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Film / The Show

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Not the worst circus act around.

The Show is a 1927 film directed by Tod Browning, starring John Gilbert, Renee Adoree, and Lionel Barrymore.

Gilbert plays Cock Robin, a sideshow carnival barker in Budapest. He has some sexual tension with Salome, one of the performers in his show, but Salome has a boyfriend. Her boyfriend is "the Greek" (Barrymore) who also happens to be a knife-wielding murderer and sociopath. Robin isn't much better, being an amoral opportunist who is romancing Lena, a naive country girl, with eyes towards stealing her money.

Robin's plan to rob Lena of her money hits a snag when the Greek, who also wants the money, murders Lena's father. Robin, suspected of the murder, hides out in Salome's apartment. The Greek, who both wants the money and wants to kill Robin, tracks him to Salome's place.


  • As You Know: "And how is your daughter Lena enjoying her visit to the city?"
  • Bedlah Babe: This is how Salome dresses for the show.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: Robin is kind of a dirtbag who thinks nothing of ripping off an ignorant country girl. The Greek, for his part, is a murderous psycho. Robin reforms in the end, at least.
  • Chekhov's Gun: In the first act Robin's little troupe is shown to have a deadly Gila monster. In the third act the Greek steals the Gila monster and tries to use it to kill Robin.
  • Country Mouse: Lena is utterly clueless, simple-mindedly handing over her sizeable bankroll to Robin. She would have married him too if Salome hadn't barged in and put a stop to it.
  • The Freakshow: A fake one. Robin's rather low-rent circus sideshow includes women made up to resemble a mermaid, a half-woman (no legs), and a spider woman.
  • Hidden Depths: Salome turns out to be caring for a dying father. She is also writing her father fake letters that purport to come from her brother, who is actually on Death Row.
  • Imagine Spot: A scene in which the Greek imagines whacking Robin's head off onstage.
  • Love Redeems: After seeing the lengths Salome has gone to to spare her father pain, Robin is moved, and elects to turn over a new leaf and return the money.
  • Male Gaze: Robin adjusts his dressing-room mirror so he can look at the legs of the lady performers in the show.
  • Mr. Fanservice: A big part of Robin's act is him exchanging winks and lecherous glances with the ladies in the audience. Right at the end, one of the women watching the the show remarks that Salome kept Robin hidden in her room for weeks, and the other says "Who wouldn't?"
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: After seeing Salome get too close to Robin, the Greek comes up with a scheme in which he sneaks into the show and makes the fake beheading into a real one.
  • Not-So-Fake Prop Weapon: The Greek's first plot to murder Robin involves sneaking into the Salome act and using a real sword in the beheading scene instead of the fake one. Salome saves Robin in the nick of time when she spots the Greek's dress shoes.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: The Greek is never named, and Salome is only called that because she plays Salome in the act.
  • Streetwalker: Lena's father is strolling off with one when he gets shot.
  • Sword Cane: The Greek displays his switchblade in order to intimidate Robin. He fails, as Robin proceeds to bust out a scary-looking long-bladed knife from his walking stick.
  • Title Drop: The last scene is introduced with a title card that says "And The Show must go on."