The Greatest Show on Earth, directed by Cecil B. DeMille was nominated for Best Picture by the Academy Awards in 1952. It is about a circus team that tours the world by train with performances all over the country. Brad is the manager of the Circus and is dating Holly, one of the trapeze girls. The conflict in this story comes about when Brad chooses Sebastian, an arrogant trapeze artist, over Holly for the center act I have rated this film through the following criteria.
It had to have interesting scenes that evoked emotion in me while watching, I wanted to be able to connect with what the protagonist was feeling, and I wanted it to have a lasting impact on myself. This nominee was one of the longer films for the era as it was over two hours long. By having such a different feel for audiences who were used to shorter movies, I was interested to see how it would keep me entertained for such a long amount of time. I was surprised to see all of the scenes that kept me interested.
With many of the characters being trapeze artists, many scenes showed the trapeze artists performing in front of the live audience. Watching them, do flip after flip, the nervousness built up and I did not want to take my eyes off of the screen because I was so interested in seeing if they were were going to fall. While watching Sebastian attempt his crazy stunt I was so worried for him that I had to look away when he trampled onto the ground. Later in the film, there was a massive train crash that occurred and left me stunned that it just happened.
It was a total plot twist in the movie as I thought it was going to be the ending scene. Instead the crash made me completely rethink what was going to happen with Holly and the rest of the characters as almost all of them were severely injured. It was easy to feel these emotions as the director used many cuts of close ups of the characters and special effects as the trains collided. I could connect with many of the characters throughout the movie but mainly for the protagonist, Holly. She was the main character as she had a romantic relationship with Brad while being the center act the previous year.
When Sebastian came along, he showed up being arrogant and confident that he was supposed to be center act. When Brad finally made the decision to switch Sebastian to center act I saw close ups of Holly and how nervous and angry she was at Brad. After that scene the director started to make Holly have a darker color scheme then Sebastian as she was no longer the center act and wanted revenge. As Holly performed the director used a subjective point of view for some of the shots as I looked through Holly’s eyes and saw the audience’s nervous reactions during the act.
In one of Sebastian’s performances, he attempted a very risky stunt without a rope underneath him. He was talking to Holly as she suggested it. He attempted the stunt and then fell and planted directly on the floor beneath him as the Director used a crane shot and slow motion to add to the intensity of that scene. They cut halfway through his fall to show a reaction shot of Holly. By making fall so dramatic, I felt for how devastated Holly was and felt as if she was responsible for him taking down the net before his stunt.
All of these different techniques helped me understand Holly’s emotions throughout the entire film. This movie has had a significant impact on me as the ending had a very powerful message. After one of the circus shows, it seemed as if all loose ends were tied, but then came the horrible train wreck. Throughout the movie we learned that Buttons was actually a wanted murderer who killed his wife who was dying of cancer. He used the circus as an escape from his past. Early in the movie Buttons told Holly, “You sometimes have to kill the thing you love”.
Throughout the movie I become suspicious of Buttons because he would never take off his makeup. Later in the movie, the FBI was going to fingerprint everyone on the train looking to find the suspect as they were hinted he was in the circus. Buttons knew that his time was up and he had to escape before they got to their next destination. They then got into a train crash and immediately saw him running away from the crash and using it as an escape to try to avoid prison. Right as this was happening, Holly came running to see if Buttons could try to save Brad’s life.
Buttons gave in to Holly’s plead and still had the courage to help even while facing possible murder charges. This impacted me significantly because I thought about how Buttons was giving up his life for the chance to save another. He was putting others of himself at all costs. It made me think about how I treat others and how I should put others ahead of myself more often. I think this movie has a strong case for best picture as it expressed so many different ways of viewing the film that I usually don’t notice.
They had very exciting scenes that made me feel a lot of emotion while watching. He also used great film techniques to really understand the feelings of Holly throughout the entire film. After that, he decided to add more of an impact to the ending of the movie to really have audiences relate and connect to Button’s willingness to put other ahead of himself. All of these components contributed to making this a great film and therefore a strong candidate for the American Academy’s best picture award.