When I think of the circus, I think of summer days in a tent that smells like hay, watching elephants languish in captivity. I think of the dark history of freak shows, of people ogling at “curiosities.” I think of Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love, a book about a circus man who bred his children to be mutants in his traveling show.
With the film The Greatest Showman, whose trailer dropped yesterday, I finally have the opportunity to wash all those negative associations from my head, right? Possibly. The biographical musical drama, starring Hugh Jackman as P.T. Barnum, is bound to be bursting with life. In fact, the Moulin Rouge-esque trailer made me wish it were 25th December, the day the movie premieres.
But who is the figure that inspired this film? Father of modern-day show biz and alleged creator of the phrase “There’s a sucker born every minute,” P.T. Barnum has made a sucker out of me. I've gone on a goose hunt to see how the biographical details of his wild life compare to what's been depicted in the trailer.
Not all of the details align with the facts of his life, as you’ll see. But as Barnum himself would say — that’s show biz.
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