Circus World (1964)

For many years there has been a book running on which is the worst film that John Wayne ever made. There is a separate book run by engineers to determine in which film he walks at the most acute angle.

My candidate for the former is definitely ‘Circus World’, a film that challenges disbelief to infinity and beyond.

Wayne plays a circus owner who decides (after 15 years of manly, dare I say Waynesque? pining) to go to Europe in search of the trapeze artist who left him when her husband committed suicide after finding out about their liaison. (Whatever happened to straightforward Good versus Evil stories like The Alamo?)

The trapeze artist is Rita ‘a roll in the’ Hayworth, who was well-known in the bullrings of Spain for her passionate ardour towards bullfighters, with their slick Latin hips and dripping blades.

We follow Wayne to various European cities, which are all in reality Spain, until he finally tracks down Rita and they all live happily ever after.

In one scene on the outskirts of Toledo we can see a tightrope walker, clowns and an elephant rehearsing on the banks of the River Tajo, and in the distance the towers of the Alcázar.

The area is known as the Playa (Beach) de Safont, although the beach has now gone and a park has taken its place.

Wayne pronounces what may be his best line ever in this film: “I’d wash my face, I’d comb my hair and make myself decent enough to go up to that little girl and say ‘I’m your mother'”. I did not invent that.