In “The Circus,” leading Soviet star Lyubov Orlova plays Marion Dixon, an American circus performer who is run out of town when she gives birth to a mixed-race baby. She builds a new life for herself in the Soviet Union, where she discovers that people laugh at the very idea of racial prejudice. This showy musical boasts some spectacular song/dance/circus numbers that tip their hat to Busby Berkeley. It was directed by Eisenstein’s favorite pupil, Grigori Aleksandrov, who later became the most popular director in the Soviet Union after a visit to Hollywood, where he studied musicals and special effects.
Considered a Stalinist picture in its purest state, pic didn’t suffer from censorship problems at the time. However, sometime after 1948, the great actor Solomon Mikhoels, who cameos singing a verse in Yiddish, was removed from the film. A renowned anti-fascist and director of a Yiddish theater, he was killed by the regime in ’48. His death signaled the official suppression of all Jewish theaters and the arrest of many of their actors. His snippet has since been found in Prague’s film archive and restored to the print by Gosfilmofond.