Show Boat


1h 50m 1936
Show Boat

Brief Synopsis

Riverboat entertainers find love, laughs and hardships as they sail along "Old Man River."

Film Details

Also Known As
Edna Ferber's Show Boat
Genre
Comedy
Drama
Musical
Adaptation
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
May 17, 1936
Premiere Information
World premiere in New York: 14 May 1936
Production Company
Universal Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
Universal Productions, Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Show Boat by Edna Ferber (Garden City, NY, 1926) and the musical of the same name by Edna Ferber, Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein, II (New York, 27 Dec 1927).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 50m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Noiseless Recording)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
12 reels

Synopsis

Cap'n Andy Hawks's show boat the Cotton Blossom arrives in New Orleans. Andy's daughter Magnolia, a gifted singer, meets Gaylord Ravenal and they make believe they are in love. While rehearsing, 'Nolia's good friend, Julie LaVerne, and her husband, Steve Baker, are accused of miscegenation and are forced to quit the show and leave town. 'Nolia and Gay take their places and, because their romantic involvement onstage mimics their real feelings, they are a hit. Pete Gavanaugh, who caused Julie's ostracism when she refused his advances, then writes to Andy to expose Gay as a murderer who was let off on a verdict of self-defense.

After a successful run of their show, Gay and 'Nolia marry with Andy's blessing, even though 'Nolia's mother Parthy objects to the marriage because of Gay's questionable past. A year later, 'Nolia gives birth to Kim during a storm while Gay is away playing cards. Gay returns the next morning and asks 'Nolia to move to Chicago. Initially, the family lives well at the Palmer House while Gay bets on horses, but his money quickly runs out and they are forced to move. When Elly and Frank, former members of the show boat, inquire about a shabby room for rent from which the present tenants are being evicted, they discover the tenants are 'Nolia and Gay. Gay then deserts 'Nolia because he is ashamed that he cannot provide for her and Kim. 'Nolia then performs at the Trocadero after Julie, now an alcoholic, quietly quits so that her old friend 'Nolia can get work. Parthy and Andy then arrive at the Palmer House on New Year's Eve in search of the Ravenals, and Andy discovers 'Nolia singing at the Trocadero.

Although the crowd is not receptive to 'Nolia's lyrical voice, Andy gives her support from the audience and she is a success. Soon 'Nolia is an international star. Years pass and she retires from the stage, after which Kim follows in her footsteps. When Kim opens on Broadway, 'Nolia recognizes Gay, who is posing as the stage doorman. After the encore, Kim invites her mother to sing and Gay joins her in song.

Cast

Irene Dunne

Magnolia

Charles Winninger

Cap'n Andy Hawks

Paul Robeson

Joe

Helen Morgan

Julie [LaVerne]

Helen Westley

Parthy

Queenie Smith

Elly

Sammy White

Frank [Schultz]

Donald Cook

Steve [Baker]

Hattie Mcdaniel

Queenie

Francis X. Mahoney

Rubber Face [Smith]

Marilyn Knowlden

Kim, as a child

Sunnie O'dea

Kim, at eighteen

Arthur Hohl

Pete [Gavanaugh]

Charles Middleton

[Sheriff] Vallon

J. Farrell Macdonald

Windy

Clarence Muse

Janitor [Sam]

Patsy Barry

Kim, as a baby

Charles Wilson

Jim Green

Mae Beatty

Landlady

Stanley Fields

Jeb, Hillbilly patron

Stanley J. Sandford

Backwoodsman

Mary Bovard

Daughter

William Alston

Young man

Marguerite Warner

Young girl

Bobs Watson

Lost child

Jane Keckley

Mrs. Ewing

Isabelle Lamal

Companion

Betty Brown

Girl

Kathleen Ellis

Girl

June Glory

Girl

Tom Ricketts

Minister

Gunnis Davis

Doctor

Harold Nelson

Postmaster

Patti Patterson

Banjo player

Betty Roche

Tall girl

Grace Cunard

Mother

Maidel Turner

Mother

Anna Demetrio

Mother

Marilyn Harris

Little girl

Jimmy Jackson

Young man

Ricca Allen

Old woman

Maxine Cook

Thin girl

Monte Montague

Old man

Lois Verner

Small girl

Artye Folz

Fat girl

Barbara Bletcher

Fat girl

Helen Hayward

Mrs. Brencenbridge

Harry Barris

Jake, pianist

Maude Allen

Fat woman

Frank Whitson

Dealer

Eddy Chandler

Gambler

Lloyd Whitlock

Gambler

Lee Phelps

Gambler

Frank Mayo

Gambler

Edward Peil Sr.

