Clyde Beatty – Bainbridge’s King of the Big Top!

NOTE: I originally published this collection of memories on February 12, 2004. It mostly consists of input from people who knew or knew of Clyde Beatty. 

NOTE X 2: I mentioned on Facebook that I’d recently observed a Clyde Beatty Exhibit or Museum in a Bainbridge storefront. A friend sent me this link to the exhibit and its hours of operation. Click HERE.

Bainbridge’s Clyde Beatty

My wife is a black and white game show addict. During the night, when she can’t sleep, she often watches old reruns of What’s My Line, I’ve Got A Secret, etc. When she sees something that I may be interested in, she will frequently record it for me. Last night she was watching a rerun of What’s My Line and the featured “Mr. X” turned out to be Bainbridge’s own Clyde Beatty. If you’re too young to remember Clyde, he was a renowned animal trainer who appeared in several movies and with the Clyde Beatty-Cole Brothers Circus for many years. I did a little Internet snooping and came up with the following information:

Clyde Beatty was a renowned circus owner and animal trainer known for his daring stunts involving wild beasts. He appeared in several adventure serials and feature films during the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s. ~ Sandra Brennan, All Movie Guide

Clyde Beatty Facts:
Date of birth, June 10, 1903
Place of birth, Chillicothe, Ohio
Date of death, July 19, 1965
Place of death, Ventura, California
Cause of death, cancer

Clyde Beatty’s Movie Career:
(1953) Perils of the Jungle
(1949/1952) Abbott and Costello Double Feature – Africa Screams/ Jack and the Beanstalk
(1949) Africa Screams
(1936) Darkest Africa
(1934) The Lost Jungle Vol 2. Chapters 7-12
(1934) The Lost Jungle Vol 1. Chapters 1-6
(1934) The Lost Jungle
Besides movies, Clyde Beatty also appeared in a series of radio programs aimed at children. Titles include:
C04241 # 1 The Devil Cat

2 Crisis On The Set

C04242 # 3 Danger Unrehearsed

4 Elephant Stampede

C04243 # 5 Cage Boy

6 Man Eater Of Burma

C04244 # 7 Tiger Escape

8 The Juju Stones

C04245 # 9 Beauty And The Beast
#10 Leopard On The Loose

C04246 #11 Dangerous Ambition
#12 Contest In Danger

C04254 #33 Daniel In The Lion’s Den
#34 Kodiak Killer

C04255 #35 Amazon Adventure
#36 Brush With Death

C04256 #37 Land Of The Giants
#38 Death In Stateroom B

C04257 #39 The Flying Politos
#40 Baquiri Bravery
C04260 #45 Mystery Island
#46 Wombo’s Strange Pet

C04261 #47 Oklahoma Hoax
#48 Arabian Nightmare
C04247 #17 Never Trust A Gilly
#18 Zombie

C04248 #19 For Children Only
#20 The Bear

C04249 #21 The Princess And The Tigress
#22 Time Off For Trouble

C04250 #25 Ghost Cat Of Guatemala
#26 The King Of Clowns

C04251 #27 The Fabulous Ike
#28 Danger In The Deep

C04252 #29 The White Rogue Of Siam
#30 The Wild Man From Borneo

C04253 #31 The Marvelous Marvins
#32 Jungle Joe
C04258 #41 Borneo Devil Beast
#42 Caine Courage

C04259 #43 Jungle Medico
#44 The Lost City
C04263 #51 Adventure In Australia
#52 Tiger Town
C04262 #49 Hold That Tiger
#50 In Search Of A Myth

Evidence exists that there was also a series of Clyde Beatty comic books.

Clyde Beatty’s son, Clyde Junior, has made a name for himself as a designer and builder of quality surfboards in California. To honor his father, several of his designs are named after dad or one of dad’s cats.

Clyde Beatty Circus: The Clyde Beatty Circus was founded by Clyde Beatty (1903-1965), an animal trainer. He formed his own circus in 1945 after touring with several circuses including Hagenbeck-Wallace in his early career. Beatty toured his circus in conjunction with Russell Brothers Pan-Pacific Circus in 1946, then decided to open a show under his name only. In 1956, the circus was sold to the Acme Circus Corporation, and Beatty was hired as a star attraction. In 1957, the Acme Circus Corporation acquired the Cole Bros. name and the show became Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus. Beatty remained the star of the show until his death in 1965.

