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Monday, 10 September 2012

Classic Film Review: Billy Rose's Jumbo (1962)

This musical stars Jimmy Durante and Doris Day as father and daughter team Pop and Kitty Wonder alongside Martha Raye and Stephen Boyd as their respective love interests. Pop Wonder runs a circus, the prime attraction of which is Jumbo the elephant. But Pop's got a gambling habit and another circus has been trying to get hold of Jumbo for some time. When new circus-hand Sam Rawlins (Boyd) arrives, it seems they could be about to lose everything quicker than they anticipated.

There are some good numbers in this, particularly 'Why Can't I?' (a plea from Day and Raye) and 'Little Girl Blue' (Day). The final number 'Sawdust and Spangles and Dreams' (the four stars) drags on a little too long for my liking but this was MGM's last real musical extravaganza so I can forgive it. 'The Most Beautiful Girl in the World', originally sung by Boyd is reprised by Durante and is probably my favourite song of the film. The dances are as spectacular as a circus setting necessitates, especially the opening number 'Over and Over Again', and there are some decent stunts throughout. It really does have all the hallmarks of a classic MGM musical, although it slips up on occasion.

Although Day, Durante and Raye worked perfectly in their roles, there were moments when Stephen Boyd seemed to suffer from a combination of hackneyed dialogue and a lack of comfort in his role. This wasn't helped by the fact that the character had to consistently hide his real intentions from his love interest. It made their romance a little more unbelievable than most musical romances.

Day, though, was remarkably comfortable as Kitty Wonder, both long-suffering daughter and enthusiastic performer. Her rapport with an elephant is something to behold and I don't think I can fault her in this film. Though the script falters at times, she brings charm to this film. My favourite moment, though, has to be a Durante/Raye one: Pop decides to try and shoot Lulu (Raye) out of a cannon to give the circus a new act. It doesn't quite work!

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