The NFSA has recently acquired and digitally preserved a rare collection of home movies featuring Con Colleano (Cornelius Sullivan). The Australian-born and world famous Colleano (1899–1973) was considered in his prime to be the greatest tightrope circus artist that ever lived.
Born in Lismore, NSW with an Indigenous Aboriginal, Irish and West Indian background, Colleano adopted a Spanish toreador persona as part of his act which proved highly successful. From 1925 until the late 1930s Colleano toured with the largest circus in America, Ringling Bros & Barnum and Bailey Circus, promoted as ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’. Colleano was billed as ‘The Wizard of the Wire’ and was their principal star.
The home movie collection, originally shot on 16mm film, features Colleano at the very height of his career. The films feature remarkable circus backyard scenes filled with clowns, goofs, circus freaks and exotic animals. Scenes depict Con’s close relationship with the Ringling family – in particular John and Mabel Ringling.