The Circus

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The film Цирк [Tsirk] or The Circus is a good example of how in the thirties in the Soviet Union, film and music were used for propaganda purposes.

The film was shot in 1936 by director Grigory Vasilyevich Aleksandrov (1903-1983), and became extremely popular, in part by the music of Basil Ivanovich Lebedev-Kumach (1898-1949) and Isaac Osipovich Dunaevsky (1900-1955).

The Circus is a musical, of which the scenario was based on the play Под куполом цирка [Pod kupolom tsirka] or Under the Cupola of the Circus by the famous writing duo Ilya Ilff (1897-1937) and Yevgeny Petrov (1903-1942), much admired by Bulgakov. Ilff and Petrov did not agree with the interpretation of the director, though, and had their names deleted from the credits.

The film tells the story of Marion Dixon, an American circus performer, who became victim of racism in the United States after the birth of her black son. She leaves her homeland for a tour in the Soviet Union. Because of her black baby she is blackmailed by her manager, but she met the Russian spectacle director Ivan Martynov, and soon falls in love with him. After some complications, Dixon, with her new Russian man, finds shelter, love and happiness in the Soviet Union, where her black son, unlike in the United States, is well treated.

The role of Marian Dixon is played by Lyubov Petrovna Orlova (1902-1975), wife of director Aleksandrov, and the first film diva in the Soviet Union.

The film has been re-mixed several times, according to the propaganda needs of the moment. For example, a Jewish lullaby, sung by Mikhoel Mikailovich Solomon (1890-1949) was removed in the '40s and added back after Stalin's death.

Technical details

Grigory Aleksandrov

Lyubov Orlova, Sergei Stolyarov, Yevgeniya Melnikova, Aleksandr Komissarov, Jim Patterson, Vladimir Volodin, Pavel Massalsky

Release date

94 minutes