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Circus Showman P.T. Barnum's Biopic Being Made at Columbia

by
July 13, 2009

Barnum & Bailey's Greatest Show on Earth

"The Greatest Show on Earth!" Phineas Taylor Barnum, more commonly known as P.T. Barnum, is to be the subject a new biopic being written by Moneyball writer Stan Chervin. Columbia Pictures has acquired a currently untitled pitch from Chervin that will cover the early years of Barnum, who rose from a shopkeeper to the charismatic showman who created the circus that eventually became known as Barnum & Bailey's Greatest Show on Earth. Todd Garner, who is producing Sorcerer's Apprentice, will produce this through his Broken Road Productions company. No other details about this were revealed, but I'm still intrigued.

This is a period piece I'd love to see! P.T. Barnum was born in 1810 in Bethel, Connecticut. After starting a business in his twenties, he moved to New York City in 1834 at the age of 24 and started "Barnum's Grand Scientific and Musical Theater." The museum he bought was used to promote hoaxes and human curiosities, eventually drawing some 400,000 visitors a year. Barnum entered the circus business at the age of 61, establishing "P. T. Barnum's Grand Traveling Museum, Menagerie, Caravan & Hippodrome", a traveling circus, menagerie and museum of "freaks", which by 1872 was billing itself as "The Greatest Show on Earth". Barnum was the first circus owner to move his circus by train, and the first to purchase his own train.

It's too early to get a good sense of where this is going, especially since we don't know who is directing and it's still being written, but I think it could make for a fascinating story. With as much controversy (mainly surrounding animal cruelty) as the circus still gets today, it should be interesting to see how they present this. Although I have a feeling that what we'll see of P.T. Barnum will be so focused on his earlier years that we might not even get to to see anything about his eventual merger with James Anthony Bailey in 1881 or any of the circus. Anyway, I'll be keeping my eye on this, and will let you know about any developments.

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  • Ryan
    Wow, I am actually excited for this. I agree, this can be very, very fascinating and make a great story. I think we all went to "The Greatest show on Earth" multiple times so a lot of people will also be interested in this too. Hard to believe that they haven't made a biopic on it before.
  • PT Barnum would be a great subject for a biopic. Cecil B. DeMille would also make a great biopic, especially if you could get somebody like Steven Spielberg to direct. DeMille won the Best Picture for The Greatest Show on Earth and is credited for ushering in Hollywood's Golden Age.

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