Ah, the circus. I always loved when the circus came to town when I was a kid, it was a once-a-year thing. Wild animals, motorcycles in rings, trapeze artists and clowns. Somewhere around fifth or sixth grade, my dad discovered that one of his one-time co-workers was now the head clown at the Circus World Museum in Baraboo, so we trekked up there and both my sister and I got to be part of a magic act and meet some of the other circus folk.
Ah, the fair. I always loved the fair as a kid, too. It wasn't until my teen years, however, that I ventured into the midway, experienced the sights and sounds at night. The fair was the place to people watch, better than the mall and better than downtown Milwaukee, for my money.
Carnival and circus culture has touched so much in this world, including the art of film. Obviously, I got to thinking about this after last weekend's trip to the Florida State Fair, and it's amazing to me how many movies I've seen over the years that feature the art of live, gripping entertainment. Freakshows, circuses, little county fairs, street performers, the thrill of traveling entertainers.
Like this guy, our little pygmy fire-eater from Tuesday. Doesn't he look like he wants to be friends? If there was a decent living to be made at it for someone of my limited talents, I'd run off and join the circus or a side show tomorrow, or start raising fair-worthy pigs and chickens. Sadly, the most I can expect is to write about them, being a practical man and all.
But now, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, if you would direct your attention to the center ring, Thursday rules apply. This means study hard, show your work, and enjoy something battered and deep-fried. I give you a few of the actors (generally not the main actor) and a memorable scene, you give me the film in which all three appeared in each case. I do grade on a curve, remember, so even if you don't get them all, you'll have learned something.
Jill St. John and Charles Gray - Jill eludes federal officers by sneaking into a sideshow act where a woman transforms into a giant gorilla.
Jason Robards and Jonathan Pryce - A traveling carnival which includes an age-altering merry-go-round.
Tom Hanks and Robert Loggia - A wish is granted by a coin-operated fortune teller on the boardwalk.
Geoffrey Lewis and Sondra Locke - Wild West show performs in a circus tent made from American flags.
David Ogden Stiers and Barnard Hughes - Characters interact with a waylaid physician during the local squash festival.
Louis Jourdain and Maude Adams - A circus is used as an unknowing front for nuclear disaster.
Bernadette Peters and M. Emmet Walsh - Character runs off to the circus with his dog to avoid a madman.
Stockard Channing and Edd Byrnes - Students attend a carnival on the last day of high school, declaring their eternal friendship.
Yes, I make you jump through hoops and tie yourself in knots over these things, but it's worth it. Really, it is. Have at it!
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