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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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


Here Comes the Grand and Glorious "Show Boat" (version of 1936) See more »


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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?


As of 2010, there still has been no official soundtrack album made from the film. The songs sung by Allan Jones have been released on another album devoted exclusively to Jones, and the film's soundtrack was once issued on LP, on an obscure label called Xeno, but it did not receive the kind of remastered official CD or LP release accorded to such film soundtracks as The Wizard of Oz (1939), Gone with the Wind (1939) or the classic Disney films. 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 »


Parthy: Mercy! Something must be on fire the way Queenie's running
Cap'n Andy Hawks: Now what's the trouble, Queenie?
Queenie: There's a powerful fine lookin' fella' out here, wants to know if you all could accommodate him by takin' him down the river fuh as the next town.
Cap'n Andy Hawks: We don't carry no passengers - fine lookin' did you say? Is he an actor?
Queenie: Might be. But he seems more like the kind of a gentleman it's a pleasure to wait on.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Though this film version is an extremely faithful adaptation of the Kern-Hammerstein musical version of the novel (rather than the novel itself), and although the film retains all the major changes that Hammerstein made to the novel when adapting it for the stage, the on-screen and poster title for the film reads "Edna Ferber's 'Show Boat'" rather than "Kern and Hammerstein's 'Show Boat'". See more »


Spoofed in Captain Spanky's Show Boat (1939) See more »


Act II Opening Chorus - At The Fair
(1927) (uncredited)
Music by Jerome Kern
Played by the show boat brass band
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

By Far, the best "Show Boat" on film
1 October 2002 | by (Ottawa) – See all my reviews

What an exquisite and enjoyable film! Along with "The Great Garrick"(1937), "The Old Dark House"(1932) and "The Bride of Frankenstein"(1935), "Show Boat" is one of James Whale's loveliest and most enduring classics. By far, the best "Show Boat" ever captured on film. The plush 1951 MGM remake is a cartoon by comparison.

Like Whale's "The Great Garrick," the film is a delicate, self-reflexive study about the entrancing possibilities of the theater, or for that matter acting. Acting as a metaphor for life. One of delights of "Show Boat" is that it does not avoid depicting either the joy of make-belief (the basis of the theater) or its inevitable heartbreak. In this regard, it invites comparison to Jean Renoir's exquisite "French Cancan"(1955), another back stage musical that understands, accepts, and celebrates the difficulties and ultimately the magic of the theater.

In addition to being an honest and frank celebration of miscegenation, "Show Boat" is also a genuinely felt evocation of a stage actress (wonderfully played by Irene Dunne in one of her greatest performances ever), who goes from a stagestruck teen to a mature woman seriously dealing with the consequences of a marriage to a gambler(played by the occasionally bland Allan Jones).

Paul Robeson's extraordinary, melodious rendition of "Ol' Man River" is the highlight of the film, occasioning in great and inventive montage sequence.

A great film.

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