5 thoughts on “Amazing equestrian act from 1936: the Cristiani family

  1. Clearly, I need some lessons in mounting bareback.
    This is just what I needed. 😉

    Loved the acrobatics – what incredible athletes these men are. Lovely horses, so nice to see the slo-mo clip of how the horse handles the landing with such care and generosity.

  2. Amazing performance from both man and horse! Makes you wonder about some of the Roman circus vase paintings. Perhaps they’re more realistic than we realize.

  3. Take it from me, there’s no other word but “AWSOME” to describe the Cristiani Family Riding Act as viewed in this1937 MGM video filmed in Hollywood, CA. My beloved father was Oscar, the oldest brother (shown on far left of the first closeup photo), Naturally, the act evolved over the years adding a series of death-defying feats … and eventually my uncle Lucio’s brilliant comedy routine, which had the audience howling with laughter and athirst for more. In those glory days of yore, the bareback riding marvels were mobbed, even before they exited the back door of the big top, by throngs of hysterical fans seeking autographs and close personal contact.

    Author: Spangles, Elephants, Violets & Me: The Circus Inside Out. Amazon.com

    1. Thank you for joining the discussion and making it all the more real. It’s great to hear your first hand perpective.

      1. Liz,

        You are so welcome. The charm and wit of the Cristiani family lured many A-list stars of stage and screen to their performances during their prime years with Ringling Bros. and Al G. Barnes Circus. Several stars visited the set daily and even watched from the sidelines during the filming of this great 1937 Pete Smith Speciality. Most interestingly, the iconic silent film actor, Charlie Chaplin, who had remained a close family friend since his early circus days in Europe, invited my grandparents to stay at the cottage (behind his Hollywood home) for the entire 10-day shoot. Also, my godmother, Ortans, who is seen summersaulting off the teeterboard into the chair (held by my dad) was only 14 years old at the time. Aunt Ortans was an incredible performer, even tempered and totally oblivious to her God-given talent. I loved her dearly and so did everyone else.

        The last remaining Cristianis are the two youngest siblings: Corky and Pete. Corky doubled Doris Day in Billy Rose’s “Jumbo”, filmed in1962. For those who may be interested, Spangles has 50 pages of rare vintage photo of the Cristiani family and the Cristiani Bros. Circus, which happened to be the largest tented circus during the 1950’s after Ringling discarded the big top and went indoors.


Leave a Reply