Show Boat (1936)

Approved  |   |  Comedy, Drama, Musical  |  17 May 1936 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.7/10 from 2,056 users  
Reviews: 54 user | 25 critic

Despite her mother's objections, the naive young daughter of a show boat captain is thrust into the limelight as the company's new leading lady.



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1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Charles Winninger ...
Helen Westley ...
Queenie Smith ...
Sammy White ...
Donald Cook ...
Francis X. Mahoney ...
Rubber Face
Sunnie O'Dea ...
Arthur Hohl ...


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 Tommy Peter

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


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 »


Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

17 May 1936 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Edna Ferber's Show Boat  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Noiseless Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The cost of production for the movie was more than Universal Studios could afford. Head of the studio, Carl Laemmle Jr., had to borrow money to finish the picture and to keep the studio afloat. When he reneged on an agreement to repay the loan, Universal Studios was taken over by a New York City lending institution. Laemmle Jr. lost his position at the studio his father had started and never again worked in Hollywood. See more »


At the end of "Ol' Man River", Joe smiles while his and the male chorus's voices linger for about three seconds on the soundtrack. See more »


Pete: Hey, where'd you get that gold brooch?
Queenie: You mean this scrumptious piece o' jewelry?
Pete: Yeah, where'd you get it?
Queenie: It was give tuh me.
Pete: Who give it to you?
Queenie: Ask me no questions and I'll tell you no lies!
Queenie: [she walks off, laughing heartily]
Pete: [muttering] I know who give it to you and she's gonna be sorry, too. All right, Miss Julie LaVerne, if that's how you feel about me...
Pete: [he rips the photo of Julie out of its frame on the stand, but is seen by Windy]
See more »

Crazy Credits

The credits for this film say "A James Whale Production" although Whale did not produce the film, while the film's posters say "A Carl Laemmle, Jr. Production", and Laemmle did produce the film. See more »


Referenced in My Man Godfrey (1936) See more »


Where's the Mate for Me?
(1927) (uncredited)
Music by Jerome Kern
Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
Sung by Allan Jones
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Best of the Best
18 June 2006 | by (Arizona) – See all my reviews

I was too young to see this version until well after the 1951 one had fixed a certain standard in my brain. It took a TCM rerun to open my eyes. Mind you, I still like the 1951 production very well indeed, but there is a depth of story, song, and character in this one that makes it overall the better of the two (and the "best" of a larger lot).

First, you have Paul Robeson and Helen Morgan. Both are icons who needed no dubbing no matter where or when they sang standards like "Old Man River" and "Just My Bill." Then there is Hattie McDaniel in a role largely skipped in the 1951 movie. And a greater selection of minor songs prevails as well. Indeed, the inclusion of many black people who are missing from the later film give it a unique richness.

Black and white never looked so good.

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