and were functioning in the manner of a United Artists, or Cooper's favorite distributor -- which by 1956 was basically dormant -- RKO Radio Pictures, they had no incentive to push the film. Also, Jack Warner was a bum. (Did I just write that? Well, at least I express what I believe.)

The film should have won at least a half-dozen Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (for Wayne) Best Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor (Ward Bond or Hank Worden), Best Supporting Actress (Olive Carey), Best Cinematography, Best...

But the Academy Awards has, IMO, never represented the best of the best. "Around the World in 80 Days" of boredom is one of the few 70 MM (technically 65 MM Todd-AO 30 frames-per-second) roadshow films I've ever walked out in before it ended. I don't regret that; I would like a refund, plus 62-years of interest, if United Artists/the Michael Todd Company still have any money in the bank.

Ken
Offline
User avatar

Ray Faiola

  • Posts: 1022
  • Joined: Tue Jan 08, 2008 10:18 am
  • Location: Ellenville, NY

Re: "The Greatest Show on Earth” in Vistavision?

PostSat May 19, 2018 12:31 pm

And Max's score to THE SEARCHERS wasn't nominated. A thundering triumph if ever there was one (which we recently remastered and reissued).
Classic Film Scores on CD
http://www.chelsearialtostudios.com
Offline
User avatar

David Alp

  • Posts: 919
  • Joined: Fri Oct 12, 2012 11:58 am

Re: "The Greatest Show on Earth” in Vistavision?

PostSun May 20, 2018 4:57 am

Ken Viewer, you actually walked out of "Around The World In 80 Days" ? Was that in 1956? Was it because it was just way TOO long? This is so funny!
Offline

Ken Viewer

  • Posts: 67
  • Joined: Fri Jul 09, 2010 6:01 am

Re: "The Greatest Show on Earth” in Vistavision?

PostSun May 20, 2018 11:30 am

Ray Faiola wrote:And Max's score to THE SEARCHERS wasn't nominated. A thundering triumph if ever there was one (which we recently remastered and reissued).


You, sir, are correct, and Steiner deserved an Oscar, along with Winton C. Hoch for Best Cinematography (color film), Frank S. Nugent for best screenplay adapted from another medium (Alan Le May's novel, which has a dramatically different ending), James Basevi and Frank Hotaling for Best Art Direction (color film) and whatever else any fans of the film can think of.

Ken
Last edited by Ken Viewer on Sun May 20, 2018 11:49 am, edited 1 time in total.
Offline

Ken Viewer

  • Posts: 67
  • Joined: Fri Jul 09, 2010 6:01 am

Re: "The Greatest Show on Earth” in Vistavision?

PostSun May 20, 2018 11:38 am

David Alp wrote:Ken Viewer, you actually walked out of "Around The World In 80 Days" ? Was that in 1956? Was it because it was just way TOO long? This is so funny!


I walked out back in early 1957 and since then (and even before) have walked on presentations that bore me stiff, even though I've paid good money to attend. The only time I feel I can't walk out on a presentation (film, digital or live-attraction) is when I'm in the house on press-seats courtesy, and I once walked out on a freebie (The Paul Taylor Dance Company) when the presentation was more awful than I could sit through. (I was there to review the show -- one of the perhaps ten times in my professional life, from which I'm sorta retired, when I accepted an assignment to do a review; I noted in the write-up that I was unable to review the performance because it stank so badly that I fled, which, I guess, is a review.)

The time I walked out on the film-in-question, it was three hours too long, I was hungry and Horn & Hardart Automats still offered the best Salisbury steak in the Western World, along with real baked beans and freshly-made mashed potatoes, for a total of less than one dollar.

Ken
Offline

antoniod

  • Posts: 107
  • Joined: Sun Jan 17, 2010 1:07 pm

Re: "The Greatest Show on Earth” in Vistavision?

PostWed May 23, 2018 1:02 pm

One thing that distinguishes GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH for me are the things DeMille gives the bit players being the audience to do, like the guy shouting "Hiya Hoppy" to William Boyd. My favorite thing about DEMille's films are the character vignettes he gave bit players, something you didn't get in those bigger epics of the 60s.
Offline
User avatar

William D. Ferry

  • Posts: 113
  • Joined: Sat Feb 02, 2008 4:43 pm

Re: "The Greatest Show on Earth” in Vistavision?

PostWed May 23, 2018 7:58 pm

Frankly, I've always enjoyed TGSOE tremendously. It does have all the DeMille shortcomings: cliched script, studio-bound special effects, and no one ever gives the performance of his career in a DeMille epic. That being said, it's really enjoyable, especially the second-unit work, which makes the circus entertaining and fascinating. You have two movies in one! Very likely the Best Picture Oscar was a career award. Who else with so lengthy a career, spanning the history of the movies was still a force to be reckoned with? I'm reminded of Bob Hope's comment, "DeMille brings something new to the movies. It's called an audience." He was someone with very strong convictions about what he was doing, and he took his work very seriously. Sure, we can poke fun at him, but we still talk about him and enjoy his films, don't we? Perhaps not the greatest filmmaker, but the man WAS Hollywood.
Yours for bigger and better silents,

William D. Ferry
(Blackhawk Customer #0191462)

Return to Talking About Talkies

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 8 guests