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The New York Times review erroneously lists the film's running time at 149 minutes. Hollywood Reporter news items indicate that The Big Circus was originally set as a Columbia production. Producer Irwin Allen was to have produced and directed it for Columbia. The Big Circus was shot on the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer lot in Culver City, CA. According to Hollywood Reporter, M-G-M's mascot, Leo the Lion, was brought out of semi-retirement to appear in the film as the lion set loose to terrorize the "Whirling Circus" audience. A December 1958 Hollywood Reporter item mentions that Harpo and Chico Marx were in negotiations to appear in the film. A January 1959 New York Times article indicates that Meredith Willson was in discussions to write a song for the film. The same article notes that "Zach's" Niagara Falls stunt was actually performed in the 1850s.
Hollywood Reporter news items add the following actors to the cast: J. Edward McKinley, Nesdon Booth, Dick Rich, Eden Hartford, Anne Dore, Darlene Daye, Patty Saunders, Jacqueline Snyder, Audrey Allen, Audrey Saunders, Vera Lee, Valentine Oumansky, Vickie Dairs, Diane Davis and Edythe Udane, but their appearance in the completed film has not been verified. Although Victor Mature is not credited onscreen as one of the film's producers, several contemporary sources, including copyright records, list it as a "Saratoga-Vic Mature" production. The Big Circus marked the final motion picture appearance of Kathryn Grant, wife of singer Bing Crosby. Modern sources indicate that aerialist Fay Alexander doubled for Gilbert Roland.