Stephen Boyd filming “Jumbo” at MGM Studios 1962 – The Circus Maximus

Below are some nice newspaper ads for “Jumbo” starring Doris Day and Stephen Boyd when the movie was released in December of 1962, and a few funny stories about the filming of the movie in early 1962 at the MGM Culver City Studio. The film was so big that it covered two enormous lots and two large stage sets at MGM!

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“MGM hasn’t seen anything like it since the Circus Maximus – if then. “Billy Rose’s Jumbo” (as they are calling it now) is all over the place…The elephants are housed on Lot 2; so are the horses being trained for Doris Day…The picture is spilling all over the sprawling Culver City studio. The main tent has been erected twice–on Lot 3, about a mile from the studio proper measuring 130×180 ft, and capable of seating 2,000 people, and on Stage 15, MGM’s largest. Here the actual circus acts, some 50 in number, will be shot, and here Miss Day Stephen Boyd and others will perform on trapeze and tightrope.

The big top on Lot 3 is surrounded by a menagerie, a mess tent, a wardrobe tent, wagons, and a sideshow, complete with a merry-go-round. Still another stage, 29, will be utilized for filming the close-up dramatic scenes.

The Los Angeles Times, Feb 7, 1962

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“On the set of MGM’s “Jumbo,” Stephen Boyd, who appears opposite Doris Day as a high-wire specialist and clown, recalled his own humble beginning as a London street busker, or funny man. He remembered that a Bobby watched him try to raise a crowd to earn a few pennies. The policeman sauntered over and said : “After you’re through bein’ funny, mate, you can join the mourners at St. Paul’s.”

The Los Angeles Times, Feb 25, 1962

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Stephen Boyd, co-starring with Doris Day in MGM’s “Jumbo,” discovered, much to his discomfort, that the sequence in which he goes into the cage and subdues a lion was scheduled for the last day of shooting. So Boyd went to the animal’s trainer to ask about the lions culinary habits. “Oh,” the trainer said nonchalantly, “I wouldn’t worry too much about Pete. He’s ferocious looking, but he’s from Italy, and over there he chomped up so many martyrs in those Italian movies that I don’t think he’d go for you.” Boyd retreated as gracefully as possible and was heard muttering: “I played Messala in ‘Ben-Hur’ and I don’t think you could call him a martyr.”

The Los Angeles Times, April 29, 1962

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“Jumbo” has completed filming at MGM, and a variety of amusing incidents during production have been noted here and elsewhere. There was one on the final day when Stephen Boyd was called upon to drive a farm wagon drawn by a spirited horse. After Boyd finished his rehearsals, director Charles Walters commented :”That’s great, Steve, but can you come around that curve a little faster?” The star answered with a question: “Didn’t you see ‘Ben-Hur’?”

The Los Angeles Times, August 26, 1962

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Stephen Boyd Interview regarding “Billy Rose’s Jumbo”, 1963

This is a very insightful interview from April 7, 1963, in the Longview News Journal (Texas) about the opening of “Jumbo”. Stephen had a very fun time filming “Jumbo” on the MGM lot with Doris Day, Martha Raye and Jimmy Durante during the early part of 1962. “I’ve never had so much fun working in my life.” (Hedda Hopper Interview, Chicago Tribune June 17 1962).  Initially MGM had wanted Richard Burton for the role, but since Burton had taken Boyd’s place as Mark Anthony in the re-vamped version of “Cleopatra”, Boyd was the studio’s alternate choice. Burton and Boyd essentially swapped roles! Boyd describes in this interview his favorite scene in “Jumbo” – the merry-go-round duet with Doris Day and the waltz through the empty circus grounds. He also points out his favorite movie actor, John Wayne, and his favorite stage actors, Laurence Olivier and Michael Redgrave.  “I’ll never forget the kindness of the trouble he (Redgrave) took to help me when I had nowhere to turn,” Boyd says. It also mentions his passion of golf and his fascination with bullfighting. It sounds like Boyd may have wanted to become an amateur bull fighter in his off time. Considering how much time he spent in Spain making movies, I’m surprised it never happened in real life! In addition, the article praises Stephen’s courage for piloting a monoplane in “Jumbo” (he also acted as a pilot years later during the filming of “The Treasures of Jamaica Reef”) and entering the cage of lions as the circus lion-tamer in movie’s finale sequence.  “I’ll try anything once,” he says “like any good Irishman.”

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