The "Cotton Blossom", owned by the Hawk family, is the show boat where everyone comes for great musical entertainment down south. Julie Laverne and her husband are the stars of the show. After, a snitch on board calls the local police that Julie (who's half- African-American) is married to a whiteman, they are forced to leave the show boat. The reason being, that down south interracial marriages are forbidden. Magnolia Hawk, Captain Andy Hawks daughter, becomes the new show boat attraction and her leading man is Gaylord Ravenal, a gambler. The two instantly fall in love, and marry, without Parthy Hawks approval. Magnolia and Gaylord leave the, "Cotton Blossom", for a whirl wind honeymoon and being to live in a Pl: fantasy world. Magnolia soon faces reality quickly, that gambling means more to Gaylord than anything else. Magnolia confront Gaylord and after he gambles away their fortune he leaves her - not knowing she is pregnant. Magnolia is left penniless and pregnant, and is left to ... Written by
The showboat built for the film (known as the Cotton Blossom) became an amusement park attraction in 1973, after MGM sold many of its props at an auction. Unfortunately, in 1995, it was dismantled and torn apart. For this film, the Cotton Blossom was built on top of a flat-bedded barge so that it could be towed into position by underwater cables for the musical number which opens the film. Even though the Cotton Blossom was built to exact specifications and was fitted with a stern paddle-wheel, the thrust of the paddle wheel would have been too strong to maneuver the boat in the studio lake. Too little thrust would have moved the boat very slowly if it moved the boat at all. Hence, it was necessary to move the boat into position by underwater cables. This underwater towing technique also made it easier for the boat to move into its mooring position at exactly the right moment when the musical number came to an end. See more »
The show boat "Cotton Blossom" is inaccurately designed for the era in which the story takes place (the 1880's). The boat used in the film is built in the style of a typical modern luxury riverboat, with giant twin smokestacks and a large paddlewheel in the rear, and it moves on its own power. Modern "show boats" are built that way because of advances made since the 19th century, but authentic show boats of the era did not have smokestacks or paddlewheels, and were not self-powered. They were barge-like structures similar to a long, floating house with a flat roof, and they were connected to, and pushed along by the misleadingly named "towboats", which did have smokestacks and a paddlewheel. If a real show boat of the era had been steam-powered, its steam engine would have had to be placed (very dangerously) smack in the middle of the auditorium. See more »
Jerome Kern is never specifically credited for having composed the music. His and Oscar Hammerstein II's joint screen credit reads: "Based on the Immortal Musical Play 'Show Boat' by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II'", although Kern wrote only the music. See more »
Why all the putdowns of this great musical??? In many ways an improvement over 1936 original...
I strongly disagree with some of the other viewers. 'Showboat' -- the 1951 version -- is not inferior to the earlier, darker Universal version with Irene Dunne and Allan Jones. The talent used for the lavish technicolor remake is in itself superior to the cast of the original--Howard Keel, Kathryn Grayson, Ava Gardner, Joe E. Brown, Agnes Moorehead, Robert Sterling -- and most importantly, Marge and Gower Champion who can do no wrong with dance numbers. By comparison, the dances in the original version appear uninspired--and even the legendary Helen Morgan (not a conventional beauty by any standards) fails to evoke the same magic Ava Gardner does as Julie. True, Morgan did her own singing but Gardner's voice on the soundtrack could just as well have been used instead of Annette Warren's.
Other than that, the MGM film is just fine--everything is staged with much more zest and enthusiasm than is present in the awkward, lumbering James Whale version. And Marge and Gower Champion's version of "Life Upon the Wicked Stage" is a priceless example of this team's artful way with a show tune. Their contribution is a major asset of the newer version.
Likewise, Grayson and Keel blend their rich voices in song the way they were meant to be heard by Kern & Hammerstein. Irene Dunne had a modest soprano voice but she was not as accomplished a singer as Grayson nor did she deliver numbers with Kathryn's uncommon ease. Performance-wise, Grayson is a bit too subdued against Gardner's more colorful character and did not kick up her heels the way she would in 'Kiss Me Kate', one of her best roles.
As for Allan Jones in the earlier version, he was a personable enough singer/actor but he was nowhere close to Keel's adroit handling of both songs and dialogue. Keel went on to become a staple of some of MGM's finest musicals and a fine reputation as a strong singer.
The pacing of the older film was slow, leisurely and downright boring at times. The remake is much easier on the eyes and ears. There's a hint of snobbism in the putdowns this film gets from some of the more discriminating viewers who cannot forgive whatever changes were made to make the plot line and time frame smoother. A deliberate change in story structure does not make a film inferior to the original.
A high point of the film is, of course, William Warfield's full-bodied version of "Old Man River" -- just another of the film's memorable musical moments. An MGM musical in the grand tradition--not to be missed.
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