"Billy Rose's Jumbo" had been planned by MGM as a vehicle for Judy Garland. It never happened but in 1962 MGM polished off the sawdust,spangles, and dreams, gave it to famed producer Joe Pasternak and director Charles Walters, and starred the nation's number one box-office attraction, Doris Day, in the opulent and costly extravaganza. In the midst of an amazing string of box-office bonanzas, "Jumbo" proved to be the one weak spot for Miss Day. It's almost incomprehensible as to why.
"Jumbo", as it's usually known, is one of the most enjoyable musicals turned out in the 1960's, during the waning days of movie musicals. Rodgers and Hart's music has rarely been better performed. The film is replete with romance, comedy, circus acts, and spectacle. Day, Stephen Boyd (and a voice double), Jimmy Durante, and Martha Raye, are matchless.
Durante is owner of the Pop Wonder circus, a small traveling show, that may be sold to the John Noble circus. Noble really wants the Wonder's crown jewel, Jumbo, the elephant. Boyd is the son of Noble, who woos and wins Day, the daughter of Durante. That sums up the storyline but hardly the essence of what makes the film soar.
Doris Day never looked lovelier, in beautiful honey blonde styles by fabled stylist, Sydney Guilaroff. She sings like a dream and did 75% of her own acrobatic and equestrian work. Durante and Raye are a joy, singing, dancing and mugging. Day's duet with Raye is perfect as are her renditions of "My Romance" and "Little Girl Blue".
The disappointing receipts for this film supposedly cost Day the lead in "The Unsinkable Molly Brown" which MGM had purchased with her in mind. It's a shame, because "Jumbo" contains some of the finest work she ever put on film. A treat for children of all ages!!