Francesco Caroli, famous European whiteface circus clown, in costume
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Francesco Caroli, European white face circus clown

 Biography of Francesco Caroli (September, 1922 – May 18, 2004)

Born in San Donna di Piave, Italy, he worked with his brothers’ equestrian act in England at the Great Carmo Circus and Blackpool Tower Circus before World War II. In 1939 they were in Germany with the Circus Jakob Busch when the clown act walked out. Busch asked the Carolis if they could fill in with a clown number. Although they were skilled in in various circus arts, none of them were professional clowns, but they agree to make the attempt. Enrico, Ernesto, and 17-year-old Francesco hastily put together a number. Francesco took the role of the elegant white-face clown in sequinned costume.  The act was a success, and the Caroli brothers began incorporating clowning into their equestrian act. Eventually, they became some of the most popular clowns in Europe.

Francesco Caroli’s professional life

Francesco Caroli, famous European whiteface circus clown, in costumeShows which played host to their talents included Circus Knie in Switzerland, Cirque d’Hivere in Paris, and Circus Krone in Germany. In America, they performed more than fourteen different clown routines on the Ed Sullivan Show. When the death of one of his brothers put a sudden end to the world famous trio, Francesco took a teaching position at the State Circus School in France. In 1990, the director of Circus Roncalli made Francesco an offer he could not refuse. Francesco Caroli made a come-back to clowning at the grand old age of 70.  In 1983 he starred in a Central Television production, The White-Face Clown is Dead – We Don’€™t Need Him Anymore.

At the age of 80, he was forced to retire due to ill-health. He lived with dignity and courage while facing cancer. A few years ago, Francesco received an award from the World Clown Association. In 2004, The World’s Fair presented him with a special International Circus Award in recognition of his career.

He is survived by his wife Odette and their daughter Michelina.

Francesco Caroli was inducted into the 2000 Clown Hall of Fame.

Bibliography for Francesco Caroli biography



  1. michael crump says:

    i have for sale a tooled leather rifle scabbard carved by charlie caroli it was made round about 1950 and given to a john ridley whom i knew well
    charlie and family ate at mr ridley s public house every sunday for many years
    mrs ridley is in her late ’80’s
    should this is of intrest please contact many thanks mike

  2. H W Atkins says:

    I worked as groom for the Caroli family in 1960 when they toured with Circus Williams from Germany. I remember them very well and quite often played the stooge in the audiance for them. I particularly remember the bowl of Tagatelli brought out to me by Ernesto’s wife after all the new straw had been wash away by a freak storm after the Brussels build up. I am now 70 years old and remember my circus days with in 1959 Bertram Mills Circus and 1960 with the Coroli’s at Cirque Du Hiver (Paris) and Circus Williams. Great time fondley remembered.

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