Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Circus Movies

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Gail Kavanagh

TRAPEZE (1956) terific circus drama filmed at the famed Cirque d'Hiver (The Winter Circus) in Paris. The Cirque d'Hiver was an ancient, roach-ridden, damp indoor circus venue, but it had incredible atmosphere and was home to the great French Circus Bouglione. "Papa" Bouglione, the 60s patriach, is played by an actor called Thomas Gomez, and the likeness is quite uncanny. The story is a love triangle on the surface. Tony Curtis and Burt Lancaster play two flyers in love with the ambitious Lola, who just wants to be famous and wear fabulous costumes. But beneath the surface is a tale of ambitious young performers and the older artists who mentor them...and then must give way to the rising star. It's marvellous stuff. The characters are spot on. You will meet people like this on any circus.



A big surprise, this one. Made 12 years after the Charlton Heston three ring spectacular above, with John Wayne as the grizzled circus boss, it looked like a rehash. But under all the glitz there is a very lovely story and its worth seeing if you can get a hold of it these days. Lovely Toni Alfredo (played by 60s babe Claudia Cardinale) wants to be a flyer, but Big John won't have a bar of it. Then his old flame and one time flyer, Lili, reappears and she's Toni's mum, wouldn't you know? The story is how these two gals put together a killer aerial act.

THE CIRCUS (1928) A little pearl by the greatest clown of all time, Charlie Chaplin. Charlie stumbles into a job at the circus and falls in love with a bareback rider

LA STRADA (1954) Directed by Italy's Federico Fellini, with Anthony Quinn, this was the story of a brutish strongman who buys a simple minded girl to be his assistant. It all ends tragically, but it touched circus people. The haunting theme music was used by the German Renz wirewalking act. Later it was the inspiration for a music video by Irish band U2 for their song All I Need Is You. It is one of those films that you never forget.

THE MARX BROTHERS AT THE CIRCUS (1938) One of my favorite Marx Bros films and a real comedy classic. When a circus starts to go bankrupt, the brothers bring their brand of lunacy to the rescue. The movie inspired a Spanish circus act, Los Dominis, who performed as the Marx Brothers on the uneven bars in the 60s.

INTO THE WEST (1993) OK, so it isn't about circus people, it is about travelers, but it is such a lovely, funny, touching little Irish movie that I had to include it.

You can still get some of these movies if you scout around video sales...I picxked up the Great Wallendas this way. Or watch the reruns on TV... Have a your own mini circus movie festival!

Read more at Suite101: BEST CIRCUS MOVIE LIST

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