Jumbo


2h 5m 1962
Jumbo

Brief Synopsis

The daughter of a circus owner fights to save her father from a takeover spearheaded by the man she loves.

Film Details

Also Known As
Billy Rose's Jumbo
MPAA Rating
Genre
Comedy
Adventure
Musical
Adaptation
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Jan 1962
Premiere Information
New York opening: 6 Dec 1962
Production Company
Arwin Productions, Inc.; Euterpe, Inc.
Distribution Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the play Jumbo by Ben Hecht, Charles MacArthur (New York, 16 Nov 1935).

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 5m
Sound
4-Track Stereo (Westrex Recording System) (magnetic prints), Mono (optical prints)
Color
Color (Metrocolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Synopsis

Around 1910, Pop Wonder's circus performs throughout the Middle West. Its major asset is Jumbo, a versatile performing elephant, and its major liability is Pop's uncanny ability to lose the week's receipts at local crap games. One day Pop's daughter, Kitty, hires Sam Rawlins, a jack-of-all-circus-trades, who proves to be both an excellent performer and an able tent hand. Unknown to all, however, is the fact that Sam is the son of John Noble, a circus entrepreneur who plans to get control of the Wonder Circus--and Jumbo--by buying up all of Pop's I.O.U.'s. Despite his growing love for Kitty, Sam reluctantly carries out his father's wishes and acquires the circus from Pop. Refusing to admit defeat, Pop, Kitty, and Lulu, Pop's fiancée of 14 years, become a touring carnival. They are eventually joined by Sam, who has broken with his father and persuades them that he is interested only in getting the Wonder Circus back in business. As proof of his sincerity, he has brought with him their beloved Jumbo. By pooling their talents and efforts, the four performers make the Wonder Circus "the biggest little show in the Middle West." Songs : "Over and Over Again" (Kitty), "Circus on Parade" (circus performers), "Why Can't I" (Kitty & Lulu), "This Can't Be Love" (Kitty), "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World" (Sam & Pop), "My Romance," "Little Girl Blue" (Kitty), "What Is a Circus" (Sam), "Sawdust, Spangles and Dreams" (Kitty, Sam, Pop & Lulu).

Film Details

Also Known As
Billy Rose's Jumbo
MPAA Rating
Genre
Comedy
Adventure
Musical
Adaptation
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Jan 1962
Premiere Information
New York opening: 6 Dec 1962
Production Company
Arwin Productions, Inc.; Euterpe, Inc.
Distribution Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the play Jumbo by Ben Hecht, Charles MacArthur (New York, 16 Nov 1935).

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 5m
Sound
4-Track Stereo (Westrex Recording System) (magnetic prints), Mono (optical prints)
Color
Color (Metrocolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Award Nominations

Best Score

1963

Articles

Billy Rose's Jumbo


Doris Day and her producer husband Martin Melcher tried to bring back the classic MGM musical with Billy Rose's Jumbo, a lavish 1962 adaptation of the legendary Broadway spectacle. If they didn't re-create the glorious box-office results of the past, it certainly wasn't for lack of trying -- or achievement. The main problem was that Billy Rose's Jumbo was an entertainment from an earlier era and lacked appeal to contemporary audiences. Following the smashing success of West Side Story, with its location-shot dance scenes and social commentary, Day's film seemed like a throwback to an era that today is sadly missed.

In 1935, producer Billy Rose was already being publicized as the "Bantam Barnum" when he got the idea for Jumbo during a visit to Europe, where he saw two of the continent's famous indoor circuses. With a generous investment from John Hay Whitney, he brought together a team of showbiz experts: director George Abbott, dance director John Murray Anderson, songwriters Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, and playwrights Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur. They managed to coordinate over a dozen circus acts, more than 1,000 animals, the Paul Whiteman Orchestra and comic Jimmy Durante for an extravaganza about a romance between the son and daughter of rival circus managers. Though it ran for 233 performances, followed by a three-month engagement at the Texas State Fair, the show was too big to turn a profit.

Throughout Jumbo's original run, Rose was besieged with claims that the plot had been stolen from a variety of sources, though nobody could make enough of a case to get even a token settlement out of him. When he was negotiating the sale of film rights to MGM, however, Hecht, who was angry at Rose for re-writing his script at the last minute, told studio executives that he had, indeed, borrowed the plot from another play. As a result, MGM dropped its offer from $200,000 to $50,000. Desperate to break even on the show, Rose had to accept. Then the studio sat on the property for almost three decades.

