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Water for Elephants - Summary

"A fierce, primitive fighting force that smashes relentlessly forward against impossible odds: That is the circus. And this is the story of the biggest of the Big Tops . . . and of the men and women who fight to make it — The Greatest Show on Earth! "

Cecil B. DeMilleOpening Remarks from
The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)

Have you been to a circus? They can be magical places displaying trained animals such as lions, tigers and elephants. They showcase marvelous athletic abilities of tightrope walkers and aerial acrobats. Circuses have been around for centuries; however, in America especially during the Depression and the World Wars, circuses were a temporary escape from the hardships of daily life.

Examine different types of circuses – big-name events or independent shows. A circus coming to town usually means a parade down Main Street of animals and performers alike. Look at actual posters showing images of lion tamers, giant elephants, tigers and acrobats.

Meet some of the most famous circus performers of the 1930s. Did you know that movie star Burt Lancaster was first an aerialist for a circus funded by the Federal Theatre Project? Did you know that you could reach out and touch the elephants? Always popular are circus sideshows that featured events such as fire eating and knife-throwing.

Discover that circuses are not all glamour and fun for the performers and animals. Read about disasters which take the lives of audience members, circus employees and animals. Learn how animals were treated in an earlier time.

The film, Water for Elephants is based on a combination of various true circus stories that took place during the 1930s. The fictional Benzini Bros. Circus focuses on Marlena Rosenbluth (Reese Witherspoon), her husband and circus manager, August Rosenbluth (Christopher Waltz), Jacob Jankowski (Robert Pattinson), and of course, Rosie the elephant.

To separate some fact from fiction, Rosie is real and truly special; she is friendly and even lets folks use her back as a miniature golf course and a diving board! Born and raised in Miami, she soon becomes more famous than her owner, Carl Fisher the town developer. After the 1926 hurricane, the fate of the elephant named Rosie was uncertain. “Perhaps” she has been sold to a traveling circus. Who’s to say, right? It could have happened.

This story and film give a glimpse into the everyday lives of circus performers and circus management together with animal trainers and handlers. Answer for yourself the question: Is a circus really “the greatest show on earth?”

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5189stories and lessons created

Original Release: Apr 01, 2011

Updated Last Revision: Nov 09, 2016


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"Water for Elephants" AwesomeStories.com. Apr 01, 2011. Dec 15, 2019.
       <http://www.awesomestories.com/asset/view/Water-for-Elephants/Summary>.
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