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The film begins with Magnolia, daughter of Captain Andy Hawks and his domineering wife Parthy, enjoying her childhood aboard her father's show boat. Parthy, irritated over the supposed influence of leading lady Julie (Magnolia's idol and best friend) fires her, despite her husband's objections. Many years later, Magnolia is a young woman and becomes a leading lady. Her leading man is Gaylord Ravenal, a riverboat gambler with whom she falls in love and elopes. But the sudden and unexpected death of Captain Andy forces the couple to leave the boat and move to Chicago rather than endure the disapproving Parthy, and Ravenal's gambling luck soon runs out. Then, Parthy announces she's coming to visit. Written by
Albert Sanchez Moreno
More of the sound footage has reportedly been discovered on a Vitaphone sound disc. See more »
When Nola is given the letter Gaylord has left for her telling her he is leaving her, she is shown holding and reading the letter with her right hand holding the letter near the top and her left hand near the bottom. In the next shot, her hands have changed positions. See more »
Interesting but flawed part-talkie version of the great musical based on the novel by Edna Ferber.
There is a long "overture" that features songs from some of the original Broadway cast (including Helen Morgan singing "My Bill") and most of the film is silent. There are a few talking sequences but one track is lost (though recently rumored to have been discovered).
But being silent is this film's problem. What's really wrong is that the racial part of the story, much of what drives the plot in the stage version and the 1936 and 1951 versions is missing. In this version Julie (Alma Rubens) is fired from the show boat because Parthy (Emily Fitzroy) is jealous of her affection for the daughter Magnolia. In the other versions Julie is discovered as a black passing for white and married to a white man--a criminal offense in the 19th century South.
But most of the rest of the story is in place as grown-up Magnolia (Laura LaPlante) falls in love with her leading man Gaylord (Joseph Schildkraut) and leaves the show boar for a fast life in Chicago, where the husband's gambling reduces them to poverty and breaks up the marriage. Magnolia goes on the stage and becomes a hit as a "coon shouter," a white singer of black music.
This version also features a drowning that does not appear in other versions of the play.
LaPlante is good as sympathetic Magnolia, but Schildkraut is a tad gay as the husband. The changes in plot require Fitzroy to play Parthy as a raving hag. Rubens is touching as Julie; she would make one film after this in 1929 and would be dead in 1931 from drugs. Otis Harlan plays Hawks. That's it. The rest of the cast is made up of bit players.
No one sings "Old Man River." Stick to the superb 1936 version starring Irene Dunne, Allan Jones, Charles Winninger, Helen Morgan, Helen Westley, Donald Cook, Hattie McDaniel, Paul Robeson, Queenie Smith, and Sammy White.
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