Peter Paul Rubens and John Ringling

In 1953, the Academy Award for Best Picture went to a colorful circus movie that has long since been consigned to the dust bin of cinematographic history: Cecil B. DeMille’s The Greatest Show on Earth. This extravagant melodrama about the Ringling Bros. – Barnum & Bailey Circus, including a massive train wreck that nearly destroyed it, provided the platform for Charlton Heston’s rise to stardom,as the tough circus boss who rallies his tattered troupe, leading them triumphantly down Main Street in their next scheduled stop, Cedar City.

Can you imagine: it beat out The Quiet Man, Singin’ in the Rain, and Bill Clinton’s favorite, High Noon, all now regulars on Turner Classic Movies?

Anyhow, The Greatest Show on Earth was one of the first movies I remember from my childhood – and I absolutely loved it.

It comes to mind now in part because of the Oscars spectacle of last Sunday evening, but mostly because of a moment of epiphany two days earlier, when I visited the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida.