Billy Rose's Jumbo Reviews

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½ July 20, 2013
Old fashioned though it may be, 'Jumbo' serves more to prove why the original stage show was not a remembered or huge hit in the annals of musical history. A game cast, Day, Raye & Durante bursting with charisma, some impressive circus sequences performed in real time, and the lovable scene stealer that is the film's titular critter can't overcome its problems. Bland, though cheery, songs, a weak story, even by the standards of the time, that is riddled with holes (including a nonsensical & poorly explained 'dislike' for the 'villain' by the main cast) and ironically, the lack of the film's titular selling point, who has maybe 20 minutes of screen time over this 2 hour film, most of which concentrates on a lax love story that just isn't at all charming.
½ October 15, 2013
Did Stephen Boyd do his own singing in Jumbo? Please, "I gotsta know"
January 30, 2013
I've seen this movie 3 times on Turner Classic Movies and enjoyed it each time. Great acting, comedy, dancing and singing by the 4 principals. Jimmy Durante steals much of the show with his lines ("Elephant? What elephant") delivered while standing in front of a huge pachyderm. He also displays all the skills those old vaudeville players had: singing, dancing, comedy, even acting well as a circus clown. Doris Day was wonderful too especially in her touching rendition of "Little Girl Blue". A nice surprise was Steven Boyd (of Ben Hur fame) who is not only virile and manly here but surprisingly in good voice (it seems his own) and is good in the dancing skits too. And Martha Raye and Jimmy Durante seem an ideal couple (and get married here too). The story isn't much (boy meets girl basically) but the loving touches the movie establishes with the circus, the performances in that circus by Day and Durante and Boyd and Raye) really make this movie. Unlike many musicals (see "Meet me in St. Louis") this one hasn't lost any of its charm. And the sound and color is first rate. A real eye opener and sorry that the 'critics' cannot see gold when it is in front of them.
½ October 7, 2012
This is a great piece of professional entertainment! A good romantic-comedy story well told and well-acted. Wonderful cast, all at their very best and well directed.
Martha Raye and Jimmy Durante amaze with physical comedy and warmth.
In fact, all the personal warmth of all the actors shines through in their performances creating a believable truth in a script, while though good for its genre and time, could be a pitfall for actors bent on delivering truthful performances.
Steven Boyd and Doris Day impress with truth of emotion and give each other the strength of their specialities; Boyd with truthful acting and a deep connection to his fellow actors and Day with her dazzling professionalism and love for the musical comedy genre. Impressive work.
The generous budget allows creative designers and musicians to bloom with joyful creativity. Countless surprises for the eye and ear.
The clown sequence finale for the 4 leads is priceless!!
I sure did!
July 2, 2007
One of my favorite movies as a kid. So surprising to see not many people have seen it.
March 9, 2010
No Matter How Long You Make the Sequence, Clowns Still Aren't Funny

This movie makes no sense to me. It seems that the basic premise of circus movies--not that I've seen a lot of circus movies--is "circuses make no money, but people love them!" Which doesn't make any sense. Disney suggested that, while circuses themselves do, the likes of Toby Tyler don't, particularly, until they become headliners. But Doris Day and Charlton Heston have both spent epics trying to make both ends meet despite sold-out houses. Even though Doris Day can apparently afford to keep her elephant as the only one in the entire circuit not helping to put up the Big Top. (You think they can afford to let that go to waste?) At least she had the excuse of gambling addict Jimmy Durante.

Durante is Pop Wonder, who allegedly runs a circus. In reality, his daughter, Kitty, does it. She is Doris Day in every way including but not limited to actress, and the cheerful, competent version. She handles the money, the acts, the labour, and all. She sweet-talks Lulu (Martha Raye), her father's girlfriend, and hires Sam Rawlins (Stephen Boyd) because she has to--everyone in the circus is quitting on account of not getting paid and going off to work for John Noble (Dean Jagger--no relation, but he did appear in an Elvis movie once). Sam is secretly Noble's son, working in a duplicitous manner to buy up the Wonder Circus by paying off Pops's creditors in the name of the Noble Circus. Of course, he and Doris Day fall in love with one another, causing the standard complications.

