THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH (1952)
What is it? A circus-based extravaganza from that master of the epic, Cecil B. De Mille. While there's a loose plot about competition between the circus artists, it's really just a hook on which to hang celebrity cameos, a spectacular train sequence and lots of stunts.
Why did it win? It's generally considered that this was - like Martin Scorsese's win for The Departed - more a career achievement award than a Best Picture Oscar per se. De Mille was one of Hollywood's founders, a giant in the industry, and this was as much belated acknowledgment of that as award for the film itself. The film was also epic, and packed with cameos from half of Hollywood's elite. Having most of the voters in the film probably didn't hurt in the final analysis.
Did it deserve to win? Another no. Singin' in the Rain was not even nominated (following Kelly's success the year before), nor was The Man In The White Suit. Among the nominees, classic Fred Zinnemann / Gary Cooper Western High Noon was probably the most deserving, closely followed by John Wayne's Irish-sploitation The Quiet Man. Also up for the gong were John Ford's Moulin Rouge and the none-more-epic Ivanhoe.
Worth a look? Maybe for James Stewart's Buttons the Clown