Show Boat

Show Boat

Director: James Whale Cast: Irene Dunne, Allan Jones, Charles Winninger




This second film version of the Edna Ferber/Jerome Kern/Oscar Hammerstein II musical Show Boat is considered by many film buffs to be the best of the three. Covering nearly four decades (was there ever an Edna Ferber novel that didn't?), the film stars Irene Dunne as Magnolia Hawks, a role she'd previously played on stage, though not in the Broadway version. The daughter of showboat impresario Captain Andy (Charles Winninger, who was in the Broadway original), Magnolia is swept off her feet by dashing gambler Gaylord Ravenal (Allan Jones). Yearning to appear on the showboat stage, Magnolia gets her chance when Captain Andy's leading lady, the tragic Julie (Helen Morgan, likewise a holdover from Broadway), is ordered not to perform by a small-town sheriff because she is Mulatto. Julie's husband Steve (Donald Cook) loyally walks out with his wife, thereby leaving the leading-man position open--but not for long, since Gaylord Ravenal agrees to take over for Steve, the better to stay close to Magnolia. Despite the disapproval of Magnolia's mother Parthy Hawks (Helen Westley), Magnolia and Ravenal are married. Later on, the couple has a baby girl named Kim. At first, the young family is blissfully happy, but as Ravenal's gambling debts begin to mount, things turn sour. Unable to support Magnolia and Kim, Ravenal walks out on them both. Desperately, Magnolia tries to get a job as a singer in Chicago. She auditions at a night spot where, fortuitously, Julie is the featured attraction. Hoping to give Magnolia a break, Julie gets drunk, forcing the manager to hire Magnolia as a replacement. During her New Years' Eve debut, Magnolia "chokes up" in front of the raucous audience--and then, who should emerge from the crowd but lovable Captain Andy, who gives Magnolia the encouragement she needs. Magnolia goes on to become a famous musical comedy star, as does her grown-up daughter Kim (played as an adult by Sunnie O'Dea). On the eve of Magnolia's retirement from the theater, she is reunited with her now-contrite husband Gaylord Ravenal. While the second half of Show Boat departs radically from both the novel (in which Ravenal never returns ) and the Broadway show, the film manages to capture the spirit of its literary and theatrical ancestors. Of the original score, "Cotton Blossom," "Ol' Man River," "Where's the Mate for Me?" "Make Believe," "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man," "You are Love" and "Bill" are retained, while most of the other songs are heard as background accompaniment. Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II penned three new tunes for the film version: "Ah Still Suits Me," "Gallavantin' Around" and "I Have the Room Above."" As in all stage and screen versions of Show Boat, the Charles K. Harris standard "After the Ball" is heard in the New Year sequence. In addition to the aforementioned Dunne, Jones, Winninger, Westley, Morgan, and O'Dea, the Show Boat cast includes the magnificent Paul Robeson as Joe (his rendition of "Ol' Man River" can still induce goosebumps), Hattie McDaniel as Queenie and Sammy White and Queenie Smith as the engagingly second-rate vaudeville team of Frank and Ellie Schultz. Though James Whale of Frankenstein fame seems an odd choice for director, he brings a vibrant theatricality to the proceedings that is lacking in other versions. Show Boat literally saved the financially strapped Universal Pictures from receivership--but not soon enough to prevent the ousters of Carl Laemmle Sr. and Jr. in favor of a new administration.

Product Details

Release Date: 04/29/2014
UPC: 0883316951767
Original Release: 1936
Rating: NR
Source: Warner Archives
Time: 1:53:00

