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The Greatest Show on Earth is a 1952 American drama film produced and directed by Cecil B. DeMille, shot in Technicolor and released by Paramount Pictures. Set in the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, the film stars Betty Hutton and Cornel Wilde as trapeze artists competing for the center ring and Charlton Heston as the circus manager. James Stewart also stars as a mysterious clown who never removes his makeup, and Dorothy Lamour and Gloria Grahame also play supporting roles.
In addition to the actors, the real Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey’s Circus’ 1951 troupe appears in the film with its complement of 1,400 people, hundreds of animals and 60 railroad cars of equipment and tents. The actors learned their circus roles and participated in the acts. The film’s storyline is supported by lavish production values, actual circus acts and documentary-style views into the complex logistics behind big-top circuses.
The film won two Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Story and was nominated for Best Costume Design, Best Director and Best Film Editing. It also won Golden Globe Awards for Best Cinematography, Best Director and Best Motion Picture – Drama.