Circus poster.jpg
Film poster
Directed byGrigori Aleksandrov
Isidor Simkov
Written byGrigori Aleksandrov
StarringLyubov Orlova
Vladimir Volodin
Sergei Stolyarov
Pavel Massalsky
James Patterson
CinematographyVladimir Nilsky
Boris Petrov
Music byIsaak Dunayevsky
Release date
23 May 1936
Running time
94 min.
CountrySoviet Union

Circus (Russian: Цирк; translit. Tsirk) is a 1936 Soviet melodramatic comedy musical film. It was directed by Grigori Aleksandrov and Isidor Simkov at the Mosfilm studios. In his own words, it was conceived as "an eccentric comedy...a real side splitter."[1]

Starring the glamorous and immensely popular Lyubov Orlova (Aleksandrov's wife), the first recognized star of Soviet cinema and a gifted singer, the film contains several songs which instantly became Soviet classics. The most famous is the "Song of the Motherland" (Широка страна моя родная).[1][2] ISWC code for film music: T-926.406.620-8

The film was based on a comedy written by Ilf and Petrov and Valentin Kataev and performed by Moscow music hall, Under the Circus Dome (Под куполом цирка), which was seen and liked by Aleksandrov.[1] They made the play into the plot, but during the initial film shooting they went to America. Upon return, they disliked the director's interpretation, and after a conflict they abandoned the work, forbade the mention of their names in the credits, and further work on the plot was continued by Isaac Babel.[3][4]


Orlova plays an American circus artist who, after giving birth to a black baby (played by James Lloydovich Patterson), immediately becomes a victim of racism and is forced to stay in the circus, but finds refuge, love and happiness in the USSR.

Marion Dixon, a popular American circus artist is forced to flee for her life with her son, to escape a lynch mob in a provincial American town. The fate of the father is not mentioned, but it is implied that he was lynched. Dixon is taken under the wing of Franz von Kneishitz, a sinister German theatrical agent whose mustache and mannerisms resemble those of Adolf Hitler. Kneishitz blackmails Dixon into becoming his lover while exploiting her and in one scene beats her quite savagely.

Dixon is only kept alive by her love for her son Jimmy, and when she plays in Moscow as a guest performer, she is portrayed as spiritually broken. At the Moscow circus, the circus director Ludvig hires the Arctic explorer Ivan Petrovich Martinov to design a new circus act to top Dixon's "Trip to the Moon" act. Ludvig's fiery daughter Rayechka has a tempestuous relationship with her boyfriend Skameikin. Despite his mission to design an act better than her act, Martinov and Dixon fall in love, which attracts Kneishitz's rage. Dixon wants to stay in Moscow with Martinov, saying she has found happiness again. Kneishitz diverts a love letter from Dixon meant for Martinov to Skameikin, which throws the circus into romantic chaos as Rayechka is furious with Skameikin while Martinov is heartbroken. To escape Rayechka, Skameikin accidentally runs into a lion cage and has to calm the lions with a bouquet of flowers. When Martinov does not respond to her love letter, Dixon nearly leaves Moscow with Kneishitz. By this time, Rayechka has learned the truth and she helps Dixon escape Kneishitz. Martinov and Dixon are late to the circus, forcing Ludvig to perform the top act of 1903, the chudo tekhniki ("miracle of technology"), to amuse the impatient audience. Finally, Martinov and Dixon arrive and perform their "Trip to the Stratosphere" act together.

Kneishitz interrupts the act to tell Dixon to come with him or else he will reveal her secret. When she refuses, Kneishitz delivers a Hitler-like rant about how Dixon has a black son Jimmy, only for the audience to laugh at him. Ludvig tells Kneishitz that the Soviet peoples do not care about racial purity or race at all. Dixon's black son is embraced by friendly Soviet people. Kneishitz tries to seize Jimmy, but the audience unites to save him. Finally, a group of burly Red Army soldiers in the audience block Kneishitz, who cowers in fear and leaves. The movie climaxes with a lullaby being sung to the baby by representatives of various Soviet ethnicities taking turns.[1] The lyrics of the lullaby to Jimmy are sung in Russian, Ukrainian, Yiddish, Uzbek and Georgian. One of the members of the audience is a black American man dressed in a Soviet naval officer's uniform with a Russian wife. The lyrics of The International Lullaby declare: "Son prikhodit na porog/Krepko, krepko spi ty/Sto putei, sto dorog/Dlia tebia otkryty" ("Sleep comes to your doorstep/Sleep very,very soundly/A hundred paths, a hundred doorways/Are open to you").[5] Dixon and Martinov declare their love for one another while Rayechka and Shameikin become engaged. The film ends with Rayechka and Dixon marching together in the annual May Day parade under banners depicting the faces of Lenin and Stalin. Much of the footage of the May Day parade used in the film was taken from the actual May Day parade of 1935.[6]

The film was digitally colorized in 2011 in Russia.


Production and aftermath

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f Rimgaila Salys (2009). The Musical Comedy Films of Grigorii Aleksandrov: Laughing Matters. Intellect Books. pp. 121–197. ISBN 978-1-841-50282-3.
  2. ^ Roger Manvell, ed. (1949). Experiment in the Film. The Grey Walls Press Ltd. p. 169.
  3. ^ "Пять интересных фактов о легендарном фильме "Цирк" Archived 2015-07-22 at the Wayback Machine, May 25, 2013 (retrieved July 19, 2015)
  4. ^ Сайт поклонников творчества Ильи Ильфа и Евгения Петрова
  5. ^ Rimgaila 2009, p. 174.
  6. ^ Rimgaila 2009, p. 131.
  7. ^ Театральная энциклопедия. / Гл. ред. П. А. Марков. Т. 4. — Moscow: Советская энциклопедия, Нежин — Сярев, 1965, 1152 стб. с илл., 6 л. илл.
  8. ^ «Цирк» зажигает огни
  9. ^ a b "Circus". (in Russian). Radio Liberty. Retrieved 8 September 2020.
  10. ^ "Circus". Radio Liberty. Retrieved 17 August 2020.
  11. ^ "Duel, and Death of Lermontov. New Version". (in Russian). Stavropol Pravda. Retrieved 20 August 2020.
  12. ^ "Circus (1936)". (in Russian). Ministry of Culture (Russia). Retrieved 19 August 2020.
  13. ^ Abramov, Vladimir (14 July 2013). "Soviet Hollywood". (in Russian). Radio Liberty. Retrieved 21 August 2020.
  14. ^ "Fact 23- Ju. S. Sakov - 100 Truths and Untruths about Orlova". lubov-orlova-ru (in Russian). Retrieved 3 September 2020.
  15. ^ "Mary & Doug Travel to Russia". Mary Pickford Foundation. Retrieved 9 September 2020.
  16. ^ Razzakov, Feodor. "How to curb Jewry. All the secrets of Stalin's behind the scenes". (in Russian). Retrieved 8 September 2020.
  17. ^ "Orlova avenged her husband's betrayal". Sobesednik. 2011. Retrieved 8 September 2020.
  18. ^ "Lyubov Orlova and Grigory Alexandrov: an ideal couple or a fictitious marriage?". Mir 24. 14 August 2020. Retrieved 8 September 2020.
External video
video icon Circus with English subtitles, released by the official Mosfilm YouTube channel