The Smallest Show on Earth

The Smallest Show on Earth

classified U

Celebrating Slocombe

Film

Please note: This was screened in July 2016

Director
Basil Dearden
Cast
Virginia McKenna, Bill Travers, Margaret Rutherford
Details
82 mins, 1957, UK

A young couple inherit a run-down cinema and must turn it around with the help of the eccentric staff in this funny but very much forgotten classic of British cinema.

When the McKennas inherit a cinema they discover that it isn't a sumptuous modern palace, but the decrepit Bijou, known locally as 'the fleapit', all moth eaten chairs, creaking floor boards, leaking roof and questionable heating system. Their business is threatened by the far more modern Grand Cinema around the corner, but instead of selling off the fleapit to its owner, they succumb to the inept charms of the crazed, aged staff - including boozy old projectionist Peter Sellers, doddery commissionaire Bernard Miles and dotty ticket lady Margaret Rutherford. Can they take on the odds and win?

Douglas Slocombe’s use of light and shadow is a masterclass on how to enhance a simple set like a classic cinema’s auditorium and make it spellbinding. Whether it is a small glint of light through a cracked window or the light of the projector onto the cinema’s screen, every shot within the space of the Bijou is superbly put together. With an impressive cast of Ealing regulars The Smallest Show on Earth is a wonderful snapshot through the world of cinema-going in the 1950s. A real rare treat for all cinephiles!