14 user 1 critic

Banjo on My Knee (1936)

Passed | | Comedy, Drama, Romance | 11 December 1936 (USA)
Ernie Holley runs away on his wedding night because he thinks he has killed a wedding guest. His father Newt and bride Pearl find him in New Orleans and persuade him to come home.



(novel), (screenplay)

Watch Now

From $0.99 (SD) on Amazon Video

Nominated for 1 Oscar. See more awards »


Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  

Men pay a dime to dance with Barbara and her fellow taxi dancers. She marries Eddie and plans to quit dancing. Before she does, she meets a handsome and rich gentleman.

Directors: Lionel Barrymore, Edward Buzzell
Stars: Barbara Stanwyck, Ricardo Cortez, Monroe Owsley
Comedy | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

A woman must decide between two men - one she loves, the other she admires and respects.

Director: Sidney Lanfield
Stars: Barbara Stanwyck, Herbert Marshall, Ian Hunter
Comedy | Crime | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

When the murdered body discovered by beautiful, vivacious socialite Melsa Manton disappears, police and press label her a prankster until she proves them wrong.

Director: Leigh Jason
Stars: Barbara Stanwyck, Henry Fonda, Sam Levene
Union Pacific (1939)
Drama | Western
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

In 1862, Central Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads compete westward across the wilderness toward California.

Director: Cecil B. DeMille
Stars: Barbara Stanwyck, Joel McCrea, Akim Tamiroff
Certificate: Passed Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

After Florence Fallon's father dies unappreciated in the church where he preached for many years, she becomes embittered and loses faith. She teams up with Horsby, a con man, and performs ... See full summary »

Director: Frank Capra
Stars: Barbara Stanwyck, David Manners, Sam Hardy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.7/10 X  

A husband clashes with his wife over his membership to the Irish citizen army.

Director: John Ford
Stars: Barbara Stanwyck, Preston Foster, Barry Fitzgerald
Red Salute (1935)
Drama | Comedy | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6/10 X  

The rebellious daughter of an army general gets involved with a Communist agitator, mainly to annoy her father. He arranges to have her kidnapped and taken to Mexico--hoping that she will ... See full summary »

Director: Sidney Lanfield
Stars: Barbara Stanwyck, Robert Young, Hardie Albright
Annie Oakley (1935)
Biography | Drama | Western
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

A romanticized biography of the famous sharpshooter.

Director: George Stevens
Stars: Barbara Stanwyck, Preston Foster, Melvyn Douglas
Comedy | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

A professor marries a nightclub singer, much to the consternation of his family and friends back home.

Director: George Stevens
Stars: Ginger Rogers, James Stewart, James Ellison
The Furies (1950)
Drama | Romance | Western
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

A firebrand heiress clashes with her tyrannical father, a cattle rancher who fancies himself a Napoleon; but their relationship turns ugly only when he finds himself a new woman.

Director: Anthony Mann
Stars: Barbara Stanwyck, Wendell Corey, Walter Huston
Drama | Comedy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  

A torch singer becomes a mail-order bride for a farmer.

Director: William A. Wellman
Stars: Barbara Stanwyck, George Brent, Lyle Talbot
Stella Dallas (1937)
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

A working-class woman is willing to do whatever it takes to give her daughter a socially promising future.

Director: King Vidor
Stars: Barbara Stanwyck, John Boles, Anne Shirley


Cast overview, first billed only:
Pearl Elliott Holley
Ernie Holley
Newt Holley
Warfield Scott
Chick Bean (as Anthony Martin)
Leota Long (as Katherine De Mille)
Victor Kilian ...
Mr. Slade
Spencer Charters ...
Judge Tope
Hall Johnson Choir ...
Vocal Ensemble (as The Hall-Johnson Choir)
George Humbert ...
Cecil Weston ...


Ernie Holley runs away on his wedding night because he thinks he has killed a wedding guest. His father Newt and bride Pearl find him in New Orleans and persuade him to come home.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The Elemental Force of "Tobacco Road"! The Warmth of "Steamboat 'Round the Bend"! See more »


Comedy | Drama | Romance


Passed | See all certifications »




Release Date:

11 December 1936 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Mississippi-Melodie  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Two of the three original songs from the movie became top ten hits on the music charts. "Where the Lazy River Goes By" went to #7 in a recording by Teddy Wilson and His Orchestra with a vocal by Midge Williams on the Brunswick label and "There's Something in the Air" by Shep Fields and his Rippling Rhythm Orchestra, with a vocal by Bob Goday, on the Bluebird label went to #5. See more »


Featured in Barbara Stanwyck: Fire and Desire (1991) See more »


Where the Lazy River Goes By
Music by Jimmy McHugh
Lyrics by Harold Adamson
Played on harmonica by Joel McCrea and sung by Barbara Stanwyck
Performed also by Barbara Stanwyck and Tony Martin
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

Rhythm on the River
9 May 2012 | by (Kissimmee, Florida) – See all my reviews

BANJO ON MY KNEE (20th Century-Fox, 1936), directed by John Cromwell, teams Barbara Stanwyck and Joel McCrea for the second of six times on screen. It may not be the first motion picture in which Stanwyck sings and dances (barely), but her initial one to be classified as a musical. Following the pattern taken on the idea from Edna Ferber's story, "Show Boat," later a legendary Broadway musical followed by two screen based versions (1929, 1936), BANJO ON MY KNEE, based on the novel by Harry Hamilton, has a pattern all its own.

