The era of the great MGM musicals drew to a close with BILLY ROSE'S JUMBO (1962), released on Blu-ray by the Warner Archive.
BILLY ROSE'S JUMBO was adapted from a 1935 stage show starring Jimmy Durante, who rather remarkably also stars in the movie as another character, 27 years after appearing in the original show. The movie also stars Doris Day, Stephen Boyd, and Martha Raye.
In a nice touch, the Blu-ray features the original theatrical Overture before the opening credits. After the credits, as if to emphasize the show's old-fashioned nature, Boyd stands on a stage and sings an introduction about going back in time to enjoy the circus; the curtain behind him lifts and the film's action begins.
The slight plot concerns a struggling circus owned by Pop Wonder (Durante), who stars in it along with his daughter Kitty (Day) and his fiancee (of 14 years!), Lulu (Raye).
Unbeknownst to the Wonders, new employee Sam (Boyd) is paying off the Wonders' creditors in order to gain financial control of the circus on behalf of his father (a poorly used Dean Jagger), who owns a competing circus.
I have very mixed feelings about JUMBO, as the movie is also known. In the plus column I love Doris Day, director Charles Walters, the Rodgers and Hart score, and choreographer Busby Berkeley, who retired after making this film.
The film's best moments are when Doris Day and the Rodgers and Hart score are front and center and the wide screen is being used to full effect by Busby Berkeley and cinematographer William H. Daniels.
The score also includes "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World," which is still running in my head, plus standards such as "Little Girl Blue" and "My Romance." While most of the score is terrific, the final song, "Stardust and Spangles and Dreams," is unfortunately a clunker; it was written by Richard Rodgers and Roger Edens.
The film is too long at 127 minutes, wasting time on scenes which do nothing to move the action forward, notably a sequence where Durante tries to shoot Raye out of a cannon. On the other hand, a thunderstorm sequence which includes a complicated aerial rescue is much more exciting.
While JUMBO isn't a complete success, more of Doris Day being available is always a good thing! I also very much appreciate that the Warner Archive is giving new life to less well-known MGM musicals such as JUMBO and HIT THE DECK (1955) on Blu-ray. I anticipate reviewing the new Blu-ray release of MGM's KISMET (1955) in the near future.
Extras on the Blu-ray disc include a Tom and Jerry cartoon, a musical short, and the trailer.
Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered at the Warner Archive website. Please note that initial copies of this Blu-ray are being traditionally replicated (pressed) rather than burned on demand.