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Man on a Tightrope

   

Man on a Tightrope (1952) starring Frederic March, Terry Moore, Gloria Grahame, Adolphe Menjou, Cameron Mitchell, directed by Elia Kazan

Synopsis of Man on a Tightrope

The Man on the Tightrope is Czech circus owner-Clown. He has a daring plan for his entire troupe to order to escape from behind the Iron Curtain.

Cast of characters

  • Fredric March (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde 1931) … Karel Cernik. The former owner of the circus. Technically, the government of Czechoslovakia now owns, and controls it.
  • Terry Moore (The Great Rupert) … Tereza Cernik. Karel’s daughter. She complicates his life by her romance with the lion tamer.
  • Gloria Grahame (The Greatest Show on Earth) … Zama Cernik. Karel’s unfaithful wife. Although she does truly love him.
  • Cameron Mitchell (High Barbaree) … Joe Vosdek. The lion tamer, romancing Tereza. Karel doesn’t trust him.
  • Adolphe Menjou (Sweet Rosie O’Grady) … Fesker. One of the petty bureaucrats, who wants to dictate how the State wants the circus run. But he’s in fear of his life as well.
  • Robert Beatty (2001: A Space Odyssey) … Barovic
  • Alexander D’Arcy (Blood of Dracula’s Castle) … Rudolph
  • Richard Boone (I Bury the Living) … Krofta
  • Pat Henning … Konradin
  • Paul Hartman (The Reluctant Astronaut) … Jaremir
  • John Dehner (The Boys from Brazil) … The Chief. The higher State bureaucrat. Whom Fesker fears. An intelligent nemesis.

Review of Man on a Tightrope

Karel Cernik: Just stay in the cage with the lions. You’ll be safe in there.

Don’t irritate the girl’s father.

Man on a Tightrope is an absolutely excellent film. It’s the story of a circus, operating behind the Iron Curtain. And the Communist dictatorship has an iron fist on the circus. It’s taken the best workers, equipment, and animals. And is dictating how they have to change their acts — no matter how boring that makes the performance. And everyone is under surveillance, and suspicion.

So, the head of the circus, Fredric March, has a daring plan. To get the entire circus out of the country. It’s a dangerous, daring plan. Especially since one of the performers is an informant.

It’s a wonderful film, with conflict and angst among the performers. It’s incredibly well-done, and highly recommended.

Editorial review of Man on a Tightrope courtesy of Amazon.com

Karel Cernik (Fredric March) is the leader of a troupe of Czechoslovakian circus performers who have been plying their trade in Eastern Europe for years. When Czechoslovakia falls under Communist rule, the proud and independent Cernik finds that he is no longer free to operate his circus as he sees fit. Many of his performers are conscripted into military service, and his equipment and possessions are declared government property, though the state fails to maintain it properly, or even to give him access to the material to fix it himself.

Finally, when Cernik’s remaining performers are ordered to insert pro-Communist messages into their acts, he decides that he can take no more and begins making plans to escape to Bavaria during an upcoming tour. Cernik’s plans hit a snag, however, when he learns that one of his performers is a spy for the Czech communists, working in collusion with government factotum Fesker (Adolphe Menjou). While politics are making a mess of his professional life, his daughter Tereza (Terry Moore) is complicating matters at home because of her romance with the handsome but unreliable lion tamer Joe Vosdek (Cameron Mitchell), much to the chagrin of both Karel and his wife Zama (Gloria Grahame).

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