review for The Greatest Show on Earth on AllMovie

The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)
by Richard Gilliam review

The Greatest Show on Earth is often ridiculed as the worst Oscar-winning Best Picture of all time, but that is unfair -- Cimarron and Cavalcade are both a considerable chore to sit through, and The Greatest Show on Earth is at least watchable trash. As is often the case when a questionable Best Picture winner is announced, external circumstances played a major role in determining the Academy's choice. John Huston's Moulin Rouge was seen as glorifying a dissipated lifestyle, and High Noon, written by blacklist victim Carl Foreman, was clearly an attack on Hollywood's cravenness in capitulating to the hysteria of the McCarthy era. On the other hand, there is at least some charm in noting that the Academy's family-friendly Best Picture selection was a movie about a killer clown (James Stewart) who hides out in a circus while being chased by the police. Despite its diminished reputation, The Greatest Show on Earth is not without merits. Producer/director Cecil B. De Mille fills the screen with admirable production values, and Charlton Heston gives a star-making performance that maintains interest between the circus acts and train shots.