Clyde Beatty

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Clyde Beatty
Born(1903-06-10)June 10, 1903
DiedJuly 19, 1965(1965-07-19) (aged 62)
Resting placeForest Lawn–Hollywood Hills Cemetery
OccupationLion trainer, performer, film actor, circus owner
Spouse(s)Earnestine Pegg, Harriett Evans (1933–1950) (until her death), Jane Beatty
ChildrenJoyce Beatty Ferguson, Albina Beatty step daughter, Clyde Beatty Jr.

Clyde Beatty (June 10, 1903 – July 19, 1965) joined the circus as a cage cleaner as a teen and became famous as a lion tamer and animal trainer. He also became a circus impresario who owned his own show, which later merged with the Cole Bros. Circus to form the Clyde Beatty–Cole Bros. Circus.


Beatty became famous for his "fighting act", in which he entered a cage with wild animals with a whip and a pistol strapped to his side. The act was designed to showcase his courage and mastery of wild beasts, including lions, tigers, cougars, and hyenas, sometimes brought together all at once in a single cage in a potentially lethal combination. At the height of his fame, the act featured as many as 40 lions and tigers of both sexes, and Beatty had his own rail car in the 35-car circus train.[1]

Diamond honoring Beatty in the Studio City Walk of Fame

There have been suggestions that Beatty was the first lion tamer to use a chair in his act,[2] but in an autobiographical book he disclaimed credit for this practice: "It was in use when I was a cage boy and had been used long before."[3]

Beatty's fame was such that he appeared in films from the 1930s to the 1950s and on television until the 1960s. He was also the star of his own syndicated radio series, The Clyde Beatty Show, from 1950 to 1952. The weekly programs featured adventures loosely based on his real-life exploits. The stories were no doubt more fictitious than real, and Beatty actually appeared in name only; Vic Perrin (not identified as such to the radio audience) impersonated him on the show.

Beatty's "fighting act" made him the paradigm of a lion tamer for more than a generation. He was once mauled by a lion named Nero and was in the hospital for ten weeks as a result of the attack. However, he remained undaunted and faced down Nero in a cage for the film The Big Cage.[4] A caricature of Beatty, drawn by Alex Gard, was displayed at Sardi's restaurant in New York City and is now part of the Billy Rose Theatre Collection at the New York Public Library.

In 1957, Beatty performed his act on The Ed Sullivan Show; he had complained during rehearsal that the stage was too small and unsafe for his act, but Sullivan convinced him to perform anyway. During the act, Beatty lost control of the act. To prevent the home audience from realizing the live performance had gone awry, Sullivan went into the audience to introduce some of the celebrity attendees. Luckily, Beatty was able to subdue the lions by firing blank cartridges, without injury to himself or the lions. A clip of the performance is included in a DVD of the best of the Sullivan show.

Beatty married Harriett Evans (her name is often printed as "Harriet"), an aerialist, on September 16, 1933.[3] The marriage lasted until her death in 1950 in Kosciusko, Mississippi, reportedly from a heart ailment.[5] Their union seems to have been founded on a great deal of team spirit, and after a year or so she insisted on being trained as an animal trainer herself, which was highly unusual for a woman in those days. Beatty let her have an act in 1935, and she did well, proving to be popular with the public and the press.[3] Her daughter Albina (born 1931), having learned animal training skills from her step father and mother, followed in their footsteps as a lion trainer. She stated that Beatty's teaching gift to her was understanding his instincts regarding the animals and how best to control them.

In the 1997 film Fast, Cheap & Out of Control, the lion tamer Dave Hoover cites Beatty as a major influence on his career. The director, Errol Morris, used several clips from Beatty's films in his interviews with Hoover.

In the 1981 television pilot of the Greatest American Hero, Ralph Hinkley is told by a fellow teacher that the "Clyde Beatty technique" is one way to use a chair to keep his unruly students "at bay".

In the 1961 adventure film Hatari! John Wayne's character refers to the use of a chair in controlling a cheetha as a "Clyde Beatty routine".

Beatty was born in Bainbridge, Ohio. He died of cancer in 1965, at age 62, in Ventura, California, and was interred in the Forest Lawn–Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles.



Year Title Role Notes
1933 The Big Cage Himself
1934 The Lost Jungle Himself
1936 Darkest Africa Himself Serial
1940 Cat College Himself - Lion Tamer Short documentary
1944 Jungle Woman Fred Mason (in long shots) Uncredited, (archive footage)
1946 Here Comes the Circus Animal Trainer Short documentary
1949 Africa Screams Himself also known as Abbott and Costello: Africa Screams (1949 comedy)
1953 Perils of the Jungle Himself
1954 Ring of Fear Himself (final film role)


  1. ^ Atwell, Harry A. Cole Bros. Circus, 1935 photo. via World Digital Library. Dec. 14, 2012.
  2. ^ Feldman, David (1993). How Does Aspirin Find a Headache?. HarperCollins. ISBN 0-06-016923-0.
  3. ^ a b c Beatty, Clyde; Wilson, Earl (1946). Jungle Performers. Robert Hale.
  4. ^ Photoplay, March 1933.
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-09-19. Retrieved 2012-03-13.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)


  • Ohmart, Ben (2002). It's That Time Again. Albany: BearManor Media. ISBN 0-9714570-2-6.

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