Gambler

Edmund Cobb

Gambler

Al Ferguson

Gambler

Daisy Bufford

Maid

Dorothy Grainger

Chorus girl

Barbara Pepper

Chorus girl

Renee Whitney

Chorus girl

Alma Ross

Chorus girl

Jeanette Dickson

Chorus girl

Arthur Housman

Drunk

Forrest Stanley

Theater manager

Selmer Jackson

Hotel clerk

George Hackathorne

YMCA worker

Max Wagner

Soldier

James P. Burtis

Soldier

Billy Watson

Boy

Delmar Watson

Boy

Harry Watson

Boy

Ernest Hilliard

Race fan

Jack Mulhall

Race fan

Brooks Benedict

Race fan

Elspeth Dudgeon

Mother Superior

E. E. Clive

Englishman

Helen Jerome Eddy

Reporter

Don Briggs

Press agent

Leroy Prinz

Dance director

Harold Waldridge

Office boy

Georgia O'dell

School teacher

George H. Reed

Old black man

Eddie Anderson

Young black man

Theodore Lorch

Simon Legree

Matthew Jones

Bartender

Jack Latham

Juvenile

Flora Finch

Helen Dickson

D'arcy Corrigan

Ann Bupp

Videos

Movie Clip

Hosted Intro

Film Details

Also Known As
Edna Ferber's Show Boat
Genre
Comedy
Drama
Musical
Adaptation
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
May 17, 1936
Premiere Information
World premiere in New York: 14 May 1936
Production Company
Universal Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
Universal Productions, Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Show Boat by Edna Ferber (Garden City, NY, 1926) and the musical of the same name by Edna Ferber, Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein, II (New York, 27 Dec 1927).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 50m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Noiseless Recording)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
12 reels

Articles

Show Boat (1936)


Show Boat, the story of life on a Mississippi riverboat, began as a novel by Edna Ferber in 1926. It was made into a Broadway musical by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II the following year, and a part-talkie film with a prologue of music from the show, in 1929. There were two versions of the musical, in 1936 and in 1951. But many think the 1936 Show Boat is the definitive film version.

By today's standards, Show Boat's handling of racial issues like miscegenation and the stereotypical "shiftless darkies" seem embarrassingly outdated; at the time, though, the warm friendship between Magnolia and Julie, the "tragic mulatto," was considered enlightened. And even today, Paul Robeson's dignified portrayal of Joe, and his powerful voice, still make a strong impression.

The son of a former slave, Robeson was a towering figure, both physically and intellectually. He won a scholarship to Rutgers University, where he was both an All-American football star, and a Phi Beta Kappa honors graduate. As a performer, he could handle Shakespeare and Eugene O'Neill as well as musicals. The producers of the original stage version of Show Boat wanted Robeson for the role of Joe, but he was unavailable, although he eventually played the part in London, and in the 1932 Broadway revival. Critics singled out his "Old Man River" as the highlight of the film.

Hattie McDaniel, who would later become the first African-American to win an Oscar (as best supporting actress for Gone With the Wind, 1939), also played a stereotype in Show Boat, as she did in many films. But as always, she played the comically domineering mammy-figure with spirit and style. Both she and Robeson, who played husband and wife, brought star quality to their subordinate roles.

Show Boat had the advantage of having several members of the original Broadway production in its cast. Helen Morgan as Julie, her voice tremulous with emotion, was deeply affecting in songs such as "Bill," and "Can't Help Loving Dat Man." Charles Winninger reprised his role of Captain Andy. And Irene Dunne, Allan Jones, and Hattie McDaniel had also played in various productions of the show. James Whale (Frankenstein, 1931) might have seemed an odd choice to direct, but critics praised his pacing, and his meticulous attention to detail. The result, as more than one critic pointed out, "is nothing less than splendid."

