Everyone is special, and nobody is like anyone else. That’s the point of my show.
–P. T. Barnum
Phineas Taylor Barnum was an American politician, showman and businessman who founded the Barnum & Bailey Circus. He is portrayed by Hugh Jackman in the film The Greatest Showman, which is based around Barnum's story of how he created the Barnum & Bailey Circus.
This isn't the life I promised you...
–P. T. Barnum
P.T Barnum is an ambitious, hopeful man. Throughout the movie, he is seen to be wanting more- more for his family (Charity, Caroline, and Helen), more for himself, and more for his show (when it is finally put together).
Having grown up having nothing, Barnum soon becomes hooked on greed, power and money as his museum/circus begins brining in large audiences. He begins to look for alternative options to make more money and make him more successful, eventually attaching his name to the 'Swedish nightingale' Jenny Lind.
He appears to want to establish himself in the public as a household name and attempts to do this through every chance.
Barnum is a handsome middle aged man at the time of the events in the film. As a child, Barnum was unfortunate enough to only wear hand-me-down scrubby, falling apart, clothes due to his social status being poor.
Upon returning from working on the railway, Barnum wears more middle class clothes. He has grown into a charming young man, with brown hair.
Throughout the film, as Barnum becomes more and more successful, his clothing represents this. He wears more tailored suits, a top hat and bright colours.
Barnum was born in Bethel, Connecticut on July 5, 1810. At the age of 19, he married his wife, Charity Hallett and was striving as a businessman, having owned/run a general store, a book auctioning trade, real estate speculation, and a statewide lottery network.
In 1829, Barnum started a weekly paper, The Herald of Freedom, which his editorials led to his two months imprisonment. After his release, he became a champion of the liberal movement. He was a part of the Democratic Party from 1824-1854. In 1854, he joined the newly found anti-slavery Republican Party. He served two terms in the Connecticut legislature in 1865 as a Republican for Fairfield.
The Greatest Showman
As a child, Barnum assists his father in his tailoring business, fixing and mending suits for the wealthy. On one of the business calls, Barnum finds himself and his father at the Hallett estate, where their young daughter, Charity, is being taught correct drinking etiquette. Barnum makes Charity laugh, resulting in him being slapped across the face by her father, Mr. Hallett.
The two children become friends and travel to the beach and explore grown over mansions, eventually developing feelings for one another (A Million Dreams). Mr. Hallett disapproves of the friendship and refers to Barnum poorly due to his social status. Despite Charity telling Burnum that she is being sent to boarding school, the two continue their romantic friendship by writing letters to each other.
Barnum goes and joins the construction of a railroad where he grows up. Upon completion of the railroad, Barnum is now older and arrives at the Hallett estate for Charity. With her bags packed and to her fathers disappointment, Charity leaves with Barnum and the two begin their lives together (A Million Dreams (Reprise)).
Barnum is let go from his job at a shipping company after the companys boats sink to the South China sea. He returns home to his wife and two young girls to find them playing on the roof. Barnum is disappointed that he hasn't created the life he wanted for Charity. After creating a birthday present out of a candle and a metal pen tin, Barnum is inspired to make the Barnum Museum.
Barnum goes to the bank for a loan when he sees a small male dwarf, Charles Stratton. After taking a loan from the bank, using the shipping company as collateral, Barnum opens the Barnum Museum. Its main attractions being wax figures of famous people and animals. Barnum comes up with many ideas for his "museum" of wax figures, excitedly showing his family when he purchases it. The girls don't express much enthusiasm for it, especially Charity. Ticket sales are poor, leaving Barnum looking for a way of making the museum come alive.
When putting the girls to sleep, they tell their dad that the museum needs things that people have never seen before like a "mermaid" and a "unicorn". Sitting down at his desk, Barnum notices an apple, like the one he was offered by a person with facial deformities as a child, sparking the idea of putting people with unique traits on stage to perform.
Barnum goes on the search for 'freaks', placing flyers up around New York City. While hanging flyers he hears the beautiful voice of Lettie Lutz, a bearded woman, who is working at a laundromat. Barnum also visits Charles Stratton asking him to join the show, he is at first hesitant, however he is eventually persuaded by Barnum. After holding auditions for other acts, Barnum sings 'Come Alive' and by the end of the song the circus is performing.
With his new found success Barnum becomes trapped in the world he created. Now that Barnum has money, he purchases the mansion that Charity and himself used to play in as children to finally give her the life he dreamed of. Desired to bring the audience more, Barnum seeks out Phillip Carlyle, a wealthy playwright and producer, to join his show. The two discuss the opportunity at a bar (The Other Side), with Barnum being thoroughly convincing enough to have Carlyle agree to work with him.
