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Sunday May 19th 2024

The Greatest Show On Earth | 1952

The Greatest Show On Earth film location: Main Street, Sarasota, Florida
The Greatest Show On Earth film location: the circus parade after the train crash: Main Street, Sarasota, Florida | Photograph: Google Maps

Cecil B DeMille’s irresistible circus hokum is hugely enjoyable, but the Oscar for Best Picture in the year of High Noon, Singin’ In The Rain and The Quiet Man?

The three-ring circus scenes were filmed, almost documentary-style, at , the winter quarters of the Ringling Bros Barnum and Bailey Circus  in Sarasota, south of Tampa on Florida’s West Coast. The quarters were moved to Venice, Florida in 1960, but there’s a marker commemorating the Sarasota site on Calliandra Drive at North Beneva Road.

The Greatest Show On Earth film location: Winter Quarters Marker, Calliandra Drive, Sarasota, Florida
The Greatest Show On Earth film location: waymarker for the site of the old Circus Winter Quarters: Calliandra Drive, Sarasota, Florida | Photograph: Google Maps

Today in Sarasota, you can visit The Ringling Museum, which houses both a Museum of Art and the Circus Museum. They’re housed in Ca’ d’Zan, 5401 Bay Shore Road.

Built in the 1920s and extravagantly modelled on a Venetian palazzo, Ca’ d’Zan was used as the decrepit mansion of Miss Havisham (renamed Ms Dinsmoor, and played by Anne Bancroft) in Alfonso Cuarón’s 1998 modernisation of Charles DickensGreat Expectations, with Ethan Hawke. The house has since been magnificently restored.

The valiant parade following the disastrous train crash was filmed on Main Street, between Central Avenue and South Orange Avenue, Downtown Sarasota. The stretch has been totally redeveloped.

Scenes of the circus being set up were filmed in Philadelphia, near the old John F Kennedy Stadium – aka the Philadelphia Municipal Stadium – which you can see in the film. This was demolished in 1992 and the Wells Fargo Center now occupies the site on South Broad Street.

The other set up is in Washington DC, in an area which is now the parking lot for RFK Stadium, 2400 East Capitol Street NE.