VIDEO: Behind the Big Top ~ A look inside the vintage circus life

The Benzini Brother's competition ;)

Shhhhhh…don’t tell Uncle Al about this post (or August if you’re a script reader). Travel Film Archive unearthed some vintage behind-the-scenes footage of Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey and Hill’s Society circus’. Let’s ditch our rube lifestyle and take a look at what went on behind the Big Top.

These vintage vids are a perfect look into what we should expect from ‘Water For Elephants‘ the film…it’s actual circus footage from the 1930s! Highlights in the first vid from Hill’s Society Circus include:

  • 1:23 check out the cookhouse! some TENSE WFE moments happened in the cookhouse.
  • 1:50 feeding the elephants…is it watermelon?
  • 2:09 roustabouts pitching the tents!

The next vintage vid from Travel Film Archive shows a more extravagant circus. Yup. Known other than Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Highlights include:

  • :56 view several horse tricks which happen to be the foundation of the modern American circus.
  • 6:42 view elephant acts being rehearsed

video: Source

About tinkrbe1l3

Fan and supporter of all things Robert Pattinson. Co-chauffeur on, co-blogger on, co-kinker on, as well as upcoming films:,,,, Co-blogger on
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17 Responses to VIDEO: Behind the Big Top ~ A look inside the vintage circus life

  1. Alison4828 says:

    Excellent post Tink!! Thanks for showing us how things were back in the 30’s circus life and we are sure glad times have changed for the most part.

    This is gonna be an awesome movie for both Rob & Rosie =)

  2. Karen says:

    Thank you so much for posting these vintage videos. It made me smile because especially when I saw the cookhouse and dining tent, it was exactly as I envisioned it. Lovely when an author is so amazing with their words that they can take you there to experience the sights, sounds, smells with every turn of the page. Albeit an animal conservationist myself, I can’t help but feel nostalgic for a simpler time to when a circus day was a big deal for kids and families alike. We here in the Sarasota, Florida community are reminded often of the Ringling contributions to the entertainment business and such, but many just see it as a name and don’t understand what it has to do with anything. So sad.

  3. Lisa says:

    Great videos! Thank you so much for posting them. :o)

  4. Sus says:

    Regardless of the poor treatment of the animals, this was a big part of post-Depression era life. This book is wonderful, and not to be missed. I think Rob will do Jacob proud, and I think Hal Holbrook will be incredible as old Jacob!

    Thanks for the history of this….very interesting!


  5. Christal Wiliams says:

    I am looking forward to the movie and I have ordered the book to read first..It’s wild watching the video and we just had a train go by..I live in a railroad town.. My daughter said today, every-time she hears the trains now she’ll think of Rob, making the movie… Of course she eats, sleeps and drinks him every day..I can officially say that her room is wall to wall Rob Pattinson, her Birthday is in 19 days and its a Rob cake and of course plates ans all, I am hoping to get some eclipse in it too… Get ready her ceiling is next!!!

    Thanks for sharing the video, it was interesting..It’s part of history..

  6. Mandy07 says:

    I’ve been involved with WWf for a long time, they even came out with a clothing line that I still have. I read the book last winter and fell in love with it, before it was a sure thing for the big screen. Now that I know Rob will play Jacob I feel he will be great in it and my hunches are never wrong! So glad Chis is playing August instead of Sean P. Enjoy your site and wish more people were envolved keep up the good work!

  7. Alice87 says:

    It´s soooo amazing to watch these vids!
    Thank you so much for posting them….

    It´s a little bit scary how realistic the book really is…. But I love it even more for that!!!

    Just wanted to say that I really enjoy your site guys! You´re doing such a great job & I can´t wait for new posts every day!

  8. Lynda says:

    The vid very interesting. And thanks for all the info. Are they changing the name of the film to “Circue”? And did they film last Monday and Tuesday???
    Loved the Book!! And deffinately love Rob!

  9. Kailene Kaina says:

    Great old movies! I hope the movie will live up to it’s expectations otherwise there’s going to be alot of circus folks, including me, who will be most dissapointed if the film isn’t true to date and fact. And yes, elephants love watermelons.

  10. Dee says:

    “Let yourself go through the same emotional journey as Jacob Jankowski.” That is such a true statement and I imagine that Rob went through that emotional journey when he was introduced to the character of Jacob. He is perfect for the part and will bring that emotion to life as Jacob.
    Thanks so much for posting such an interesting article.

  11. yoliee48 says:


  12. Gonçalo Diniz says:

    Hello, I´m form Portugal. I am a big circus fan and i loved de “water for elephants” book! At the same time i have to say that nowadays, in most circuses, the animals do not suffer, they are loved and cared for with affection. At the same time, WWF sponsored some of these circuses. I hope you have in mind my comment and did not say that animals are mistreated in all circuses. Today there are campaigns against circuses based on lies and videos that are filmed in other circuses to shut down the big ones as the circus ringling. P.S. sorry for my english
    :) greetings

  13. Pattee says:

    This is such a great book and I know Rob will do it proud. Also glad that it brings to light the animal cruelty issue that is still part of this type of circus. Can not wait to see it!!

  14. Mrsoni says:

    Now I have the book, is magical … thanks for the videos are shocking and real … and yes, rob is perfect …

  15. Patricia York says:

    Just finished readingthis book – DELIGHTED it will be a movie –
    can’t wait to see it -

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