Day, who worked mostly at Warner Brothers and Universal, had had several happy experiences working at MGM when she and her husband Melcher decided to make a big musical there, possibly to compensate for her having lost the lead in the film version of South Pacific to Mitzi Gaynor. Like Rose before them, they assembled a team of experts to bring Billy Rose's Jumbo to the screen. Director Charles Walters had started as a dancer and choreographer before turning to directing with Good News in 1947 and Easter Parade the following year. He and Day had teamed previously for Please Don't Eat the Daisies. Melcher's co-producer was Joe Pasternak, who had made Deanna Durbin a singing star at Universal in the '30s, before coming to MGM, where he worked with such performers as Judy Garland and Gene Kelly. In addition to producing Daisies for Day, he had also produced her biggest dramatic triumph, Love Me or Leave Me (1955). To keep the music up to MGM standards, they had associate producer Roger Edens, who had helped shape Garland's singing career and supervised the music on all of producer Arthur Freed's great musicals. And as second unit director in charge of the musical numbers, they got Busby Berkeley to come out of retirement for what would be his last film.

The original Jumbo had produced three hit songs: "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World," "Little Girl Blue" and "My Romance." To those and other songs from the original score, Day added another Rodgers and Hart standard, "This Can't Be Love." The numbers were filmed impeccably, with Berkeley staging an impressive array of circus stunts to accompany Day's first song, "Over and Over Again," and Walters making the camera dance with the performers as he had in his earlier films.

Although no singer, leading man Stephen Boyd had scored a hit as Messala, the villain in Ben-Hur, and did an impressive job lip-synching to James Joyce's vocals. But the film's cast was dominated by the presence of two seasoned comic performers. To play Day's father, Durante, who played the circus press agent on Broadway, returned to the screen after a ten-year absence. Although the role was different, he got to re-create his most famous line from the original. When he's stopped while trying to steal back the circus' trademark pachyderm and asked, "What are you doing with that elephant," Durante deadpans, "What elephant?"

To play Durante's lovelorn girlfriend, Martha Raye returned to the screen after a 15-year absence during which she had become a top television star. The circus routines gave Raye a chance to show off her still shapely legs, while she also shared a lyrical duet with Day that reminded fans she was one of the best singers in the business. Raye was so thrilled with the role that she re-located to the West Coast, hoping her part would lead to other film offers.

Unfortunately for all concerned, Billy Rose's Jumbo was far from a giant at the box office. MGM gave it a big buildup, complete with an opening engagement at the Radio City Music Hall, but fans and critics were unimpressed. Only Raye, Durante and the elephant got decent reviews. It took the Vietnam War and her tireless work for the USO to rejuvenate Raye's career. But it was Day who suffered the most from the film's box-office failure. She had been campaigning to star in the film versions of The Unsinkable Molly Brown and The Sound of Music, but lost both roles, to Debbie Reynolds and Julie Andrews respectively. The latter film marked a resurgence in popularity for the film musical, but it came three years too late to help Billy Rose's Jumbo at the box office.

Producer: Joe Pasternak, Martin Melcher
Director: Charles Walters
Screenplay: Sidney Sheldon
Based on a musical play by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur
Cinematography: William H. Daniels
Art Direction: George W. Davis, Preston Ames
Music: Richard Rodgers, George E. Stoll
Principal Cast: Doris Day (Kitty Wonder), Stephen Boyd (Sam Rawlins), Jimmy Durante (Pop Wonder), Martha Raye (Lulu), Dean Jagger (John Noble), Grady Sutton (Driver), Sydney the Elephant (Jumbo), Billy Barty (Joey).
C-124m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.

