Original/British Booklets

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SAM’S EXIT

Circus World is Samuel Bronston’s swan song to roadshows. (Though he had one more in mind—Isabella of Spain, with Elizabeth Taylor.) Bankrupted by the folly The Fall of the Roman Empire, the impresario’s scrounging for funds to make a Big Top clinker flashed a neon epitah: He was and will be remembered as one of the movies’ real versions of the Broadway shyters in Mel Brooks’s The Producers. His Byzantine financial entanglements brought on lawsuits and a trial in which he was found guilty of perjury, only to have the U.S. Supreme Court overturn the conviction by re-defining aspects of the law, differentiating what constitutes lying vs. misleading testimony. His distribution deals were no less convoluted, adversely affecting VHS and DVD releases of his epics, none of which, when finally hitting the market, get universally high marks for quality restoration. Still, there are some pleasures we’ve come to expect from his propensity for deluxe twaddle: in Circus World, production designer John DeCuir has managed a few eye-popping sets and he dresses up existing arenas and other locales like Madrid and Barcelona with his customary flair; Renie does the costumes; Jack Hildyard and Claude Renoir photograph nicely. It’s in the basic story and casting that everything goes to hell. Who can believe John Wayne as a circus promoter? (The same boobs who bought him as a big game hunter for zoos in Hatari!) How did Claudia Cardinale manage to be the daughter to former star aerialist Rita Hayworth? (European financing, but likely not responsible for the check someone wrote to the Golden Globes to purchase Hayworth’s best actress nomination.) Philip Yordan took co-writing credit for blacklisted Bernard Gordon, since restored, and no one can explain Nicholas Ray and Ben Hecht getting this hoodwinked. (Hecht’s last writing job.) 125 horses used in Fall of Roman Empire go for double duty here. In Britain, Bronston’s bore was self-aggrandizingly entitled The Magnificent Showman. Directed by Henry Hathaway. Presented in single projection Cinerama, shot in SUPER TECHNIRAMA-70.

                              

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Text COPYRIGHT © 2002 RALPH BENNER  All Rights Reserved.