Due to Carlyle's exposure and business tactics, Barnum receives an invitation from Queen Victoria for himself and his troupe to perform in England. He accepts and he sooner arrives in England and is welcomed into Buckingham Palace to meet the Queen. While in England, Barnum is introduced by Carlyle to the 'Swedish nightingale' Jenny Lind, a well established opera singer. Having only heard about her reputation, Barnum invites Lind to the United States to complete a tour of the country, promising her to make her the biggest known singer in the world.
Upon arriving back in New York, Barnum welcomes a large audience into a theatre to listen to Lind sing (Never Enough). Before introducing her Barnum's group of circus performers arrive, to which he tells them to stand in the standing room to watch the performance. While introducing Jenny Lind, Barnum points out that this act is not like the novelty acts the audience has seen prior, but instead something more remarkable. Barnum is astounded by the singers voice and her beauty and is momentarily zoned out of everything but the singer. Upon conclusion of the performance, Barnum witnesses the audience give a standing ovation, and is further more glad to see theatre critic James Gordon Bennett enjoy the performance.
At the show's after party, Barnum introduces Charity and his two girls to Jenny Lind. While in the mean time Charity's parents have entered the room. Upon seeing Charity's parents, Barnum becomes quite hostile, as he makes an effort to point out that they haven't made an effort to see their grandchildren at all. Barnum also points out about how successful he has become to Mr. Hallett who doubted him. Barnum is offended when Mr. Hallett calls him nothing but a 'tailor's boy' and asks him to get out. This leaves Charity unimpressed with his actions and she and the children leave as well. As his family leaves, Lind proposes a toast to Barnum in regards to his success. When the toast concludes Barnum hears Lettie Lutz and the other's about to enter the room. He stops them, closing the door in their face and leaving them unwelcomed into the party.
After the success of the show, Barnum arranges plans for Lind to go on tour around the US in order to make more money. Barnum acquires money from his wife's savings to use as collateral for the bank without asking her first, but is assured he will make profit from the tour. Barnum leaves on tour with Lind, neglecting to say goodbye to the circus performers.
While on tour, Barnum and Lind begin to become quite close, with Lind eventually falling in love with him. In between one of the shows, Lind goes to kiss Barnum, to which Barnum rejects the kiss. Lind is left to feel humiliated for reading the situation incorrectly and ultimately decides to discontinued her tour. On her final show, Barnum watches Lind perform Never Enough (Reprise), when he goes out to bow, Lind kisses him and a picture is taken, beginning the Barnum's downfall.
Barnum returns home to New York where he is greeted by the sirens of the fire brigade racing towards the circus building. He arrives at the building and sees it is up in flames. He ensures everyone is out of the building, but Carlyle runs in to look for Anne Wheeler. Barnum runs in after Carlyle and saves him before the building fully collapses.
After the fire has been put out, Barnum sits on the steps of the old museum and is found by Bennett who takes a seat next to him and tells Barnum that the people did enjoy his show, and he would have called it a celebration of mankind.
Meanwhile, Charity has seen the photo of Barnum and Lind's kiss on the paper. She takes the girls and leaves him, having also realised that he took her money.
With nothing left of his circus, Barnum retreats to a pub where he drinks his sorrows away. He is found by Charles, who climbs up onto the bar and takes a seat on Barnum's top hat. Charles is closely followed by the rest of the circus troupe who enter the bar and convince Barnum family is more important than money (From Now On).
Barnum returns to Hallett estate to find Charity and his girls. After being told by his daughter that Charity is at the beach, Barnum knows where to find her at the same spot they grew up. Charity forgives Barnum and takes him back.
Barnum with the assistance and funding from Carlyle, re-builds the circus, this time under a tent. Continuing his showmanship and drawing in large crowds. This time there are live elephants, lions and a wider range of circus acts, before retiring and promotes Carlyle as a new ringmaster.
In the final scenes, Barnum watches his daughter perform in a ballet performance. He sits in the audience with his wife and is reminded about the importance of family.
Charity Barnum is P.T's wife. As young children, they would talk on the beach and play together. Charity's father never approved, as she was a young girl born into a prestigious family, and he was the son of a poor man (a tailor, presumably). She was sent away to school, and they wrote to each other every week. Eventually, when they grew up, P.T married Charity and they moved in together. (In real life, they married when P.T was 19). They had two daughters together- Caroline and Helen.
Jenny Lind is one of Barnum's acts, however the two did spend a lot of time together on her tour of the United States, to which Lind developed feelings for him.
"Everyone is special and nobody is like anyone else. That’s the point of my show."
"Sir I, I know I don't come from much but I will take care of your daughter and I will give her a life as grand as this one."
Hugh Jackman portrayed P.T. Barnum in The Greatest Showman.