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Edward Everett Horton
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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
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 »
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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