Category Archives: James Stewart

The Greatest Show On Earth

Directed by Cecil B. DeMille
Produced by Cecil B. DeMille
Written by Fredric M. Frank, Theodore St. John, Frank Cavett & Barré Lyndon Narrated by Cecil B. DeMille
Starring Betty Hutton
Cornel Wilde
Charlton Heston
James Stewart
Dorothy Lamour
Gloria Grahame
Music by Victor Young
Cinematography George Barnes
Editing by Anne Bauchens
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date(s) January 10, 1952 (1952-01-10)
Running time 152 minutes
Country United States
Language English

We bring you the circus — that Pied Piper whose magic tunes lead children of all ages, from 6 to 60, into a tinseled and spun-candied world of reckless beauty and mounting laughter; whirling thrills; of rhythm, excitement and grace; of daring, enflaring 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, motion and speed …. a mechanized army on wheels that rolls over any obstacle in its path …. that meets calamity again and again, but always comes up smiling …. a place where disaster and tragedy stalk the Big Top, haunt the backyards, and ride the circus rails …. where Death is constantly watching for one frayed rope, one weak link, or one trace of fear.

A fierce, primitive fighting force that smashes relentlessly forward against impossible odds: 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!

The Greatest Show On Earth won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1952 but is often called the worst Best Picture of all time. This is mainly because 1952 was the year that other classics such as High Noon, Singin’ In The Rain, Ivanhoe, The Quiet Man and Moulin Rouge were released. Despite what critics may say and the reputation that it has had hoist upon it, The Greatest Show On Earth is still a very fine film. I am not just saying this because The Greatest Show On Earth was my favourite show as a kid either. Sometimes it is good to watch a big budget, dumb film with lots of colour and action and FUN!!! It is not just worthy films that should be considered great, not all films have to have a message or feature dramatic performances, sometimes it’s enough to be able to much on some popcorn and be thoroughly entertained for two and a half hours. I suspect that if The Greatest Show On Earth had not received the Oscar for best picture in 1952 it would be much more respected than it is today.

I am not a wanker movie reviewer (obviously) who has try to look intelligent or profound with what I say. I don’t have to try to pretend to shun the mainstream for whatever is hip. I am allowed to say that I like a film that many professional critics have maligned, which is the case here. Let’s face it, I still like The Greatest Show On Earth and would say that of the other films that were nominated for Best Picture in 1952, only High Noon can compare to it. (The same can be said for The Sound Of Music, but that was omitted from the nominations for best picture!)

In hindsight I do admit that The Greatest Show On Earth is a big, dumb movie, but that is no bad thing. The best way to enjoy this film is to turn your brain off before watching it and to just take in the colour and spectacle of the movie. It’s fun to watch the film and to reminisce about the old days of the circus, and to watch the cameos by actual renowned circus performers like Emmett Kelly and Lou Jacobs. Charlton Heston is Ok as Brad the circus owner while Betty Hutton is downright annoying at times as aerialist Holly. I do like James Stewart’s fine role as Buttons the Clown and find him intriguing, especially as he does not take his make-up off at all in the picture.

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It’s A Wonderful Life

Directed by Frank Capra
Produced by Frank Capra
Written by Short story: Philip Van Doren Stern
Screenplay: Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, Jo Swerling & Frank Capra
Starring James Stewart
Donna Reed
Lionel Barrymore
Henry Travers
Music by Dimitri Tiomkin
Cinematography Joseph Walker
Editing by William Hornbeck
Studio Liberty Films
Distributed by RKO Radio Pictures
Release date(s) December 20, 1946
Running time 130 minutes
Country United States
Language English

“Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”

Just before last Christmas I purchased a DVD three pack of Paramount classic holiday movies from Big W for just $16. The three movies were some of the all-time Hollywood classics: White Christmas, It’s A Wonderful Life and The Bells Of St Mary’s. This was a real bargain and if you see these still available at Big W you really must get it. I also noticed that Big W were also selling White Christmas and It’s A Wonderful Life separately for $13 each. As I said $16 for three great movies is a real bargain.

“Look, Daddy. Teacher says, every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings.”

I must also make a warning here as Big W are also selling It’s A Wonderful Life for just $5. This is not the bargain it seems as this cheap and nasty version is through a public domain company and not the official Paramount release. Years ago I bought a public domain copy that was released through MRA for what I thought was a cheap price. Unfortunately the soundtrack did not sync up with the movie correctly which meant that the voices did not match the actors lips, making the film completely unwatchable. Thus I learnt a very important lesson about not buying DVDs from public domain companies. (Although I have broken this promise since on an awful Laurel & Hardy box set that also had syncing problems!)

“A toast to my big brother George: The richest man in town.”

Anyway onto Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life, one of the most corny, hokey, old-fashioned, sentimental and truly wonderful classic films of all time. For some reason this is one movie that always gets me blubbering like a baby at the ending when the angel Clarence finally gets his wings. It is amazing that this one film can get me tearing up even though it is so corny. “Remember, George: no man is a failure who has friends.” For those who don’t know the story this film is about George Bailey, played by James Stewart, a man with big dreams that are never ever realised because he is always tied down to a small town. He wants to travel the world and become wealthy but circumstances always cause him to miss out on opportunities and means that he has to remain in sleepy Bedford Falls. Disaster strikes towards the films finale and George decides to end it all, until he meets Clarence, an awkward angel who shows George how terrible the world would be if he had never been born. Naturally Clarence shows George just how important he really is while George’s family and friends repay him for his years of service and generosity which helps him avert his disaster.

This film is an all time classic and one of my favourites, a truly great movie that one really has to see. I know that my review does not do the film justice. There are great performances from Stewart and Donna Reed, but it is Barrymore who shines as the films villain Mr. Potter. The film drips sentimentality, but it works, or else I would not blubber like a baby every time I watch the movie.


Rear Window

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Produced by Alfred Hitchcock
Written by Cornell Woolrich (story) & John Michael Hayes
Starring James Stewart
Grace Kelly
Thelma Ritter
Wendell Corey
Raymond Burr
Music by Franz Waxman
Cinematography Robert Burks
Editing by George Tomasini
Distributed by Paramount Pictures/Universal Studios
Release date(s) August 1, 1954
Running time 112 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Rear Window is one of Hitchcock’s most acclaimed films which came from his most prolific period of the mid-1950s. It features two of Hitch’s favourite stars in Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly. Stewart is L. B. ‘Jeff’ Jeffries who has a broken leg and spends his time viewing the world from his apartment window.

I think that everyone knows the plot of this film. Jeff sees what he thinks is a man murder his wife. Grace Kelly’s character Lisa investigates but then the suspected murderer returns home. It is a great film that goes from Jimmy trying to work out whether a crime has occurred or not, to the suspense when Grace Kelly is in the murderer’s apartment, to when the murderer realizes that Jimmy has discovered his secret at the climax of the film. My words don’t really do the film justice, all I can say is that if you haven’t seen Rear Window you really need to watch it. If you have seen it you need to watch it again!