I found this email exchange (dated 7/3/03) about Beatty on an Internet bulletin board.
Question: Does anyone know anything about his origins/ethnic background/real name. His own son thinks that the name is made-up and is not sure of who he might have been really. Death certificates, etc. don’t have any father listed, as is usual. Any ideas?
Answer: Clyde Beatty is his REAL name, he was born in Bainbridge, Ross County, Ohio….he is the son of Margaret Beatty Tong, his half-sister Madelyn Tong still lives in Bainbridge.. his mother and my grandfather are brother and sister…email me and I will share what info that I have…

Clyde Beatty is buried in Forrest Lawn Cemetery in Los Angeles. I found this photo of his tomb on the Internet.

The Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus still exists and has recently been the target of several animal rights activist groups. in August 2003 they were the subject of a suit involving the expulsion of a protester from one of their shows in NYC. I’ll let you decide how serious the charges are, but there exists a multitude of charges against the Cole Bros. circus, as well as most others who maintain troops of animals.

Here’s a bulletin board posting from a person who was an assistant to Clyde Beatty:

Posted by Roger Smith on January 28, 2004:
I first saw Clyde Beatty in person in 1947, in Tyler, Texas. I was 4, and remember nothing else about the circus except him. I became his assistant and apprentice in 1964, and have researched him throughout my life. I was surprised to find AFRICA SCREAMS had slipped into the public domain, and anyone can sell copies. But I have a good one. Beatty’s wry observation about Costello’s on-set prank of throwing pies into everyone’s face, except Beatty’s was, “The little bum didn’t dare.” Lucky for Lou. Mr. Beatty was likable but unassailable.


Your list of Clyde’s movies includes “The Lost Jungle” twice, and omits “Ring of Fear” (1954), “Here Comes the Circus” (1946) and “Cat College” (1940). Curiously, the Internet Movie Database only credits Clyde as a technical advisor on “Ring of Fear”, although he gets top billing.
Of little interest to the general public, Bro. Beatty was a Freemason, initiated into Craftsman Lodge No. 521, Detroit.

Trevor W. McKeown, GH, [ ], 2007

Sent: Wednesday, April 18, 2007, 12:07 PM

Subject: Armstrong-Beatty relationship

Dear Sir: My Great Grandmother Myrtle (Cork) Armstrong, born and raised in Bainbridge, almost raised Clyde Beatty as a young man and was best friends with my Grandfather, Tom Armstrong in Bainbridge. After a long trip, he would spend Sunday evenings with the family for dinner. My Mother (still alive and daughter of Tom) said he would take off his shirt and there was not a place on his back without a scar from claw marks. My Best Regards, Don Dewey, Saint Augustine, Florida.

From: Lori Badry [ ]
Sent: Sunday, August 19, 2007, 11:55 PM

What are Clyde’s ties to Peru, Indiana?

From: Bob Good [ ]
Sent: Tuesday, August 07, 2007 2:40 PM

Subject: comic book

I have one he gave me. There were definitely comic books.

I just found this website and decided I should tell a little about Clyde Beatty. Roger Smith, Dave Price, and others knew my Dad and knew of his close friendship with Clyde. He used to stay at our home in the 1950s and ’60s while showing in Allentown. It was always a great occasion to have Clyde around. He was a peppy, upbeat type of guy when he was around us. I was a teenager at that time and I used to bet on fights with Clyde. He loved sports.

My Dad became friends with Clyde in the ’20s when he was on the Hagenbeck Wallace show. They were both the same age and Clyde enjoyed visiting my grandfather’s drug store and eating ice cream. Harriet and Jane were both friends of my parents. I have a picture of Clyde holding me at about a year or so in the backyard of his show. That is the first show I ever saw so they say!

If you would like more information perhaps from time to time I can tell some Clyde Beatty stories.
Bob Good [ ] 2007

Clyde was born in the home of Dr. John Little of Cynthiana. His mother was a domestic worker. My wife, a granddaughter of Dr. Little Jr., heard this from her grandmother. Mother and child left shortly afterward. Your picture of Clyde is a dead ringer for my father – in – law.
John S Pelzer, 2007, [ ]

I enjoyed seeing your website on Clyde Beatty. I hope you can clear up something from one of my earliest memories. My dad took me to see Clyde Beatty sometime between 1949 and 1953 in Tacoma, Washington. My memory is that he was attacked by one of his cats that day, bloodied a bit, but he got up to control the cat, get it through the gate and turned to take a bow before leaving for treatment. A couple of guys helped him by prodding the cat with poles, but he got up to resume control. Did this happen, or did I imagine it? I don’t recall whether the lion or the tiger was the troublemaker. I was about 4 or 5. If you can clear up this mystery for me, I’d be most grateful.


