The "Cotton Blossom", owned by the Hawk family, is the show boat everyone goes to for great musical entertainment down south. Julie LaVerne and her husband are the stars of the show. After a someone tells the local police that Julie (who's half- African-American) is married to a white man, they are forced to leave the show boat because 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. Soon after, Magnolia realizes that gambling means more to Gaylord than anything else. Magnolia confronts Gaylord, and after he gambles away their fortune he leaves her, not knowing she is pregnant. Magnolia, penniless and pregnant, and is left to fend for herself, and make a new start.Written by
Opening credits: The events, characters and firms depicted in this photoplay are fictitious. Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, or to actual firms is purely coincidental. See more »
When the Cotton Blossom is pulling away from the dock, at the end of the movie, you can see big clouds of blue smoke pouring out the right side of the ship (near the rear). These are definitely exhaust gases from either a gas or diesel engine that is installed in the ship, and most likely used to power the paddle wheel. See more »
[to Gaylord Ravenal]
I know there's no other woman. No flesh-and-blood woman! I always wished there were. I'd know how to fight that. But I can't fight this Lady Luck of yours, this - fancy queen in her green felt dress. When you talked about her just now, I can't put that look in your eyes. She's whipped me. For days and nights now, and weeks and months, she's whipped me and I won't be whipped anymore!
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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 »
Early preview showings of this film featured Ava Gardner's own singing voice, before the film was officially released with Ava overdubbed by Annette Warren. See more »
I will admit (with a great amount of shame) that the first time I saw the 1951 version of "Show Boat" I was not that impressed. I was so used to Kathryn Grayson and Howard Keel as Lilli Vanessi and Fred Grahame, thought Ava Gardner was too beautiful for words, and thought Marge & Gower Champion were the coolest people I had ever seen. That was about it. I was a little bored.
But as I have come to watch it recently, I have discovered it is more magnificent the second time around. As a North Carolina native, I must say this movie holds something very special for me -- and that is TWO North Carolina natives from "Grabtown" and Winston-Salem, our ladies Ava and Kathryn respectively.
First of all, the Technicolor is vibrant and lovely and represents the very fiber that those beautiful, glorious MGM musical treasures of the 1950's were made of.
Supporting characters Joe E. Brown and Agnes Moorehead were, as usual, delightfully wonderful. I don't think I've ever seen either of them do anything "bad." William Warfield's delivery of "Ol' Man River" (accompanied with Julie/Ava's last wistful look toward The Cotton Blossom, of course) never fails to put a tear in my eye.
Howard Keel's voice was in fine form, and he did a great job of portraying the slick gambler, Gaylord Ravenal. Kathryn's voice was, as always, up to par and beautiful, and while perhaps her representation of Magnolia wasn't as vibrant as her portrayal of Lilli in "Kiss Me Kate" or Aunt... whoever it was she played in "Anchors Away" (ooh, I can't remember the name... that's BAD... REAL BAD), she was still her lovely, charming self. I found that her progression from innocent child-like creature to a portrait of woman- and motherhood was captured and characterized very well.
But my favorite parts of the movie were simply Ava Gardner, and Marge and Gower Champion.
Ava is, as always, ridiculously and insanely gorgeous. In fact, I would have liked to have seen more of her than I did. It's a stretch for a white woman to play a bi-racial woman, but she did it with what seemed like such ease. She accompanies so much with a look (which is evident as she watches Gay and Nolie sail off together with Kim -- you all know what I'm talking about). And yes, Ava's singing pipes (in my opinion) were far better than Annette Warren's and MGM is stupid for having dubbed her (just like they were stupid for dubbing Debbie Reynolds in "Singin' in the Rain"). Her songs, "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man of Mine" and "Bill," were extremely effective, but could've been even more so had they used her real voice. Such expression in those eyes. And my gosh... her speech to Gay! I don't think people in Hollywood ever really looked beyond Ava as anything but a "sex goddess" -- but she really had a beautiful talent.
Now for Marge & Gower Champion: who couldn't love them? Gower is this sort of... fluid-like creature with a stature and grace like Fred Astaire, but instead of Astaire's "lanky movements" that defined his style, he somehow executes the more athletic, brisk movements that defined Gene Kelly's style. And Marge has to be just about the cutest little person I have ever seen (great facial expressions!) and one of the most talented dancers (up there with Gwen Verdon, Carol Haney, Ginger Rogers, Chita Rivera, and all those gifted people) I've ever seen grace a screen. They're sheerly magnetic, and they never miss. "I Could Fall Back on You" and "Life Upon the Wicked Stage" are two of the most outstanding moments in the movie. You'll love them.
All in all, "Show Boat" is most definitely worth a look. Or two. Or three. Or... well, as many as you feel like!
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