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Show Boat (1936)

Approved  |   |  Comedy, Drama, Musical  |  17 May 1936 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.7/10 from 2,043 users  
Reviews: 54 user | 24 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.



, (stage play), 2 more credits »
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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


Sensation of 1936! 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 song "Ol' Man River", as performed by Paul Robeson in this film, was # 24 on the American Film Institute's list of the top 100 songs featured in films. See more »


When Ravenal first meets Magnolia, just after he sings "Where's The Mate For Me?", she mentions that she plays the piano. He asks, "Was that you I heard just now?", but there is no indication in the film that he actually has heard her. This is probably because part of the scene may have been edited out before the film's release. In the original show, Ravenal sings the first verse of "Where's The Mate For Me?", and then hears Magnolia practicing offstage. Then he goes on to sing a part of the song which is not included in the film. Immediately afterwards, his first conversation with Magnolia takes place, and so, in the stage version, the audience knows exactly when he heard her practicing. See more »


Gaylord Ravenal: [saying farewell to Kim before he deserts her and Magnolia] And when I'm gone, you'll think of me, won't you?
Kim as a child: Of course I will. And when you're gone, I always do what you tell me.
Gaylord Ravenal: What was that?
Kim as a child: Don't you remember? Make-believe!
Gaylord Ravenal: [touched and on the verge of tears] That's right. I gave you a system for having everything you want.
See more »

Crazy Credits

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 »


Referenced in American Pop (1981) See more »


I Have The Room Above Her
(1936) (uncredited)
Music by Jerome Kern
Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
Sung by Allan Jones and Irene Dunne
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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