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It's the early 1900's. The Wonder Circus is a traveling circus owned and operated by Anthony Wonder - who performs as a clown - and his daughter Kitty Wonder - who performs as an aerialist and trick rider. Although Kitty loves her Pop as she and all the other circus performers call her father, she hates his gambling addiction which is placing the circus deep in debt. They and their employees treat the circus like one big family, especially Lulu the fortune teller who wants to be Mrs. Wonder, but the employees may only be so loyal if they aren't getting paid. As such, many of the performers leave or threaten to leave to join the Wonder Circus' main competitor, the Noble Circus owned by the power and money hungry John Noble. Although Pop and Kitty don't want anyone to leave their employ, the only act that they will never let go is Jumbo, their trained elephant, who Noble had tried to buy in the past. As many performers leave, into their midst comes circus Jack-of-all-trades Sam Rawlins.... Written by
For all its merits, "Jumbo" was not a perfect entity as it was released upon the last rung of film musicals, and by the 60's only adaptations of Broadway shows like "West Side Story" and "The Sound Of Music" were being released. As a result a lot of folks have dismissed this one, but I find it to be one of the best exhibitions of a specialized art form- namely, the circus. Populated with many real circus headliners, its musical portions are quite stylish and joyful- especially "Circus On Parade," the equestrian-flavored "This Can't Be Love," and the gorgeous opening number "Over and Over Again-" which shows off 2nd unit man Busby Berkely's visual flourish. (Note, in particular, the final pullback shot which shows all of the acts rehearsing en masse at the same time.) Ms. Day, already a top box office star due to her romantic comedies with Rock Hudson, is gorgeous in the film and her voice can only be described as velvety. Listen especially to her solos "My Romance," "Little Girl Blue," and most impressive, a nighttime duet between Day and Martha Raye in a wagon caravan entitled "Why Can't I?" Portions of the film are directed too slowly and leading man Stephen Boyd is wooden (I would have preferred Harve Presnell or even Howard Keel), but circus owner Jimmy Durante is marvelous in every scene he's in- especially where he's trying to hide an elephant!! The finale, with the cast dressed for a double wedding and dancing to "The Most Beautiful Girl In The World" is truly lovely. If you've never seen a circus you could watch this and be satisfied that you spent an evening under the big top.
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