Galla Shawn, trapeze artist, died in France at age 62. From a family of US trapeze artists, she was a ‘flier’ in the Clyde Beatty Circus – the second largest Big Top in the US. Her speciality was ‘standing’ and balancing while head down on the trapeze bar. Featured in Cecil B. De Mille’s The Greatest Show on Earth (1952).
Born on a circus lot in Sioux Falls, S.D., Shawn (Mary “Tiny” Gallagher) was born into a family of acrobats, and she was practicing balancing by age 6. She performed in a teeter board act with her five brothers and two sisters as a child performer before moving on to the act that would make her famous—the trapeze.
Shawn’s act took her 40 feet in to the air where she would balance her head on the trapeze with spinning hoops on each arm and leg. She would conclude her act by switching to another trapeze where she would spin upside down. Shawn’s act was a feature show during the 1957 Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey season. She spent eight years with Ringling including as a member of the first American circus troupe to visit the Soviet Union. She appeared in other circuses including Shrine shows in the U.S. and Cirque Bouglione in Europe. She also appeared in the movies “The Ring of Fire” and as Zsa Gabor’s stunt double in “Three Ring Circus.”