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Collecting ‘The Greatest Motion Picture On Earth’

by Larry Kellogg (05/03/10).

The Greatest Show On Earth” one-sheet movie poster is valued at $200-$300, although they can sometimes be found for less. Re-release posters sell for about $50 or less and can be identified because Jimmy Stewart in his clown costume is holding an Oscar.

The Greatest Show On Earth” one-sheet movie poster is valued at $200-$300, although they can sometimes be found for less. Re-release posters sell for about $50 or less and can be identified because Jimmy Stewart in his clown costume is holding an Oscar.

“We bring you the circus, the pied piper whose magic tunes greet children of all ages, from 6 to 60, into a tinsel and spun-candy world of reckless beauty and mounting laughter and whirling thrills—of rhythm, excitement and grace—of blaring and daring and dance—of high-stepping horses and high-flying stars. But behind all this, the circus is a massive machine whose very life depends on discipline and motion and speed . . . That is the circus. And this is the story of the biggest of the big tops, and of the men and women who fight to make it ‘The Greatest Show on Earth.’”

With those opening words, Cecil B. DeMille introduced his classic film about the circus, “The Greatest Show On Earth.” My last article was about motion pictures with a circus theme titled “Motion Pictures That Chronicle Circus Life Mix Collectible Categories.” In that article, I purposely left out “The Greatest Show On Earth.” This greatest of all circus movies clearly deserves an article all its own.

The movie was the single highest-grossing film of 1952 and was nominated for five Academy Awards, winning the top award for Best Motion Picture and also an award for Best Writing: Original Story. The movie was up against some stiff competition, including “High Noon” with Gary Cooper. Many critics claimed the Academy made a major mistake in giving the Oscar to DeMille, but circus lovers the world over couldn’t have been happier.

More than 50 Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey performers appeared in the credits of the movie, with special emphasis given to famous clown Emmett Kelly and aerialist Antoinette Concello. Even the circus president, John Ringling North, made an appearance. Publicity released by Paramount Studios said that 285,000 extras were used in the film in addition to the hundreds of circus personnel. Popular film stars Bob Hope and Bing Crosby in un-credited roles appear in a crowd scene.

Much of the film was shot at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey’s Sarasota, Fla. winter quarters and during performances of the 1951 edition of the circus. Production numbers “Luawana,” “Circus Serenade” and “Picnic In The Park” from that year’s show were incorporated in the film.

The Ringling Circus Museum in Sarasota Florida devotes an entire room to the movie “The Greatest Show On Earth.” Highlighted in the exhibit are some of the model railroad cars that were wrecked in one of the final dramatic scenes.

These model railroad cars were used to depict a spectacular train wreck near the end of the motion picture.

These model railroad cars were used to depict a spectacular train wreck near the end of the motion picture.

These model railroad cars which are displayed at the Ringling Circus Museum in Sarasota, Florida.

These model railroad cars are displayed at the Ringling Circus Museum in Sarasota, Florida.

Collectibles related to “The Greatest Show On Earth” abound. Only a few are shown here:

No collection of “The Greatest Show On Earth” movie memorabilia would be complete without a copy of the actual movie. On the left is the first VHS recording of the movie. It originally sold for about $80. This and other box designs are still available.

No collection of “The Greatest Show On Earth” movie memorabilia would be complete without a copy of the actual movie. On the left is the first VHS recording of the movie. It originally sold for about $80. This and other box designs are still available.

Most collectors would prefer the DVD, which sells for a $10 to $20.

Most collectors would prefer the DVD, which sells for a $10 to $20.

Before Paramount released the DVD a Chinese copy (center) was sold on the Internet, complete with Chinese subtitles.

Before Paramount released the DVD a Chinese copy was sold on the Internet, complete with Chinese subtitles.

This 16-Page Souvenir Program book was sold for 25 cents at showings of the movie.

This 16-Page Souvenir Program book was sold for 25 cents at showings of the movie.

It’s valued at $25 to $30.

It’s valued at $25 to $30.