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Irene Dunne Magnolia Hawks
Allan Jones Gaylord Revenal
Charles Winninger Capt. Andy Hawks
Paul Robeson Joe
Helen Morgan Julie
Helen Westley Parthy Hawks
Donald Cook Steve
Queenie Smith Ellie
Sammy White Frank Schultz
Hattie McDaniel Queenie, Joe's Wife
Francis X. Mahoney Rubberface
Charles B. Middleton Sheriff Vallon
Arthur Hohl Pete
John Farrell MacDonald Windy
Patricia Barry Baby Kim
Marilyn Knowlden Kim (younger)
Sunnie O'Dea Kim (elder)
May Beatty Landlady
Clarence Muse Sam the Janitor
Stanley Fields Zebe
Maude Allen Fat Woman
Eddie "Rochester" Anderson Young Black Man
Harry Barris Jake
Brooks Benedict Race Fan
Donald Briggs Press Agent
Eddy Chandler Actor
E.E. Clive Englishman
Edmund Cobb Actor
Grace Cunard Mother
Elspeth Dudgeon Mother Superior
Helen Jerome Eddy Reporter
Al Ferguson Gambler
Flora Finch Woman
Dorothy Granger Actor
George Hackathorne YMCA Worker
Marilyn Harris Little Girl
Ernest Hilliard Actor
Arthur Houseman Drunk
Jimmy Jackson Young Man
Selmar Jackson Hotel Clerk
Jane Keckley Mrs. Ewing
Theodore Lorch Simon Legree
Frank Mayo Actor
Monte Montague Old Man
Jack Mulhall Actor
Georgia O'Dell Schoolteacher
Edward Peil Actor
Barbara Pepper Actor
Lee Phelps Actor
LeRoy J. Prinz Dance Director
George H. Reed Old Black Man
Stanley "Tiny" Sandford Backwoodsman
Forrest Stanley Theater Manager
Lois Verner Small Girl
Bobby Watson Lost Child
Renee Whitney Chorus Girl
Charles Wilson Jim Green
Jack Latham Juvenile

Technical Credits
James Whale Director
Victor Baravalle Musical Direction/Supervision
Bernard W. Burton Editor
John P. Fulton Special Effects
Charles Hall Art Director
Oscar Hammerstein Score Composer,Screenwriter
Ted Kent Editor
Jerome Kern Score Composer
Carl Laemmle Producer
John Mescall Cinematographer
LeRoy J. Prinz Choreography
Vera West Costumes/Costume Designer
Doris Zinkeisen Costumes/Costume Designer

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Show Boat 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you like your musicals large and lush, then buy the 1951 MGM Technicolor version; that one will dazzle your eyes and tingle your ears, and leave you feeling 'entertained,' which good movie musicals in that time frame were intended to do. BUT, and this is an emphatic but, if you prefer a musical to tell a poignant story with moving music and believable characters, then click the 'buy' button right now; this is the SHOW BOAT for you. This SHOW BOAT is not a perfect adaptation of the Broadway original, but it is a faithful one; there is nothing artificial about it. The story unfolds naturally, the music and lyrics enhance and underscore the drama, and the characters will remain with you long after the final fade out. This SHOW BOAT is filmed in black-and-white, and my feeling is the story is better for it. While it is one of the best-told love stories in film, it is also a groundbreaking example of racial parity, where white and black characters are portrayed with a minimum of condescension and stereotyping. There is depth and honesty in the interplay of the races, and in the miscegenation scene, which is the focal point of the first half of the film, the drama is reinforced by the black-and-white format. You cannot help but be unsettled by the stark and naked urgency the camera work brings to this moment, and nearly eighty years later, it is still powerfully effective. That said, the 'Gallavantin Around' number Magnolia sings in blackface, is an unfortunate token to its time. This song, which was added to the film ostensibly to make it more acceptable to southern audiences, is the only wrinkle in an otherwise exceptional work of art. The artists themselves are uniformly excellent. Irene Dunne is the perfect Magnolia, sweet and innocent from beginning to end. Allan Jones as Gaylord Ravenal is as smooth as they come; as a river gambler, he is first rate. Paul Robeson as Joe was born for this role, and his reading of 'Old Man River' is thrilling. Charles Winninger reprises his Broadway role as Capt'n Andy with aplomb and finesse. His is not a singing role, but he is essential to the story. I can only echo what others have said for decades about Helen Morgan as Julie. She is frail and fearful, but she is loving and generous. When she sings 'Can't Help Lovin' that Man," she is set free from everything that holds her to the ground; and when she sings 'Bill,' grab your hankie because she will break your heart. Hers is a timeless performance, and I'll leave it at that. James Whale is the director who already had FRANKENSTEIN under his belt when he took the helm of the good ship SHOW BOAT, and his vision of the story continues to hold its own after all these years. There are no extras on this disc. There is no "Making Of..." featurette, and no actors' biographies, but you won't need them to get your money's worth out of this exceptional masterpiece; this film stands on its own merit, and you won't be disappointed. If you are still reading, this is all I have left to say: What are you waiting for? Click 'Add to Cart,' and move on to 'Checkout.' When the disc arrives, set some time aside and treat yourself to one of the films for the ages; SHOW BOAT is that film.