Director: James Whale
Producer: Carl Laemmle Jr.
Screenplay: Edna Ferber (novel), Oscar Hammerstein II
Cinematography: John J. Mescall
Music: Robert Russell Bennett, Jerome Kern
Art Direction: Charles D. Hall
Principle Cast: Irene Dunne (Magnolia Hawks), Allan Jones (Gaylord Ravenal), Charles Winninger (Cap╒n Andy Hawks), Paul Robeson (Joe), Helen Morgan (Julia La Verne), Helen Westly (Parthy Hawks)
BW-115m. Closed Captioning.

by Margarita Landazuri
Show Boat (1936)

Show Boat (1936)

Show Boat, the story of life on a Mississippi riverboat, began as a novel by Edna Ferber in 1926. It was made into a Broadway musical by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II the following year, and a part-talkie film with a prologue of music from the show, in 1929. There were two versions of the musical, in 1936 and in 1951. But many think the 1936 Show Boat is the definitive film version. By today's standards, Show Boat's handling of racial issues like miscegenation and the stereotypical "shiftless darkies" seem embarrassingly outdated; at the time, though, the warm friendship between Magnolia and Julie, the "tragic mulatto," was considered enlightened. And even today, Paul Robeson's dignified portrayal of Joe, and his powerful voice, still make a strong impression. The son of a former slave, Robeson was a towering figure, both physically and intellectually. He won a scholarship to Rutgers University, where he was both an All-American football star, and a Phi Beta Kappa honors graduate. As a performer, he could handle Shakespeare and Eugene O'Neill as well as musicals. The producers of the original stage version of Show Boat wanted Robeson for the role of Joe, but he was unavailable, although he eventually played the part in London, and in the 1932 Broadway revival. Critics singled out his "Old Man River" as the highlight of the film. Hattie McDaniel, who would later become the first African-American to win an Oscar (as best supporting actress for Gone With the Wind, 1939), also played a stereotype in Show Boat, as she did in many films. But as always, she played the comically domineering mammy-figure with spirit and style. Both she and Robeson, who played husband and wife, brought star quality to their subordinate roles. Show Boat had the advantage of having several members of the original Broadway production in its cast. Helen Morgan as Julie, her voice tremulous with emotion, was deeply affecting in songs such as "Bill," and "Can't Help Loving Dat Man." Charles Winninger reprised his role of Captain Andy. And Irene Dunne, Allan Jones, and Hattie McDaniel had also played in various productions of the show. James Whale (Frankenstein, 1931) might have seemed an odd choice to direct, but critics praised his pacing, and his meticulous attention to detail. The result, as more than one critic pointed out, "is nothing less than splendid." Director: James Whale Producer: Carl Laemmle Jr. Screenplay: Edna Ferber (novel), Oscar Hammerstein II Cinematography: John J. Mescall Music: Robert Russell Bennett, Jerome Kern Art Direction: Charles D. Hall Principle Cast: Irene Dunne (Magnolia Hawks), Allan Jones (Gaylord Ravenal), Charles Winninger (Cap╒n Andy Hawks), Paul Robeson (Joe), Helen Morgan (Julia La Verne), Helen Westly (Parthy Hawks) BW-115m. Closed Captioning. by Margarita Landazuri

Quotes

Did you understand the moral of the play, my dear?
- Mother
Oh,sure, ma. Did you see how he kissed her?
- Young Girl
Yes! I hardly thought that was in the best of taste!
- Mother
I gits weary / An' sick o' tryin' / I'm tired o' livin' / An' scared o' dyin' / But Ol' Man River / He jes' keeps rollin' along!
- Joe
You wouldn't call a man a white man that had Negro blood in him, would you?
- Steve
No, I wouldn't; not in Mississippi. One drop of Negro blood makes you a Negro in these parts!
- The Sheriff
I just shell them peas.
- Joe
You ain't pickin' them up.
- Queenie
No, but I could've if you didn't. I could do a lotta things if it was necessary.
- Joe
Then why don't you?
- Queenie
It ain't necessary.
- Joe
I could say that my name was Bonaparte, and show you Napoleon's tomb; that wouldn't make him my grandfather would it?
- Parthy

Trivia

"Ah Still Suits Me" was written especially for the film to give Paul Robeson a larger role.

In the scene, where "Ah Still Suits Me" is sung, we can see an "Aunt Jemima Pancake Mix" box standing on the Table. Aunt Jemima played the role of Queenie in Show Boat (1929) and on Broadway in the original Ziegfeld production.

