Trapeze (film)

Trapeze is a 1956 American circus film directed by Carol Reed and starring Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis and Gina Lollobrigida, making her debut in American films. The film is based on Max Catto's novel The Killing Frost, with the adapted screenplay written by Liam O'Brien.[3]

Theatrical release poster
Directed byCarol Reed
Produced byJames Hill
Written byMax Catto (novel)
Liam O'Brien (adaptation)
James R. Webb (screenplay)
Ben Hecht (uncredited)
Wolf Mankowitz (uncredited)
StarringBurt Lancaster
Tony Curtis
Gina Lollobrigida
Music byMalcolm Arnold
CinematographyRobert Krasker
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
  • May 30, 1956 (1956-05-30)
Running time
105 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$4 million[1]
Box office$15.5 million (US)[2]

The film did well at the box office placing in the top three among the year's top earners in the United States and Canada.[4]


Crippled trapeze aerialist and former star Mike Ribble (Burt Lancaster) sees great promise in young, brash Tino Orsini (Tony Curtis). Ribble—only the sixth man to have completed the dangerous triple somersault—thinks his protégé is capable of matching the same feat, but only if he gives him rigorous training. However, Orsini is distracted by the new third member of their circus act, the manipulative Lola (Gina Lollobrigida). Tensions rise as a love triangle forms.



Lancaster, a former circus acrobat, performed many of his own stunts, though the most dangerous (including the climactic triple somersault) were done by technical consultant Eddie Ward from the Ringling Brothers Circus.[5]

Trapeze was filmed entirely in Paris, including at the Cirque d'Hiver, and at the nearby Billancourt studios.[5]


Burt Lancaster won the Silver Bear for Best Actor award at the 6th Berlin International Film Festival.[6] Reed was nominated for best director by the Directors Guild of America.

Pauline Kael of The New Yorker wrote: "There's vitality in Carol Reed's direction, and an exuberant sweep in Robert Krasker's camera work. Burt Lancaster and Gina Lollobrigida function as stars--they're magnetic."

However, Bosley Crowther panned the film in his review for The New York Times. He wrote that the story was "dismally obvious and monotonous", the direction no better, and the dialogue "dull and hackneyed". He also criticized the leads in the film, writing that Lollobrigida had only her looks to show and that Curtis and Lancaster were both uninteresting.[7] The film was the fourth most popular movie at the British box office in 1956.[8]

See also


  1. Kate Buford, Burt Lancaster: An American Life, Da Capo 2000 p 151
  2. "Some of the Top UA Grossers". Variety. June 24, 1959. p. 12. Retrieved August 30, 2019.
  3. Variety Staff (Dec 31, 1955). "Review: 'Trapeze'". Variety.
  4. "109 Top Money Films of 1956". Variety. January 2, 1957. p. 1. Retrieved April 24, 2019.
  5. Stafford, Jeff. "Trapeze". Turner Classic Movies ( Retrieved 2007-08-04.
  6. "6th Berlin International Film Festival: Prize Winners". Retrieved 2009-12-27.
  7. Crowther, Bosley (Jun 5, 1956). "Trapeze (1956) Screen: Greatest of Ease; Monotonous 'Trapeze' Swings Into Capitol". The New York Times.
  8. BRITISH. FILMS MADE MOST MONEY: BOX-OFFICE SURVEY The Manchester Guardian 28 Dec 1956: 3
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