Once again, we have the failing of too much wackiness. I'm perfectly aware that the genre is, after all, called "musical comedy," but very, very seldom does that mean it's appropriate to throw in a failed human cannonball act. Martha Raye and Jimmy Durante spend most of the movie mugging for all their worth. I'm aware it's their shtick, but it wears on the nerves after a while. Jimmy Durante is supposed to be charming, but really, I didn't think he was. He was irritating and irresponsible. If it hadn't been Noble taking his circus, it would have been creditors less concerned about his people. It's supposed to be funny that he's trying to double or triple their money at a craps game and that Doris Day has to play craps to get their money back, but it just makes you wish they had an accountant and weren't allowed to handle money on their own.

Also perplexing is why Doris Day is wearing skirts the whole time. I'm not entirely sure when the movie is set, but what she wears while working is impractical. I'm aware she's Doris Day, sweet and pure, but she was sweet and pure as not-actually-Calamity Jane, and that was in pants. She somehow owns a ridiculous dress--which couldn't be a costume in an act--which she can use to impress the man, and it's funny when she falls down and gets all covered in mud. Doris Day is to be pursued, not to do the pursuing. That's Martha Raye's job. For decades, Doris Day played the innocent one--who was it who said that he'd known her since before she was a virgin?--and that includes looking feminine when a pair of overalls would make more sense.

The problem may well be that I'm watching the film through jaded modern eyes. However, what am I to do about that? I can see films as products of their time, but I am still coming at them with my own mindset. Maybe, in 1962, a five-minute or longer sequence of clowns was funny, and it's just since we've become, seriously or not, terrified of clowns as a culture that they aren't anymore. I mean, we honest-to-Gods have a word for an unreasonable fear of clowns, and who can't recall Bart Simpson's "big boy bed" and chant Bart's mantra? ("Can't sleep . . . clown will eat me!") At best, we think of drunken Krusty. I went to the circus once when I was a kid, I think, but I haven't been there in easily twenty-five or maybe even thirty years. I'm not sure most of my friends have ever been. That'll change how we see it. Maybe that's why I didn't like it.
½ March 2, 2009
"Billy Rose's Jumbo" was the last of many musical movies made throughout Doris Day's 20-year career in films, and it was one of her best. With great music by Rodgers & Hart and co-stars like Jimmy Durante, Martha Raye and Stephen Boyd, how could you go wrong? The film is bright, fast-paced and Ms Day's glorious voice has never sounded better. Also of interest is that it was the very last film in which Busby Berkely directed the musical numbers. This is a fun film from start to finish!
Super Reviewer
February 4, 2008
nominated for best picture at the golden globes
½ November 3, 2007
This was a good movie
November 6, 2007
i really like this film... i dunno why but i do :)
July 31, 2007
My favorite song is on this movie!
½ June 2, 2007
Doris Day and Jimmy Durante. What an odd combination
May 30, 2007
lovely orchestrations from Leo Arnaud and Conrad Salinger
Super Reviewer
May 13, 2007
Aww, I was raised on this film. LOVE Jimmy Durante!
½ February 9, 2007
There are plenty of catchy songs in this musical, which celebrates the art of circus. Doris Day seems a little old to still be playing the unmarried virgin - but she sings so well and is so good at playing the seething wronged woman that you can forgive her that. In spite of being 40 years old, the jokes are still funny - and some of the set pieces are still spectacular. The ending was a bit of a let down though - although I do love the song 'Sawdust and Spangles and Dreams'.
January 8, 2007
Really cute and any guy who sings to me that I'm the most beautiful girl in the world...... well.......
December 28, 2006
As good as this movie was, it was one of those that makes me mad. Right when things are getting good, something has to go wrong. But of course, everything works out in the end. And Jumbo was just adorable!
November 24, 2006
sooo funny as love it
May 29, 2005
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