Cinerama: Billy Rose’s Jumbo

Posted: September 11, 2009 in Cinerama

Billy Rose’s Jumbo
By Mike Derderian

Click and switch, turn it on turn it off, this is what you do while watching television when you’re bored nowadays, the pastime of the century that comes with an accessory piece called a satellite.

Analog or digital, in a blink of an eye, the whole world is offered to you in the comfort of that warm spot in the house which we call a living room taking away the trouble of going out and exploring our surroundings.

Interaction with the outer world is an activity, which is on the verge of extinction for we have become lazy, struck by sloth, which is one of the deadly seven sins.

Every day as I go to work I see the skeleton of a circus structure stripped of its canvas flesh, leaving it bear and empty under the gray sky of sweet November, all alone without the love and life that once was there.

As the car passes by that abandoned place, I hear what was once the joyous voices of children laughing at the monkeys dressed in polka dot dresses, lions jumping through flammable hoops and clowns making fun of themselves.

Once upon a time, the circus was the greatest show on earth, however, now and with all the entertainment offered to us people forgot all about that art that still lives on the outskirts of some European countries but not here in Jordan.

The sight of that vacant piece of land with the long metal poll surrounded with the metal wires that once sustained what was the bone structure of a canvas canopy, held within its folds a different kind of entertainment reminded me of Jumbo.

Billy Roses’s Jumbo, the 1962 production was about a struggling circus owned by people, who are trying to maintain this dying art through the help of a clever elephant called Jumbo, who you’ll love if you can find this classical film in the stores, hopefully.

Directed by Charles Walters, this all family-film starred Doris Day, Stephan Boyd, Martha Raye and the extraordinary Jimmy Durant, who is famous for his large nose and special singing voice, as Pop Wonder.

There are a lot of good and enjoyable films about the circus and its special world of those who are fortunate enough to dedicate their lives completely for something they love and believe is their right path in this long journey.

Jumbo and its superb cast of stars is probably the most touching one for it is about those people, and the way they will prove that the circus is the greatest show on earth or was, who knows!

Pop Wonder is the owner of a circus, which is on the verge of bankruptcy, his performers are leaving for better jobs since he is not paying them well and is using their salary money for gambling.

His daughter Kitty, played by the lovable Doris Day, whom we’ve all known for having a beautiful warm voice like in the song “Qui Sera, Sera,” is trying to help him quit this habit of wasting all the circus money on shooting dice. Pop, Kitty and Lulu (Raye) his fussy fiancé, who also works at the circus as a not so believable funny fortuneteller, are trying to do what they can to make it work with the help of Jumbo.

All is going wrong until one day; a stranger called Sam (Boyd) walks into their lives with his arrogant attitude and good looks that are the center of attention of Kitty who at first treats him in an unfriendly way.

Did I tell you that the film is a musical, if not I just did, so forgive me any way it is filled with great songs like “Why I can’t I,” This Can’t be love,” My romance,” however, the best song is “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World.

Sung by Sam during the funniest scene in the film, we see him working on a carrousel, trying to make it work. Kitty who acts as if she is not interested in him offers him a hand and by doing so her hands are tarnished with grease that will also smear her charming face in someway.

At first she thinks that the song is for her, however, when looking at a mirror she realizes that the big smudge of grease on her face is the real reason why he smiles at her in cunning way.

The film is packed with funny scenes like in the ones, where we see Pop Wonder and Jumbo together running away from cops, angry creditors or when we see the circus act by Kitty, who is dressed in a pink butterfly outfit, on a horseback.

My favorite scene comes in the end when they all meet after the circus is bought by a rival circus owned by Sam Rawlin’s father, the scene is shot in a closed studio with quite a colorful set and art design that is fit for a circus finale. Four lovable characters are dressed as various circus characters, once we see them as clowns fighting with each other and pulling funny pranks, in another one we see them as acrobats in elegant attires.

Hopefully you’ll find this classic film and have the chance of enjoying it for it will remind you of an era that no longer exists, an era that we all need to re-experience.

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