by Frank Miller
Billy Rose's Jumbo

Billy Rose's Jumbo

Doris Day and her producer husband Martin Melcher tried to bring back the classic MGM musical with Billy Rose's Jumbo, a lavish 1962 adaptation of the legendary Broadway spectacle. If they didn't re-create the glorious box-office results of the past, it certainly wasn't for lack of trying -- or achievement. The main problem was that Billy Rose's Jumbo was an entertainment from an earlier era and lacked appeal to contemporary audiences. Following the smashing success of West Side Story, with its location-shot dance scenes and social commentary, Day's film seemed like a throwback to an era that today is sadly missed. In 1935, producer Billy Rose was already being publicized as the "Bantam Barnum" when he got the idea for Jumbo during a visit to Europe, where he saw two of the continent's famous indoor circuses. With a generous investment from John Hay Whitney, he brought together a team of showbiz experts: director George Abbott, dance director John Murray Anderson, songwriters Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, and playwrights Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur. They managed to coordinate over a dozen circus acts, more than 1,000 animals, the Paul Whiteman Orchestra and comic Jimmy Durante for an extravaganza about a romance between the son and daughter of rival circus managers. Though it ran for 233 performances, followed by a three-month engagement at the Texas State Fair, the show was too big to turn a profit. Throughout Jumbo's original run, Rose was besieged with claims that the plot had been stolen from a variety of sources, though nobody could make enough of a case to get even a token settlement out of him. When he was negotiating the sale of film rights to MGM, however, Hecht, who was angry at Rose for re-writing his script at the last minute, told studio executives that he had, indeed, borrowed the plot from another play. As a result, MGM dropped its offer from $200,000 to $50,000. Desperate to break even on the show, Rose had to accept. Then the studio sat on the property for almost three decades. Day, who worked mostly at Warner Brothers and Universal, had had several happy experiences working at MGM when she and her husband Melcher decided to make a big musical there, possibly to compensate for her having lost the lead in the film version of South Pacific to Mitzi Gaynor. Like Rose before them, they assembled a team of experts to bring Billy Rose's Jumbo to the screen. Director Charles Walters had started as a dancer and choreographer before turning to directing with Good News in 1947 and Easter Parade the following year. He and Day had teamed previously for Please Don't Eat the Daisies. Melcher's co-producer was Joe Pasternak, who had made Deanna Durbin a singing star at Universal in the '30s, before coming to MGM, where he worked with such performers as Judy Garland and Gene Kelly. In addition to producing Daisies for Day, he had also produced her biggest dramatic triumph, Love Me or Leave Me (1955). To keep the music up to MGM standards, they had associate producer Roger Edens, who had helped shape Garland's singing career and supervised the music on all of producer Arthur Freed's great musicals. And as second unit director in charge of the musical numbers, they got Busby Berkeley to come out of retirement for what would be his last film. The original Jumbo had produced three hit songs: "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World," "Little Girl Blue" and "My Romance." To those and other songs from the original score, Day added another Rodgers and Hart standard, "This Can't Be Love." The numbers were filmed impeccably, with Berkeley staging an impressive array of circus stunts to accompany Day's first song, "Over and Over Again," and Walters making the camera dance with the performers as he had in his earlier films. Although no singer, leading man Stephen Boyd had scored a hit as Messala, the villain in Ben-Hur, and did an impressive job lip-synching to James Joyce's vocals. But the film's cast was dominated by the presence of two seasoned comic performers. To play Day's father, Durante, who played the circus press agent on Broadway, returned to the screen after a ten-year absence. Although the role was different, he got to re-create his most famous line from the original. When he's stopped while trying to steal back the circus' trademark pachyderm and asked, "What are you doing with that elephant," Durante deadpans, "What elephant?" To play Durante's lovelorn girlfriend, Martha Raye returned to the screen after a 15-year absence during which she had become a top television star. The circus routines gave Raye a chance to show off her still shapely legs, while she also shared a lyrical duet with Day that reminded fans she was one of the best singers in the business. Raye was so thrilled with the role that she re-located to the West Coast, hoping her part would lead to other film offers. Unfortunately for all concerned, Billy Rose's Jumbo was far from a giant at the box office. MGM gave it a big buildup, complete with an opening engagement at the Radio City Music Hall, but fans and critics were unimpressed. Only Raye, Durante and the elephant got decent reviews. It took the Vietnam War and her tireless work for the USO to rejuvenate Raye's career. But it was Day who suffered the most from the film's box-office failure. She had been campaigning to star in the film versions of The Unsinkable Molly Brown and The Sound of Music, but lost both roles, to Debbie Reynolds and Julie Andrews respectively. The latter film marked a resurgence in popularity for the film musical, but it came three years too late to help Billy Rose's Jumbo at the box office. Producer: Joe Pasternak, Martin Melcher Director: Charles Walters Screenplay: Sidney Sheldon Based on a musical play by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur Cinematography: William H. Daniels Art Direction: George W. Davis, Preston Ames Music: Richard Rodgers, George E. Stoll Principal Cast: Doris Day (Kitty Wonder), Stephen Boyd (Sam Rawlins), Jimmy Durante (Pop Wonder), Martha Raye (Lulu), Dean Jagger (John Noble), Grady Sutton (Driver), Sydney the Elephant (Jumbo), Billy Barty (Joey). C-124m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning. by Frank Miller

Quotes

Trivia

This musical marked the end of Busby Berkeley's movie career.

Notes

The film was also known as Billy Rose's Jumbo. According to various Hollywood Reporter news items from 1943 through 1945, M-G-M paid approximately $100,000 for the film rights to Billy Rose's Broadway hit Jumbo. The film version was to be produced by Arthur Freed, based on a script by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, that was to "modernize" the story. Wallace Beery, Frank Morgan and Mickey Rooney were named as probable stars, along with Jimmy Durante, who would revive his role from the Broadway show. Composers Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart were, according to a November 12, 1943 Hollywood Reporter news item, hired to write "several new songs" at $7,500 per song for the new production. Roger Edens was named as the film's associate producer in May 1944, at which time it was announced that the film would be shot in Technicolor. Other news items in 1944 and 1945 indicated that Frank Sintra was to star in the film, with Kathryn Grayson as the female lead. In late 1945, Rouben Mamoulian was mentioned in a news item as the film's director.
       Production plans were halted at the end of 1945, but plans were, apparently, revived in 1952, when Hollywood Reporter news items indicated that to Edens' first assignment as a producer was to be Jumbo, with Red Skelton, Donald O'Connor and Debbie Reynolds mentioned as cast members, and Paul Groesse considered for art director. According to an obituary for the trapeze artist Fay Alexander, he performed as a stunt double Doris Day in the film.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1962

Released in United States on Video November 17, 1987

Released in United States 1962

Released in United States on Video November 17, 1987