Opening title: "Island Number 21 is little more than a sandbar in the Mississippi River, but to the shanty boat people moored there it is the world. Of what happens on shore they know little or care less. Shanty boat people firmly believe that if God had intended folks to live in towns, He would have created towns at the same time He created rocks and trees and rivers." The story opens with on a shanty boat on the Mississippi River where Judge Pope (Spencer Charters) officiates the wedding for bride and groom, Polly (Barbara Stanwyck), a "land girl," to Ernie (Joel McCrea), a "river man" and son of Newt (Walter Brennan), whose biggest wish before he dies is to become a grandfather. Among those not present at the wedding is the jealous Leota Lang (Katherine DeMille), Ernie's former girlfriend. Following a ceremony where Buddy (Buddy Ebsen) does some dancing, Mr. Slade (Victor Kilian), one of Newt's biggest buyer of animal feed, arrives, wanting to kiss the bride. The forceful kiss forces Ernie to sock Slade into the river. Fearing that he has drowned, Leota, seeing her chance to ruin Ernie's wedding night, notifies the police so he can be arrested for murder. The police arrive, forcing Ernie to leave his bride and swim away to shore. Not soon after Ernie's escape, the soaked and dripping Mr. Slade reappears, having survived drowning by floating upstream. Six months later, after traveling around Europe, Ernie returns to Pearl only to get into a heated argument causing Pearl to walk out on her "bullheaded" husband. After Pearl goes away with photographer, Warfield Scott (Walter Catlett), on a promise of a job in Louisiana, both Newt and Ernie go after her. During their search, Pearl encounters a new career and partnership with Chick Bean (Anthony "Tony" Martin), singer at the Creole Cafe.

While the words and music by Jimmy McHugh and Harold Adamson are far from Oscar Hammerstein's immortal songs from "Show Boat," the songs are satisfactory for easy listening. The motion picture soundtrack includes: "With a Banjo on My Knee" (sung by Buddy Ebsen and Walter Brennan); "Where the Lazy River Goes By" (sung by Barbara Stanwyck to Joel McCrea); "There's Something in the Air" (sung by Tony Martin); W.C. Handy's "The St. Louis Blues" (sung by Theresa Harris/the Hall Johnson Choir); "Four Leaf Clover" "Oh, Susannah" (by Stephen Foster/ played on "contraption" by Walter Brennan); "Swanee River" (by Stephen Foster); "Where the Lazy River Goes By" (reprised by Stanwyck and Martin); "With a Banjo on My Knee" (sung/danced by Ebsen)"Swanee River" (danced by Ebsen and Stanwyck); and "With a Banjo On My Knee."

Though not in the same level as Universal's second presentation of SHOW BOAT (1936) starring Irene Dunne and Allan Jones, nor the curiosity of the seldom seen MISSISSIPPI (Paramount, 1935) featuring the likes of Bing Crosby and WC Fields, BANJO ON MY KNEE is routinely done. Song interludes provide good showcases for its performers, and a great surprise for many getting a glimpse of Stanwyck singing a song or two in ballad style, and dancing with Buddy Ebsen. Of the many tunes, Tony Martin's rendition of "There's Something in the Air" comes off best. The "St. Louis Blues" number, done in black spiritual style, begins in a similar fashion of "Ol' Man River" from SHOW BOAT. There's no Paul Robeson to stop the show here this time around, but Theresa Harris sharing her vocals with the Hall Johnson Choir, and quite effectively, too. Another highlight is Walter Brennan playing an assortment of old time tunes on his "contraption," and Walter Catlett constant avoiding a sock on the jaw.

In support is Helen Westley, through her limitations, stands out as the old granny in a rocking chair smoking a corn cob pipe and screeching a hideous laugh in the manner of an old hag. Then there's Minna Gombell, whose characterization is a close reminder of Gladys George. In the role of Ruby, a tough talking café girl, she becomes romantically involved with Ernie (McCrea) at one point, unknown that he's a married man.

Even during the broadcast TV generation of the 1960s and 70s, BANJO ON MY KNEE had its limitations, especially when last seen on the afternoon movie presentation in the New York City area where it was last seen as far back as 1970 on WOR, Channel 9. I didn't get to see this one again until the early stages of American Movie Classics cable channel prior to 1988, where it hasn't been revived since. BANJO ON MY KNEE did have some broadcasts in later years on the Fox Movie Channel. Even with occasional revivals, particularly Turner Classic Movies (TCM premiere: December 12, 2012), it's still not enough to become a well-known factor of thirties cinema.

BANJO ON MY KNEE may not win any merits as the finest musical with the most original story ever put on film, but does benefit greatly from some fine atmospheric settings depicting both Mississippi and Louisiana, folksy humor and fine chemistry between Stanwyck and McCrea to make this rarity something to consider. (*** banjos)

3 of 3 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for: