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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 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 »
As Ellie May is applying cold cream on her face, the amount she puts on changes from shot to shot. See more »
We don't usually pick up actors off the wharves, but we can't be choosy right now!
Madam, your courtesy is only exceeded by your charm.
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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 »
The BEST version ever of the musical. It follows a show boat and the family that runs it through three generations concentrating on Magnolia (Irene Dunne) and her husband Ravenel (Allen Jones).
Some people have complained that Dunne's high-pitched singing voice is TOO high-pitched...they're not completely wrong. Still she sings in tune and her "Make Believe" duet with Jones is just great. Actually all the songs are great and belted out by the cast--highlights are "Can't Help Lovin' That Man", "Bill" and the great Paul Robeson doing "Old Man River". The movie also is very faithful to the stage play--it has almost all the songs and manages to fit a 3 hour play into a 2 hour film. The last section with Kim seems rushed but that's understandable.
Dunne is just great as Magnolia--very sweet and lovable. The only strange point is her dancing to "Can't Help..."--the dress is way too constricting and she has a strange look on her face. Jones is wooden but but has a wonderful singing voice. Helen Morgan was taken from the stage show to recreate Julie. She stops the movie TWICE with "Can't Help..." and "Bill". She has a beautiful voice and is a superb actress. Her character disappears completely halfway through...but it's the same in the stage play. In the book her character ends up working in a house of prostitution--there was NO way they could have gotten that on the screen back in 1936! Everybody else is great and the movie moves very quickly.
It's much better than the 1950s version. The 50s version IS in color and opens with a great number...but most of the singing is overdubbed, the story is brutally cut down and "Can't Help..." is thrown away!
This has it all over that one. Also director James Whale reportedly liked this one above all his other films--he did a few other little films like "Frankenstein" and "Bride of Frankenstein"! Beautiful songs, some truly lovely photography (the moonlight scenes on top of the showboat are dreamlike) and a quick story. Just simply one of the great Hollywood musicals. A must see!
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