ON A TIGHTROPE (director: Elia Kazan;
screenwriter: story by Neil Paterson/Robert E. Sherwood;
cinematographer: George Krause; editor: Dorothy Spencer;
music: Franz Waxman; cast: Fredric March (Karel Cernik), Terry Moore (Tereza Cernik), Gloria Grahame (Zama Cernik), Cameron Mitchell (Joe Vosdek), Adolphe Menjou (Fesker), Robert Beatty (Barovic), Alex D'Arcy (Rudolph), Richard Boone (Krofta), Hansi (Kaalko, the Dwarf),
Pat Henning (Konradin), Paul Hartman (Jaromir), John Dehner (The Chief),
Philip Kenneally (The Sergeant),
The Brumbach Circus
(Themselves); Runtime: 105; MPAA Rating: NR;
producer: Robert L. Jacks; 20th Century Fox; 1953)
"Writer Robert E. Sherwood never gets the screenplay to gracefully walk across the tightrope."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Acclaimed director Elia Kazan ("On The
Waterfront"/"A Streetcar Named Desire"/"Gentleman's
Agreement") helms, possibly, his poorest film. A flat
but plausible anticommunist adventure set in Czechoslovakia, in 1952,
that revolves around a struggling traveling circus
troupe who are trapped behind the Iron Curtain, a
rebellious daughter's romance, a Cold War parable and
a search for freedom. The story by Neil
Paterson is based on fact. Writer Robert E.
Sherwood never gets the screenplay to gracefully walk
across the tightrope.
Karel Cernik (Fredric
March) is the clown-manager
of an old-time
troupe of Czechoslovakian circus performers, who are
on the Eastern Europe circuit. In 1952, Czechoslovakia is under
Communist rule and the independent-minded Cernik is
vexed by the red tape of the bureaucratic government,
that his star performers are drafted into the army and
his circus equipment is listed as government property.
The last straw for Cernik is when he's ordered by the authorities
pro-communist messages in the act. With that, the
proud Cernik makes plans to seek asylum in neighboring
Austria. Trouble arises when Cernik learns that one of
the circus performers is a spy, who works for the
secret police tool Fesker
(Adolphe Menjou). The poor circus head also has
personal problems, such as dealing with his sexy daughter Tereza (Terry
Moore) and his flirty younger wife number two, Zamba
(Gloria Grahame). Tereza displeases dad
and her stepmother Zamba by having an affair with
the untrustworthy lion tamer Joe Vosdek
The circus atmosphere is
captured by having the Brumbach Circus play
themselves. The acting is decent, but not great (too
theatrical). But what kills the pic, is that the trite
script has too many holes to overlook and its dullness
speaks for itself.
It was filmed in Bavaria.
REVIEWED ON 10/12/2011 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