Academy Award-winning 1952 movie launches a classic film series at Sarasota Opera House
Editor’s Note: The Sarasota Opera launches a special series screening film classics at 7;30 p.m. Friday with the 1952 Academy Award-winning Cecil B. DeMille film “The Greatest Show on Earth.” Performers from the Circus Arts Conservatory will be on hand before the film to entertain audiences and create some of the aura of the film’s 1952 Florida premiere at the Opera House.
The “Greatest Show On Earth” refers, of course, to the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, which wintered in Sarasota from 1927 until 1960 when it moved to Venice. But it also refers to an Academy Award-winning movie, much of it filmed in Sarasota, which was known throughout the world as The Circus City.
The film with the proverbial cast of thousands was a Paramount production, directed by the great Cecil B. DeMille, and, if you lived in Sarasota during the six weeks or so that the production company was here, you may remember it as if it were yesterday.
Sarasota immediately fell into the throes of Hollywood mania. And the buzz crossed all age groups, affecting men, women and children who were drawn to follow the local goings-on of the silver screen’s top stars.
And what a cast. Paramount Pictures, whose motto was “Famous Players in Famous Plays,” brought a half a dozen of their top stars to town in 1951, and the excitement they engendered during their stay was palpable.
Heading the troupe was lead actor Charlton Heston, whose role was based on John Ringling North, President of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Darkly handsome Cornel Wilde played the trapeze ace the Great Sebastian, while the beautiful, frenetic, multi-talented Betty Hutton, “Hollywood’s Blond Bombshell” whom Bob Hope dubbed “A Vitamin with Legs,” played Holly. Sultry film noir star Gloria Grahame, who won an Academy Award for “The Bad and The…