Diana Lynn: Circus spectator
Mona Freeman: Circus spectator
Charlton Heston was driving through Paramount Studios when he spotted Cecil B. DeMille, who he had never met. Heston waved. DeMille was so impressed by Heston's wave he made inquiries that ultimately led to Heston being cast as Brad in this film. This was only Heston's third film and skyrocketed him to fame. One fan wrote a letter to DeMille on how much she enjoyed the movie and commented, "And I'm surprised how well the circus manager (Heston) worked with the real actors." Heston thought it was one of the best reviews he ever received.
Bing Crosby, Bob Hope: Circus spectators during the musical song "Lovely, Luawana Lady", approximately two minutes after the song starts.
Lucille Ball was Cecil B. DeMille's first choice for "Angel", but she became pregnant and was replaced by Gloria Grahame. Paulette Goddard also campaigned strongly for the role but was turned down owing to her reluctance to perform stunt scenes.
Cecil B. DeMille considered Marlene Dietrich and Hedy Lamarr for the lead but ultimately settled on Betty Hutton when the actress sent him an enormous thousand dollar floral piece featuring a replica of herself swinging fro a trapeze. DeMille accepted her on the condition she slim down her hips.
Cecil B. DeMille was always demanding of his actors and actresses. He insisted that everyone truly learn to perform the circus stunts they were supposed to be performing. This meant that Betty Hutton really learned the trapeze and Gloria Grahame had to let an elephant rest its foot an inch from her face. Cornel Wilde probably had it the worst since he was portraying a high-wire artist. He was seriously afraid of heights in real life.
Merrill Reese: Circus spectator (Best known as the radio broadcaster for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1977-present, Reese was an unknown nine year old who happened to be at one of the filmed performances.)
Victor Young's big-top music brightened the last of his six consecutive scores for Cecil B. DeMille productions, which began with North West Mounted Police.
Actor William Boyd, who had become enormously popular playing the character Hopalong Cassidy in a series of films and on television, contributed his cameo in this film - as himself - as a favor to director Cecil B. DeMille in repayment for DeMille's having cast him in the showcase role of Simon of Cyrene during DeMille's production of The King of Kings nearly a quarter of a century earlier. The Simon of Cyrene role in the earlier DeMille production had contributed enormously to Boyd's film career.
After the train wreck, Emmett Kelly is briefly seen without his "Weary Willie" makeup, which is surprising since he was a very private individual and rarely allowed himself to be photographed out of character.
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.
During one scene Sebastian (Cornel Wilde) is hanging from the trapeze by his knees. He catches Holly (Betty Hutton) then pulls her up and kisses her. This shot took several takes and during one of the early takes Wilde tore the ligaments in his shoulder. He managed to make it through two more takes, then had to stop. He was unable to use his arm for several days so Cecil B. DeMille shot scenes where he was not needed.
During the film's spectacular set piece sequence of the train wreck, the Paramount sound Stage 16 was filled with animals running around loose. The greatest problem occurred when the large cage of monkeys was opened. The simians were so frightened of the lions and tigers that they panicked and fled the building, ending up in the adjoining Hollywood Cemetary. According to Cecil B. DeMille biographer Charles Higham, it proved almost impossible to retrieve them.
Ex-trapeze artist Burt Lancaster was considered for Cornel Wilde's role as was Kirk Douglas. Both subsequently played trapeze artists. Lancaster in Trapeze and Douglas in The Story of Three Loves.
Rights to use of the title motto and the Ringling Bros.-Barnum & Bailey's facilities and performances were purchased for $250,000. Cecil B. DeMille advised the writers to view the German film Varieté as a model for the type of story he wanted. DeMille toured the Midwest for two months with the circus, collecting anecdotes, slang, and behind-the-scenes ideas. Publicity resulting from his involvement drew sell-out crowds to the performances.
Scenes of this motion picture were filmed at the actual winter quarters of the Ringling Bros.-Barnum & Bailey Circus in Sarasota, Florida. Additional scenes were also filmed at an actual circus performance in which the film's actors participated in the Grand Hippodrome Parade with the regular circus performers. If you look very closely at the bottom left-hand portion of the screen during a brief long-shot of the Grand Parade, you can see Cecil B. DeMille's camera unit in a corner of the Hippodrome where the parade takes a turn around the ring, along with Mr. DeMille himself standing next to the camera.
Special effects produced a green halo around Gloria Grahame and Betty Hutton in the Grand Parade scene, so a shot was added of green floodlights turning on above them.
The first movie that Steven Spielberg ever saw. His father took him to the theater, promising him a trip to the circus. He was four years old at the time.
The movie is often cited as the least deserved Best Picture winner ever. It is widely believed the film only won because many members of the Academy were reluctant to vote for the anti-McCarthyite western High Noon, whose screenwriter Carl Foreman had just been blacklisted from Hollywood.