Lately there’s been a surge of interest in circus life, we’ve all noticed the new books and movies, even reality shows. It’s become pretty clear that the world of the circus is no longer limited to the three ring stage but has spread like wildfire through television and the internet; completely revamping an art form that might have been lost to history. Thanks to all of the attention the media gives the circus, it is easier to do research and dig up some of the older circus gems that have gone unnoticed, unrecognized, and under appreciated throughout time.
There are literally droves of circus themed movies that have passed under the radar for decades, one such movie is MGM’s Merry Andrew. A 1958 feelgood movie starring Danny Kaye and Pier Angeli. The film was based on the story “The Romance of Henry Menafee” by Paul Gallico.
It was adapted into a screenplay by Isobel Lennart and I.A.L. Diamond. Directed by Michael Kidd. The film revolves around the life of a cheerful school teacher named Andrew Larabee (Kaye) whose life is changed when an archaeological expedition leads him to meet a troupe of circus performers. He falls in love with a young acrobat (Angeli) and integrates himself into the world of the circus. Comically enough “Merry Andrew” refers to the British slang term for a clown; a role which Kaye’s character adopts in the film.
The film is characterized by its bright, vibrant colors and upbeat, catchy music. A common feature in many films from this time period was large, intricate musical numbers, and Merry Andrew delivers. Songs such as Salud and Everything is Tickety Boo create a bright and cheerful atmosphere within the film. The music was written and composed by Saul Chaplin and Nelson Riddle the latter of whom received a Golden Laurel nomination for his work on the sound track. Unfortunately this was the only nomination the film received, and its popularity steadily decreased after its release on April 4th, 1958.
There is no reason why Merry Andrew shouldn’t make a comeback. Especially now that the media has adopted an affinity for circus life. I would highly recommend this movie for summer watching! However, it is pretty difficult to get a hold of, as it is not available at Blockbuster, Redbox, or even on Netflix. Still, you may have better luck than I’ve had in the search for this timeless classic. If you can get a hold of the movie you should definitely take the time to watch this 103 minute film about life and love in the circus. ■