Bill Ransom,, 8/2/05

Clyde Beatty is the son of Margaret Beatty Tong, late of Bainbridge, Ohio. My grandfather Charles Beatty Sr. was a brother to Margaret. I spent many a time looking at pics of Clyde taken with his famous cats at my Dad’s Uncle Frank’s house, Frank is Margaret & Charles brother. Margaret was very secretive over who Clyde’s father was. Those in the family who knew would never reveal his identity. I was always proud to tell people that Clyde Beatty was my cousin. I have been in correspondence with Mr. Smith who was his assistant, who stated he was one of the finest men he ever the privilege of knowing. I do remember meeting Clyde one time when I was a young girl growing up in Greenfield., when he visited his Uncle Frank & Aunt Velma Beatty who resided on Milburn St. If in my research of the Beatty family I turn up any more info on Clyde Beatty I will gladly share it. Thanks.
Karen Beatty Gander 2/13/04

It was either 1947 or 1948. I was working at a radio station in Billings, MT (my first job out of college) when the Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus came to town. Since we were the local radio station most visiting organizations came to the station for a publicity interview. Since I was the announcer on duty that day the chore fell on me to conduct the interview. Well, knowing of Clyde Beatty and being from Greenfield I jumped at the chance. I met Clyde in the studio about 15 minutes before we were to go on the air just to get acquainted with one another. And I asked him where he was from and he told me he was from Chillicothe, Ohio. I looked at him and said that I thought he was from Bainbridge and got a very startled reaction from him. I then told him I was from Greenfield and we had a great interview then and there. We discovered we mutually knew several families in the Bainbridge-Greenfield area and I also told him that we were probably very distant cousins. My Great-Grandmother (Maria Beatty McCann) was from Bainbridge also. This episode is one of the many highlights in my radio and television career and one I had cherished throughout the years. Thanks for the article on Clyde Beatty. Robert McCann Zeeck 2/13/04

We published a full-length article on Clyde Beatty in the July-August 2002 issue of Timeline, the Ohio Historical Society’s popular-history magazine. The article also features numerous illustrations. For more information, contact or visit the OHS Website:
Christopher S. Duckworth, 2/28/04

Hello and a question,

My name is Steve and I live in Santa Cruz California.
I can’t tell you how impressed I was with your web page and quality of your research on Clyde Beatty.

I got to see his act and his circus 5-6 times in the late ’50s and early ’60s at Palisades Amusement Park in NJ, near Manhattan.

I would like to share an anecdote that occurred, in a promotional effort. It is very impressive.
In approximately 1956, Clyde’s circus would perform on the parking lot of Palisades Amusement Park in the spring. It coincided with the Ringling Brothers Circus in Madison Sq. Garden in midtown Manhattan. In a publicity stunt, Palisades Amusement Park’s PR guy connected with a publicity stunt: They had an elephant water ski (on pontoons, pulled by a high-speed craft, and had a showgirl on its back) across the Hudson River to 42nd street and up to the George Washington Bridge.

I have interviewed the PR guy almost 12 times, he is 79 and at this point, a warm friend. He was convinced it was 1956, and the date was April 17, the opening day for Major League baseball. Well, in lieu of him opening his records in storage, this is an incorrect date. Life Magazine apparently bought the photo from International News Photos or from the NY Daily Mirror.

I contacted the Bergen Record and every Life/Look magazine for 1956. It is not this year.

Do you know anything about this water skiing elephant? Can you direct me to someone who might pull out some archives on it or has a passion for Clyde Beatty as we do?

I am most appreciative, I can share all the details for your web page at any time.
I am in need of a date and a picture of it for my project. Thanks.

Steve Balbo, 6/28/2004

I enjoyed your piece on Clyde Beatty. I was a circus billposter for nine years in my youth and spent four of those years on the advance of the Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros Circus 1960-1963. I wonder if you might have seen our exhibit when my wife and I brought part of our Clyde Beatty collection to the Fall Festival of Leaves in Bainbridge five times (1978, 1979, 1984, 1986 and 1988)?

I am attaching a couple of pictures of our little collection here at home. We wanted to move to Bainbridge years ago and open a museum but unfortunately, neither of us could find a job near there. This was in the late 1970s when the area was very depressed.

I am happy to see that you have Mr. Beatty’s birth date correct. Many writers list it wrong, but I wrote his mother back in the 1950s and she said he was born June 10, 1903. But, he was born in Bainbridge rather than Chillicothe. The stories written about him often said Chillicothe, I assume because they thought most people wouldn’t recognize the name, Bainbridge.

Anyway, thanks for the nice article. I like to see Mr. Beatty remembered; so many have forgotten him.


Dave Price, 12/06/2004

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