Entrance of the Gladiators

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For the similarly titled march by John Philip Sousa, see The Gladiator March.

"Entrance of the Gladiators" op. 68 or "Entry of the Gladiators" (Czech: Vjezd gladiátorů, German: Einzug der Gladiatoren) is a military march composed in 1897 by the Czech composer Julius Fučík. He originally titled it "Grande Marche Chromatique," reflecting the use of chromatic scales throughout the piece, but changed the title based on his personal interest in the Roman Empire.

In 1901, American publisher Carl Fischer published a version of this march, arranged for American wind bands by Canadian composer Louis-Philippe Laurendeau, under the title "Thunder and Blazes."[1] It was during this period that the song gained lasting popularity as a screamer march[2] for circuses, often used to introduce clowns. Today it is known mainly by this association, even though the title and composer are relatively obscure. Laurendeau's version was also transcribed for fairground organs. The march receives the occasional concert hall performance, such as at the 2007 Last Night of the Proms.[3]

Generally, the march is divided into three parts. The first part contains the melody that the trumpet keeps and the several supporting parts. The second third is the section where the low brass (mainly the tubas) take over with the chromatic scale like role. Finally there is a trio, or a slow melodic section, where there is a strong balance between woodwinds and low brass. The trio has a part similar to the second third with a chromatic scale like sound. The piece is written in cut time and is originally written to be played at standard march tempo; however, when played as a screamer it is usually played much faster.

In popular culture[edit]

  • James Darren's 1961 hit "Goodbye Cruel World" makes use of the "Gladiator's March", intertwining a female voice with a recorder.
  • In 1971, Nino Rota took the first part of the march and re-arranged it as the basis for a composition of his own, "Il Circo" ("The Circus"), featured in Federico Fellini's TV film The Clowns. In Italy the march itself is commonly attributed to Rota.
  • In 1972, Leon Russell quoted from the main theme in his song "Tight Rope."[4]
  • In 1973, Elton John played the opening measures of the march on a Farfisa organ as the start of his solo on that instrument in the song "Your Sister Can't Twist (But She Can Rock 'n Roll)", on his historic album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.
  • In 1974, writers Leo Sayer and David Courtney wove the introduction and melody into their composition "The Show Must Go On", which became a hit for the pop group Three Dog Night.
  • In 1998, the instrumental rock/progressive metal super-group Liquid Tension Experiment ends their song "Universal Mind" with a very fast and short rendition of the main melody.

In 1974, the soul group Blue Magic, used the first ten notes of the march, which is repeated once more, in the song "Sideshow" while one of the members of the group, acted like a barker, telling the crowd to see the saddest Sideshow" for only 50 cents.

  • The James Bond film Octopussy (1983) contains the song during the scene set in Octopussy's Circus.
  • The first line of the piece is played on organ at the beginning of Phish's "Esther".
  • The piece is quoted in the Dickies' theme song for the 1988 horror-comedy Killer Klowns from Outer Space.
  • Parts of the theme were incorporated into Boots Randolph's "Yakety Sax", which, following the circus theme, is often associated with comedy acts, notably on The Benny Hill Show; and also in "Puppet on a String".
  • It is the theme of the "Afro Circus" tune, sung by Marty (Chris Rock) in the 2012 film Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted.
  • Parts are sampled and remixed in the Guy song "Round' and Round'".
  • In the podcast Hollywood Babble-On, Ralph Garman often sings "Entrance of the Gladiators" to co-host Kevin Smith to scare him (Kevin Smith is notoriously afraid of clowns). The song is referenced by name by Garman in Episode 64 of Hollywood Babble-On, when a fan writes in to the show regarding the song's name.
  • In the American horror film 13 Sins (2014), the main protagonist receives a series of mysterious phone calls throughout the film as part of a sinister and mysterious game show. The ringtone which sounds whenever the phone rings is "Entrance of the Gladiators". This is an ironic reference, with the jovial, circus-themed ringtone preceding often very disturbing phone calls.
  • Between 1950 and 1970, on match days the English rugby league team St. Helens would take to the field at their then home stadium of Knowsley Road while Entrance of the Gladiators was played over the PA system.
  • In professional wrestling, it was the signature theme song for Doink The Clown for WWE (then known as WWF).
  • The Kidsongs rendition is played on the 1987 video: A Day at the Circus.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Thunder and Blazes | BandMusic PDF Library". www.bandmusicpdf.org. Retrieved 2015-11-18. 
  2. ^ Latten, James E.; Chevallard, Carl (September 2004). "Review: Teaching Music Through Performing Marches". Music Educators Journal. MENC_ The National Association for Music Education. 91 (1): 62–63. doi:10.2307/3400112. JSTOR 3400112. 
  3. ^ Edward Seckerson (2007-09-11). "Last Night of the Proms, Royal Albert Hall, London". The Independent. Retrieved 2008-09-21. 
  4. ^ "Circus Music! / The Sound and the Foley". Circus music. 2013-05-06. Retrieved 2015-01-14. 

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