Sheet Music published by Famous Music Corporation was released for some of the songs in the motion picture “The Greatest Show On Earth” & “Be A Jumping Jack” shown here.

Sheet Music published by Famous Music Corporation was released for some of the songs in the motion picture “The Greatest Show On Earth” & “Be A Jumping Jack” shown here.

Other songs were “Lovely Luawana Lady,” “A Picnic In The Park,” “Popcorn and Lemonade” and “Sing A Happy Song.” Value is $10 to $15 with the title song bringing a slightly higher price.

Other songs were “Lovely Luawana Lady,” “A Picnic In The Park,” “Popcorn and Lemonade” and “Sing A Happy Song.” Value is $10 to $15 with the title song bringing a slightly higher price.

RCA Victor Records released four 45 RPM records that featured instrumental versions of the music from the movie performed by the Paramount Studio Band conducted by Irvin Talbot. This boxed set is valued at $15-$20. A 33 1/3 Long Play record of the music was also available.

RCA Victor Records released four 45 RPM records that featured instrumental versions of the music from the movie performed by the Paramount Studio Band conducted by Irvin Talbot. This boxed set is valued at $15-$20. A 33 1/3 Long Play record of the music was also available.

The American Thread Company printed a 16-page booklet called “The Big Top In Crochet.” The cover says the booklet was “Inspired by Cecil B. DeMille’s Paramount Production, The Greatest Show On Earth.

The American Thread Company printed a 16-page booklet called “The Big Top In Crochet.” The cover says the booklet was “Inspired by Cecil B. DeMille’s Paramount Production, The Greatest Show On Earth.

Inside are color photos and instructions to make several circus figures. Value is $10 to $15.

Inside are color photos and instructions to make several circus figures. Value is $10 to $15.

Press kits like this were provided to theatres so they could order posters and other advertising items. You can see from the illustrations on this kit that it was for the re-release of the movie.

Press kits like this were provided to theatres so they could order posters and other advertising items. You can see from the illustrations on this kit that it was for the re-release of the movie.

Notice Jimmy Stewart holding the Oscar in the poster illustrations. Value is $15 to $20.

Notice Jimmy Stewart holding the Oscar in the poster illustrations. Value is $15 to $20.

The Greatest Show On Earth” was featured on the cover of the March 1952 issue of “Screen Stories.”

The Greatest Show On Earth” was featured on the cover of the March 1952 issue of “Screen Stories.”

Inside there were many photos and pages of dialogue from the movie. Value is $10 or less.

Inside there were many photos and pages of dialogue from the movie. Value is $10 or less.

Lobby cards are popular movie collectibles. They generally come in sets of eight. This card for “The Greatest Show On Earth” is valued at $15 to $20.

Lobby cards are popular movie collectibles. They generally come in sets of eight. This card for “The Greatest Show On Earth” is valued at $15 to $20.

Nesco Inc. made this tray, which measures 17 ½ inches by 12 ½ inches. You can find these on the Internet for $15 to $25.

Nesco Inc. made this tray, which measures 17 ½ inches by 12 ½ inches. You can find these on the Internet for $15 to $25.

The most desirable photos from the motion picture are those licensed to theaters by National Screen Service Corp. like the one featuring Jimmy Stewart in clown makeup and world famous clown Emmett Kelly. These are valued at $10 and up.

The most desirable photos from the motion picture are those licensed to theaters by National Screen Service Corp. like the one featuring Jimmy Stewart in clown makeup and world famous clown Emmett Kelly. These are valued at $10 and up.

Photos provided by TV networks for their airing of the movie, including this example from ABC, are worth $5 or less.

Photos provided by TV networks for their airing of the movie, including this example from ABC, are worth $5 or less.

The Greatest Show On Earth” was released around the world. This small die-cut counter card was made for the Ideal Cinema, a Mexican motion picture theater. Value under $10.

The Greatest Show On Earth” was released around the world. This small die-cut counter card was made for the Ideal Cinema, a Mexican motion picture theater. Value under $10.

Larry Kellogg is a WorthPoint Worthologist specializing in circus memorabilia.

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