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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
HEAR Glorious New Music and Songs by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II: "Gallivantin' Around", "Ah Still Suits Me", "I Have The Room Above Her", plus "Make Believe", "Ol' Man River", "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man of Mine". See more »
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 »
When Joe rows the doctor across the stormy waters, the doctor upbraids him for getting him out of bed under false pretenses. In answer, Joe sings a line from "Ah Still Suits Me", but his lip movements don't quite match the sound of his voice. See more »
Who cares if my boat goes upstream? Or if the gale bids me go with the river's flow? I drift along with my fancy; sometimes I thank my lucky stars my heart is free...
[as Ellie looks admiringly after Gaylord]
What are you lookin' at?
Ellie May Chipley:
Bet he's some aristocrat.
Yeah? Look at the cracks in his shoes.
... and other times I wonder, where's the mate for me?
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For the opening credits, we see a cardboard cutout display of a show boat parade, with cutout paper townspeople watching it, on a moving turntable. The parade revolves past the camera carrying cardboard banners on which are printed the title and other credits to the film. Most of the parade figures are simply figures, but among them we can discern cutouts of Paul Robeson and Helen Morgan (the appearance of these figures does not coincide with the appearance of their names onscreen). In the background can be seen the shadows of a paddlewheel and a riverboat. See more »
A cinematic masterpiece and true to the Ferber epic
This is not a musical. This is a film. James Whale's visual expressionism and the truly remarkable performances he coached from his actors is what makes SHOW BOAT a great movie. As an historical record, this SHOW BOAT is nearest to the Ferber novel as well as the Ziegfeld stage production, using several members of the original and / or London cast. The evocative tone of the film, bringing alive the seedy rural Mississippi River towns, coupled with the natural and subtle acting jobs, make this film real to the touch. Yes, MGM's production is more opulent, with more modern orchestrations and stronger vocals on the part of Gay and Magnolia. Even William Warfield is more polished than Paul Robeson. And that's the trouble. That performance belongs in an opera house. Universal's 1936 SHOW BOAT is musical realism. As for the cultural aspects, blackface happened. Get over it. So did rampant racism; and the misegenation aspects of the script are dealt with frankly and brutally. I know of precious few films of the thirties that were so bold in their statements regarding racial intolerance. And don't think Whale was oblivious to the fact that he was placing one infraction side-by-side with another. It is the perfect unmasking of the hypocrisy of racism - you can make yourself up to look like a nigger; but don't dare marry one or carry a drop of one's blood in your veins or let a real one on the same stage with a white actor.
Why is "Bill" so powerful? Listen to the second chorus. Victor Baravelle brings in high sustained strings. Whale cuts to the old charwomen halting in their work, stopping to listen, wiping away an unwanted tear with an apron.
SHOW BOAT 1936 pulls no punches. It's a masterpiece.
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