Adaptation of the Broadway musical. Magnolia Hawks is the lovely but protected, and thus very naive, daughter of Cap'n Andy Hawks, the genial proprietor of a show boat that cruises the Missisippi, and his nagging wife, Parthy. She is best friends with the show boat's star, Julie LaVerne, but Julie and her husband Steve are forced to leave when it is revealed that Julie has "Negro" blood in her, thereby breaking the state law by being married to the white Steve. Magnolia replaces Julie as the show boat's female star, and the show's new male star is the suave gambler Gaylord Ravenal. "Nola" and Gaylord fall in love and marry against Parthy's wishes. They and their young daughter lead the high life when Gaylord is lucky in gambling, but live like dirt when he's unlucky. During one such unlucky streak, a broken Gaylord leaves Nola, and she is forced to start over by returning to the stage. Like Old Man River, as the famous song from this show goes, she just keeps rollin' along. Written by
The design of the show boat is true to what a real show boat of that era might have looked like. This is partly because Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II wished it that way in their original stage instructions for the play, partly because of Edna Ferber's concern for historical accuracy, and partly because of director James Whale's sense of period design. See more »
During the scene in which Cap'n Andy introduces his actors to the crowd, a young woman looks off to the side absent-mindedly as the captain begins to introduce Ellie. As soon as he mentions Ellie's name, the young woman seems to snap to attention and automatically smiles broadly and gives out a loud cheer along with the rest of the crowd. See more »
The rights to this film were bought by M-G-M in 1942, so all prints shown on TV until the mid 1990's had the roaring lion logo at the beginning. However, despite having bought the rights, M-G-M retained Universal Pictures' spinning globe for the "The End: A Universal Picture" credit at the film's close. See more »
What an exquisite and enjoyable film! Along with "The Great Garrick"(1937), "The Old Dark House"(1932) and "The Bride of Frankenstein"(1935), "Show Boat" is one of James Whale's loveliest and most enduring classics. By far, the best "Show Boat" ever captured on film. The plush 1951 MGM remake is a cartoon by comparison.
Like Whale's "The Great Garrick," the film is a delicate, self-reflexive study about the entrancing possibilities of the theater, or for that matter acting. Acting as a metaphor for life. One of delights of "Show Boat" is that it does not avoid depicting either the joy of make-belief (the basis of the theater) or its inevitable heartbreak. In this regard, it invites comparison to Jean Renoir's exquisite "French Cancan"(1955), another back stage musical that understands, accepts, and celebrates the difficulties and ultimately the magic of the theater.
In addition to being an honest and frank celebration of miscegenation, "Show Boat" is also a genuinely felt evocation of a stage actress (wonderfully played by Irene Dunne in one of her greatest performances ever), who goes from a stagestruck teen to a mature woman seriously dealing with the consequences of a marriage to a gambler(played by the occasionally bland Allan Jones).
Paul Robeson's extraordinary, melodious rendition of "Ol' Man River" is the highlight of the film, occasioning in great and inventive montage sequence.
A great film.
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