Jumbo is the title of a musical produced by Billy Rose, with music and lyrics by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart and book by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, and directed by John Murray Anderson and George Abbott. The opening night was November 16 in 1935. It told the story of a financially-strapped circus. The play was performed at the Hippodrome Theatre, and starred Jimmy Durante. At the climax of each performance, Durante lay down on the stage and permitted a live elephant to place its foot upon his head.
The more well-known songs from the show are: "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World", "Little Girl Blue" and "My Romance". The song "There's a Small Hotel", dropped from the production before it opened, later appeared in the 1936 Rodgers and Hart musical On Your Toes and became a standard.
The musical play was made into a movie as Billy Rose's Jumbo in 1962, starring Jimmy Durante, Doris Day, Martha Raye, and Stephen Boyd, featuring Busby Berkeley's choreography. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Original Music Score. Although Jimmy Durante was in the cast of both the stage musical and the film (made nearly three decades later), the two productions have very different plots utilizing much of the same score. However, one very funny piece of stage business from the stage musical was repeated in the film. In both versions, Durante is working for a cash-strapped circus when its assets are seized by creditors. Durante attempts to sneak his beloved elephant Jumbo off the circus grounds, only to be confronted by a sheriff, who demands: "Where you going with that elephant?" Caught red-handed, Durante blithely replies "What elephant?"