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
This was the first film to use Foley effects (specially created sound effects) on its soundtrack. The technique was named after Jack Foley, who performed the necessary sound effects while watching the film on playback. The process is still used on all films made today, and the effects artists who create the needed effects (such as footsteps, performed in synch with the image) are known as Foley artists. See more »
The first Show Boat performance depicted happens at night. But when Captain Andy rushes Julie Dozier along the deck to get on stage, they are in bright sunlight. See more »
This primitive Part-Talkie "Super Production" was thought lost until a few years ago, but the print that was eventually unearthed missed a sizeable portion of the dialogue and music track so that, for about 30 minutes during the second half, it features no sound at all (which makes one wonder why underscoring was not employed by the 'restoration' team to counter this utter silence) with the spoken lines being superimposed in the form of subtitles over the image itself!
Incidentally, I was under the impression that this was to be a Musical since the coming of Sound ushered in a flood of such fare. However, it chose to follow the Edna Ferber novel and, consequently, differs to a considerable extent from the subsequent two musical renditions. The shooting incident during a performance occurs much earlier here; similarly, the Julie character gets ousted from the show boat while Magnolia is still a child; her fault in the eyes of her employers (whereas they would stick by her in later versions!) does not relate to race but rather morals, as she is eventually discovered to be the Madam of a clandestine brothel!; Captain Andy dies in a sea-storm in this case (while he is allowed to survive elsewhere) on the night Magnolia gives birth; the leading man's re-appearance at the end occurs on the riverboat rather than in a theater; most conspicuously, perhaps, the character of Joe (who sang the show's most enduring number, "Ol' Man River") barely registers this time around!
Even if we do get to see the heroine a rather unlikely Laura LaPlante, best-known as the imperiled heiress of THE CAT AND THE CANARY (1927; itself a studio-hopping warhorse) performing and strumming on a banjo a couple of times, these turn up during the stretch where the soundtrack goes missing! Ironically, though most of the songs were dropped, this still emerges as the longest version at 119 minutes; the IMDb lists an even longer running-time of 147 and, since only 2 of the 5 announced songs are heard during the "Overture" (one of which features Helen Morgan, the Julie of James Whale's 1936 remake!), this may well be true. Given the straightforward narrative in this version, the inherent mawkishness (what with Magnolia's insufferably prudish mother) of the unfolding drama is much more to the fore now. Still, the money problems afflicting the hero (nicely played by Joseph Schildkraut, from Whale's THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK  and which I also viewed recently!) are better delineated here than later while sets and expository footage came in handy when dusting off the property just 7 years afterwards! That said, the last act feels just as rushed as always.
I am not familiar with how SHOW BOAT passed on to MGM (from Universal) but the closing title card, obviously bearing the epithet "The End", of this particular version is unaccountably accompanied by the Metro logo for the record, a similar situation exists with respect to the 1931 Paramount version of DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE! Finally, comparisons between the 1929 and 1936 movies unequivocally favor the latter, which is stylish where this is generally stodgy. For the record, I own another film by the same director UNCLE TOM'S CABIN (1927), based on yet another chestnut with which this also happens to share its Southern setting.
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