“Star Of The Month (January 2021)” Featuring Doris Day in… Billy Rose’s Jumbo (1962)

January is quickly coming to a close, and with it my feature on Doris Day as the Star Of The Month! But, I’ve got one last film of hers to get through for the month, and that’s the 1962 musical Billy Rose’s Jumbo, also starring Stephen Boyd, Jimmy Durante and Martha Raye! But first, we’ve got a few theatrical shorts to get through!

Coming Up Shorts! with… For Better Or Nurse (1945)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of Popeye The Sailor: The 1940s Volume 1 from Warner Archive Collection)

Disclaimer: On the disc case, it is noted that the set is intended for the adult collector, which is because these shorts were made at a time when a lot of racist and sexist stereotypes were prevalent. All I’m trying to say is, parents, be careful about just sticking these on for your kids.

(Length: 7 minutes, 6 seconds)

Popeye and Bluto try to injure themselves to get into the hospital, where Olive works as a nurse. This one was also a lot of fun, with more variety than usual. Yes, Popeye and Bluto are still at it, but this time, they’re not trying as hard to fight each other. Instead, they’re trying to find ways to get themselves injured (and failing hilariously every time)! And a rare instance of somebody other than Popeye eating his spinach (with him forcing it down Bluto’s throat). The only real drawback is the rather obvious difference in Popeye’s voice, as he is voiced by Harry Welch here, who is not as good as Jack Mercer (or even Mae Questal from the previous short). Still, a lot of fun and worth seeing for a few good laughs!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Jerry And Jumbo (1953)

(available as an extra on the Billy Rose’s Jumbo Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 7 minutes, 5 seconds)

A baby elephant rolls off a train, and ends up helping Jerry the mouse outwit the cat, Tom. It was fun seeing this Tom & Jerry cartoon again, with Jerry painting the baby elephant to look like a big mouse (and seeing Tom’s reaction is still priceless after all this time). Of course, throw in the elephant’s sucking power with his trunk (seriously, how powerful was that?), and Tom doesn’t stand a chance. A lot of fun, and a lot of laughs again with this one!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Yours Sincerely (1933)

(available as an extra on the Billy Rose’s Jumbo Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 19 minutes, 35 seconds)

The owner of a resort tries to get one of his daughters married off to a millionaire. This short was a part of the “Broadway Brevities” series, in which a Broadway show is presented in an abbreviated form (as opposed to a whole movie). This one was based on the show Spring Is Here, which had actually been given a full film treatment a few years before (but was apparently lacking most of the show’s score). It’s an interesting program, although, for me, the music isn’t that memorable, and, since that is most of the dialogue here, that makes the short itself harder to sit through. Probably better for those who are bigger fans of songwriters Rodgers and Hart than I am normally.

And Now For The Main Feature…

The Wonder Circus is beloved by audiences. However, the circus has many problems behind-the-scenes. Most of them are financial, caused by circus owner and ringmaster Pop Wonder’s (Jimmy Durante) penchant for taking all the money from the cash box and gambling it away in local crap games. As a result, he can’t pay the creditors, never mind most of his performers. So, a lot of his performers and crew tend not to stick around. Among those who do stay, however, are his daughter, Kitty (Doris Day), and his fiancee of fourteen years, Lulu (Martha Raye). They soon meet by Sam Rawlins (Stephen Boyd), who is a bit of a jack-of-all-trades. He joins the Wonder circus when he fills in for another performer that left to join the John Noble circus. They all grow to like him (Kitty, in particular), but what they don’t know is that he is the son of rival circus owner John Noble (Dean Jagger), who is using him to pay their bills behind their backs, so that he can take over their circus (and get possession of star attraction Jumbo the elephant, whom Pop Wonder refuses to sell). Sam develops feelings for Kitty as well, but tries to ignore those feelings. That changes one night when a storm wrecks the tent during a show, and he has to help save Kitty and a few other performers. Now that he’s admitted to his feelings for Kitty, can he help save the circus, or will John Noble get everything he wants?

In 1935, showman Billy Rose put on the Broadway show Jumbo. He made use of a lot of talent, both behind-the-scenes and onstage for this show. While it proved somewhat popular with audiences, the costs were too high for it to be a success. However, MGM bought the film rights in the early 1940s, with plans to make a big musical, which would also include Jimmy Durante (who had starred in the Broadway show). However, the plans fell through at that time. They were willing to revisit the idea in the early fifties, but nothing came of that, either. Finally, in the early sixties, Doris Day and her husband Martin Melcher decided to try making a musical at MGM, and picked Jumbo for the idea. They tried to assemble a lot of big talent both on- and off-camera. In spite of all their efforts (and Doris Day’s box office appeal at the time), the film flopped, said by some to be the result of it being an old-fashioned type of musical when musicals like West Side Story were changing things up.

Now, I’m obviously quite far removed from that changing landscape, and, as such, I actually like this film. I enjoy some of the music by Rodgers and Hart, including “Over And Over Again,” “Circus On Parade” and particularly “The Most Beautiful Girl In The World” (which always gets stuck in my head every time I watch this movie). The scenery and color is a lot of fun to see, and I enjoy the performances of most of the cast. Jimmy Durante and Martha Raye are quite funny throughout the movie, both together and apart. Doris Day is in fine voice like always, and I enjoy watching her performance, too. Now, is the movie perfect? No. Actor Stephen Boyd is, quite frankly, the weak point in the cast, as he just seems completely out of place in this musical, both as a singer (he was dubbed), and as a dancer. Remove him, and a lot of things look better. Also, for the plot, the movie does seem to be a little too long, with the final song “Sawdust, Spangles And Dreams” really dragging things on too long. Still, I like this film, and enjoy seeing it every now and then. So, yes, I would recommend it, as I think it is better than its original reputation would indicate!

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection.

And with that ends the month of January, and my celebration of Doris Day! Tune in tomorrow as we start the celebration of Clark Gable as the star for the month of February!

Film Length: 2 hours, 7 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

The Pajama Game (1957)Doris DayThe Glass Bottom Boat (1966)

Ben-Hur (1959) – Stephen Boyd

The Man Who Came To Dinner (1942) – Jimmy Durante

Keep ‘Em Flying (1941) – Martha Raye

6 thoughts on ““Star Of The Month (January 2021)” Featuring Doris Day in… Billy Rose’s Jumbo (1962)

  1. Hello Neil! I apologize for not participating in January’s event. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to review ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much’ due too multiple projects that came up in my schedule. May I participate in February instead?

    Like

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