Lucille Ball, Jack Palance. “The Greatest Show On Earth.”


News to me. JACK PALANCE (1919 – 2006) starred in 30 colour episodes of a 1963-64 TV series, “The Greatest Show On Earth” .

One of Hollywood’s best baddies finally got to be a good guy, as Johnny Slate, manager of a travelling Circus.

Inspired by the Paramount film of the same name, the series was made by Desily in conjunction with the famous Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus.

Lucille Ball, maybe to boost ratings,  made a guest appearance in the episode, ‘Lady in Limbo’, and for the first time in many years, Lucille played a serious role. She’s a circus performer who has an equestrian act – though we never seen her on a horse!

Lucille’s episode (in B&W)  is the only one I could find on You Tube.

Palance is such a good actor, he is perfectly natural as the caring manager, always ready to help his troup with any problems they may have.

Having access to the famous circus obviously helped the production.

Such a pity that Palance  in movies was pretty well type cast, with a few exceptions.


Russ Tamblyn, Tuesday Weld, Jack Palance


Ruby Keeler, Ken Murray,  Jack Palance


Buster Keaton, Joe E. Brown.

Would  love to see this episode with Keaton and Brown.


Jack Palance


Stuart Erwin

Stuart Irwin had a recurring role as Palance’s assistant.


Jack Palance, Julie Newmar.



Some of the other  stars in “The Greatest Show On Earth.” (Betty Hutton and Cornel Wilde from the 1952 film guest starred.)


Jack with his 1957 Emmy for his live performance in “Requiem for a Heavyweight”. In the 1962 film version, Anthony Quinn took the lead.


Jack also starred in the series BRONK in 1975-76, playing a police detective.


With Billy Crystal in “City Slickers” for which Jack won an Oscar.



Also news to me, Jack released an album of country music songs ( some of which he wrote) in 1970. I’ve hear a few numbers and his voice suits the songs. I love how one of the songs he wrote is called ‘The Meanest Guy That Ever Lived.’ !




My favourite Palance performances.

‘Blackie’ in PANIC IN THE STREETS. Jack’s first film and what a debut.  Could never understand why there was no Oscar nod for him.

Jack had understudied Marlon Brando on Broadway in “A Streetcar Named Desire” which was directed by Elia Kazan. (Jack did get to go on for a few performances). So When Kazan did ‘Panic in the Streets’, he obviously knew Jack’s ability.

With Zero Mostel.


‘Wilson’ in SHANE.

Jack did get an Oscar nomination for “Shane” (and “Sudden Fear”).

Who  can forget the quiet,soft spoken killer in black who guns down little Elisha  Cook . To say Palance is menacing is an understatement- he devours the screen!


As ‘Lester Blaine’  with Joan Crawford in SUDDEN FEAR.

One of the things I like about “Sudden Fear” is the chance to hear Jack’ s beautiful speaking voice, as he quotes  poetry to Joan.

Of course, he and Gloria  Grahame make a dynamic  team as they plot and scheme against Joan.





11 responses »

  1. The TV show sounds like a charmer, and thanks for the reminder of all of the fine and interesting performances from Jack Palance.

  2. Nice to see you shine the light on Jack. Always one of my favorite tough guys. Good or bad. Had no idea about this show so once again I’m still learning. I did know about the country music album and there’s footage of him on youtube guesting on the Porter Wagoner Show. I also think he made a great Dracula for Dan Curtis’ TV movie. Great post!

  3. Thoroughly enjoyed the above brief review of one of my favourite actors. Enjoyed most, if not all of his films. Surprised to know he acted in the said tv circus series. Best rgds.

  4. The Greatest Show On Earth was certainly news to
    me as well,though I had heard the country LP…where Jack
    goes all Johnny Cash. It was re-issued on CD several years ago
    but the company that put it out no longer exists.
    Super picture gallery,as always…the one of Keaton and Brown
    my favourite.
    Jack’s Western THE LONELY MAN very underrated.one of his best
    movies I think.

  5. Vienna, I really enjoyed your write-up of Jack Palance. My first introduction to Jack Palance was the TV show THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH. I remember watching it when it was originally on and later in syndicated re-runs. I really liked the show. I saw Jack as a good guy before I saw him as a heavy. If my memory serves me right, the first time I remember Jack as a heavy was his portrayal of Torvald the champion gladiator of Rome in BARABBAS(1962), which I saw on TV in 1966 or ’67. Another memorable performance was THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE(1968). His starring role in this made for TV movie was a stunner.

    I liked your choice of photographs. My favorite was the one of Lucy and Jack.

    • How interesting that Greatest Show On Earth should be your very first viewing of Jack Palance – when he wasn’t a villain!

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