Carl Laemmle was ousted from Universal by a new takeover just after this film was completed. He retired from films the day after its release, as did his 28-year-old son, who never produced another film.

Special permission had to be granted from the Hays Office in order to retain the famous "miscegenation" sequence in the film. Miscegenation was banned as a film subject and the scene had been excluded from the 1929 film version.

Because of copyright problems involving a real "Cotton Blossom" show boat sailing the Mississippi in the 1930's, the name of the showboat in the film had to be changed to "Cotton Palace". This required omitting the second half of the opening chorus, in which the townspeople sing about the boat while the stevedores continue singing about their daily work, and the "cotton blossom" growing on the levee. The section sung by the stevedores is still heard in the film.

Of all the films that he directed, this was James Whale's favorite.

Notes

This film's title card reads "Edna Ferber's Show Boat." Ferber's novel was serialized in Woman's Home Companion (Apr-August 1926). Many actors from the 1927 Florenz Ziegfeld-produced Broadway musical recreated their roles for the film, including Charles Winninger, Helen Morgan, Francis X. Mahoney, and Sammy White, who made his film debut in this production. According to modern sources, Paul Robeson was originally wanted for the role of "Joe" in the 1927 stage version but was unavailable. He did, however, appear in the 1928 London production with Cedric Hardwicke and Colin Clive, and the 1932 Ziegfeld Broadway revival. "Ol' Man River" later became Robeson's signature song. Irene Dunne, Allan Jones and Hattie McDaniel also starred in earlier productions.
       This film was the last feature presented by Universal president and founder Carl Laemmle, who then sold his interest in the company to J. Cheever Cowdin and Charles R. Rogers. Hollywood Reporter announced on October 12, 1935 that Universal was negotiating with M-G-M to borrow Dave Gould to stage the dances in this film, however, LeRoy Prinz was eventually hired. According to the Call Bureau Cast Service, Prinz also appeared in the film in the role of a dance director. In 1933, Universal began negotiating for Winninger and Robeson to appear in this film. According to a modern source, production was originally planned for 1933 under Frank Borzage's direction, with a script by Jo Swerling. Dunne, Winninger, Robeson and Russ Columbo were set to star. Reportedly, in 1935, initial screenplays by Zoë Akins were scrapped, and the final shooting script was completed by Oscar Hammerstein II. Akins is listed as contributing writer in Universal production files at the USC Cinema-Television Library. According to Daily Variety, this film started production on December 9, 1935 without a male lead. Wilbur Evans, John Boles, Michael Bartlett and Francisco Del Campo were still being considered for the role of "Ravenal" as of 6 Dec. Universal had hoped to borrow Nelson Eddy from M-G-M, but negotiations fell through. According to a news item in Film Daily on December 16, 1935, three hundred African-American actors were used in this production. Cameraman Alan Jones is not to be confused with actor Allan Jones.
       In an interview in the New York Times on May 17, 1936, Irene Dunne said she regretted that her rendition of the song "Why Do I Love You?," sung during an automobile ride on a bumpy road, was cut from the film; her location rendition was much too "jerky," while her studio performance was much too smooth to match the scene. "Why Do I Love You?" remains in the film's orchestral background, however. Dunne made a personal appearance at the film's opening at the Radio City Music Hall in New York on May 14, 1936. The songs "I Have the Room Above Her," "Gallivantin' Around" and "Ah Still Suits Me" were original songs written by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II for the film. According to a modern source, "Got My Eye on You" and "Negro Peanut Vendor's Street Cry," also written by Kern and Hammerstein for the film, were not used.
       Modern sources also claim that W. C. Fields was considered for the role of "Cap'n Andy Hawks." Modern sources list Leon Shamroy as an uncredited cinematographer. Irene Dunne and Charles Winninger performed a radio version of Show Boat in a Lux Radio Theatre broadcast on June 24, 1940. Universal made a 1929 adaptation of the Ferber story, directed by Harry A. Pollard and starring Laura La Plante and Joseph Schildkraut. In 1951, M-G-M made a feature version of Show Boat, directed by George Sidney, that starred Kathryn Grayson, Ava Gardner, Howard Keel and Joe E. Brown (see below)

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States March 1975

Released in United States on Video March 14, 1989

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1936

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1936

Released in United States March 1975 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (3-day James Whale Retrospective) March 13-26, 1975.)

Released in United States on Video March 14, 1989