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Warner Home Video presents
Jumbo (1962)

"Did you ever stop and think that in a few days, we'll be hundreds of miles away from here, but they'll remember this night at the circus the rest of their lives."
- Pop Warner (Jimmy Durante)

Review By: Jeff Rosado  
Published: April 26, 2005

Stars: Doris Day, Stephen Boyd, Jimmy Durante, Martha Raye
Other Stars: Dean Jagger, Billy Barty, Grady Sutton, Norman Leavitt, Joseph Waring, Lynn Wood, Charles Watts
Director: Charles Waters

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 02h:07m:18s
Release Date: April 26, 2005
UPC: 012569683471
Genre: musical

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- B+B+A- B

DVD Review

If Billy Rose's Jumbo had just come before the age of West Side Story, I've no doubt we'd be talking about it in the same breath as Singin' in the Rain, Gigi and maybe even An American in Paris. How could one expect a musical about a circus with renowned standards by legendary collaborators Rodgers and Hart under the direction of old MGM pros Charles Waters and Busby Berkeley and starring America's singing and dancing sweetheart at the time would tank?

But that's exactly what happened to this, Doris Day's final full-on musical. I guess in the age of "When you're a Jet, you're a Jet all the way", tunes like My Romance and The Most Beautiful Girl in the World seem a little musty. With the advent of classic movie channels, however, films like Jumbo have developed nifty little cult clans. Now, this delightful merge of comedy, drama, and song has found its way into the Warner Home Video eight-disc set saluting the former Les Brown vocalist, and it's simply a classy, unabashedly old-fashioned entertainment for the entire family.

Based on the 1935 Broadway play originally staged at the celebrated Hippodrome Theater (which played host to largescale productions involving live animals, magician Harry Houdini, and the great vaudeville acts of the day), it tells the tale of the Wonder Circus, a traveling big-top whose persistent creditors are ever hot on its heels. Fortunately, the circus has a secret weapon in the form of the owner's daughter, Kitty Wonder (Day), a blonde dream filled with charm and keen mind. She sweet-talks to keep the wolves at bay and seconds later, she's staking out a route that won't easily be followed. But that's not the only daily predicament Kitty has to deal with. Pop Wonder (Jimmy Durante) is constantly lured to the nearest gambling joint of any given town. Usually too late to stop him, her latest rescue attempt sees her luck change in more ways than one. She proves to be good with a pair of dice and pockets just enough loot to pay everybody from the crew on up, keeping Pop's show alive to see another town.

But why does Sam (Stephen Boyd), the mysteriously handsome drifter and newest member of the traveling troupe, have a long face after witnessing such a good night at that table? Could be because he's on a secret mission for a rival circus. His father (Dean Jagger) is the head honcho of the Noble Circus, and he wants Sam to help initiate a coup and land all the valued assets of Pop's empire, including his smart and lovable pachyderm, Jumbo. But what's making his job especially difficult is something he didn't plan on: Sam's falling hard for Kitty.

Judging by the tepid response most films depicting circus life have received through the ages (even Cecil B. DeMille's Oscar-winning film didn't necessarily bowl critics over, and to be honest, has aged very badly with its overblown performances), I guess it's not surprising Jumbo's theatrical run was not a successful one. Day was just a little too long in the tooth in 1962 to play the sprightly Kitty, but her ability to switch from comedy to drama and that lovely voice make you forget all that within the first five minutes. Boyd is another strong point, too. This guy might have been another of the studio's most valuable assets, with his brooding good looks (kind of a combination of Kirk Douglas and James Dean), sort of an anti-Gene Kelly type.

This movie has two additional gems that sparkle just as brightly: the great pairing of vaudeville legend Jimmy Durante and the great World War II-era comedienne, Martha Raye. You couldn't ask for two better comic specialists in a secondary plot that has Raye's Lulu chasing after the widowed circus owner in between playing fortune teller, trapeze artist, and human cannonball (in one of the film's funniest sequences); Durante also gets a chance to cinematically recreate one of the greatest one-liners in Broadway history (the actor was part of the charter cast in its original stage run): trying to hide his prized pachyderm during one of the numerous attempts by the baddies to close down the big top, Pop asks Jumbo to remain "inconspicuous-like", only to get cornered with "Hold it right there! Where are you going with that elephant!" to which Pop replies, "What elephant?"

Jumbo boasts one of the most underrated musical scores ever written for a Broadway production; in translation to film, they could not have been in better hands (or voices, in this case). Among the highlights are This Can't Be Love, a Day-Raye duet (with the latter showcasing a truly lovely voice she didn't get to use enough); Boyd's nicely rendered The Most Beautiful Girl in the World complete with a romantic carousel ride backdrop; and a pair of sublime solo showcases for Day on My Romance and Little Girl Blue, which may in fact be the definitive versions of these timeless standards.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Warner has unearthed a top quality print for Jumbo's widescreen debut. Never looking very good in even Turner Classic Movies presentations, the film comes alive with boisterous colors that's not too sharp or too soft. It's not perfect; some sequences (especially those set at night) look a little off as far as consistent black levels, but these look to originate with the source. But overall, most fans of the film will be happy.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Although I was a little concerned when the restored overture's mix sounded front heavy with next to nothing emerging from the back channels, I was relieved when the film proper began. Beautiful 5.1 from all directions during the musical numbers, and for purists, directional dialogue that reflects what audiences heard during Jumbo's original roadshow run (although I think it's been adjusted just a tiny bit, because the technique is not as extreme as other musicals from the same era). Low end is great, too. (Your subwoofer may surprise you when Lulu makes her inaugural attempt inside the cannon.)

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 33 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Musical Short: Yours Sincerely
  2. Tom and Jerry Cartoon: Jerry and Jumbo
  3. Original Overture
Extras Review: Yours Sincerely is a vintage 1933 Vitaphone two-reeler and an appropriate inclusion due to its early Rodgers and Hart soundtrack, which makes the silly storyline (proud papa wants to set up daughter with rich uptown guy rather than downtown boy). Much better is the Tom and Jerry cartoon, Jerry and Jumbo, one of the team's funniest outings. Giving a winking nod to the close mother-son relationship of Walt Disney's Dumbo at its inception, a poor baby elephant accidentally falls off his circus train and tumbles into the city, winding up as the surprise houseguest of that tomcat and ever clever mouse. Flawless fun. Finally, as a prelude to the big picture, Warner has restored Jumbo's terrific overture (first time on any home video format, by the way). Touches like this continue to prove why Warner is so beloved by both fans and purists; they truly get it right.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

Step right up for the most endearing movie about the big top ever made. Great songs, wonderful performances and the world's smartest elephant add up to Jumbo-sized entertainment.


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