Cast & Crew
Joe E. Brown
In the late nineteenth century, Magnolia Hawks, daughter of Cap'n Andy, the owner of the Mississippi show boat the Cotton Blossom , falls in love with gambler Gaylord Ravenal while touring in a small town. Magnolia's strict mother Parthy disapproves of her daughter's friendship with the show's leading actress, Julie LaVerne, whom she calls a "hussy." Despite Julie's protective feelings towards Magnolia, Parthy forbids Magnolia from spending any more time with her. Meanwhile, a jealous suitor whom Julie has spurned exacts his revenge by providing the local sheriff with birth records proving that Julie is a mulatto. Seeing that the sheriff is about to board the ship to charge Julie with miscegenation and arrest her, Stephen, Julie's white husband, deliberately cuts his finger and exchanges blood with his wife so that the he, too, will have black blood in him. No longer able to justify Julie's arrest, the sheriff departs, but not before advising her to leave the ship to avoid the wrath of the townspeople. Steve leaves the troupe to join Julie, and Gaylord later takes Steve's place as the leading man in the show. Gaylord then suggests that Magnolia replace Julie, and the two prove a hit with audiences all along the Mississippi. In time, the two stars fall deeper in love, and, after marrying, they spend their honeymoon in Chicago. There Gaylord resumes his heavy gambling and loses all his money. Suspecting that Magnolia no longer loves him, Gaylord leaves her, unaware that she is pregnant. Magnolia becomes distraught, but two of her friends, dancers Ellie May Shipley and Frank Schultz, take her to audition for stage manager Jake Green. Julie, who has turned to heavy drinking after Steve left her, is a singer in Green's variety show, but quietly leaves the show when she hears Magnolia auditioning. Magnolia performs her first show on New Year's Eve, and although she very nervously starts to sing "After the Ball," she later gains the confidence needed to sing beautifully when she sees her proud father in the audience. While Gaylord continues his obsessive gambling, Magnolia gives birth to a girl, whom she names Kim Ravenal. Time passes, and Julie, accidentally meeting Gaylord on a show boat, tells him that he has a five-year-old daughter. Gaylord finds his daughter in the town of Natchez, where she is performing with her mother and grandfather, and he takes her into his arms. Much to Julie's delight, Magnolia and Gaylord reconcile, and Gaylord gives up his gambling to rejoin his wife and family on the Cotton Blossom .
Joe E. Brown
Anne Marie Dore
Mary Jane French
Anna Q. Nilsson
William "bill" Hall
Ben Feiner Jr.
Oscar Hammerstein Ii
Charles K. Harris
John Lee Mahin
Richard A. Pefferle
Jack Martin Smith
Edwin B. Willis
P. G. Wodehouse
Show Boat (1951) - Show Boat (1951)
MGM bought the rights to Show Boat in 1938, two years after the Universal version with Irene Dunne, Allan Jones, Helen Morgan and Paul Robeson premiered. Originally, they had hoped to star their own singing screen team, Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, but as the box-office returns on the pair's films waned, those plans were dropped. Producer Arthur Freed maintained his interest in a new film version nonetheless. In 1946, MGM financed a Broadway revival of the show. Then Freed included a lengthy medley of songs from it in his 1947 musical biography of composer Jerome Kern, Till the Clouds Roll By. Still, it would take another five years to get the show back on the screen.
One of the problems was the book. Freed felt that it suffered from a lack of narrative interest. Turning to writer John Lee Mahin for help, he finally decided that the story covered too much time. The show's lovers, Gaylord and Magnolia, were kept apart for decades and only reunited as senior citizens (in Edna Ferber's original novel, they never got back together at all). Mahin restructured the story so that they were reunited while still young enough to enjoy a long life together. He also made Gaylord, the gambler turned actor turned gambler again, a more active, heroic character in the mold of the roles he had written for Clark Gable in such films as Red Dust (1932) and Test Pilot (1938).
For the leads, Freed cast Kathryn Grayson and Howard Keel, two classically trained singers who had already established a name for themselves in MGM's slate of musicals. To play Joe, the ship's hand who sings "Ol' Man River," Freed's musical assistant, Roger Edens, discovered the young classical singer William Warfield, who had never sung a popular song before. Originally, Freed wanted to beef up the role of Julie, the mulatto torch singer, as a vehicle for Judy Garland. When she was fired from MGM in 1950, however, they had to look elsewhere. Studio head Dore Schary promised the role to Dinah Shore, but Freed convinced her that the public would never accept her as a woman who turns to prostitution. Lena Horne was perfect for the role, but at the time her musical numbers were still being cut from films in some southern states. Instead, director George Sidney suggested Ava Gardner and shot a test of her performing to a recording of Horne singing "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man of Mine." Gardner wasn't really interested in the role until she decided that she could sing the songs herself. Edens coached her endlessly on the numbers, which she recorded, imitating Horne's earlier renditions. Just for insurance, they also recorded the numbers with Annette Warren, who had dubbed for Gardner in the past. Julie's numbers were among the first shot for the film, and for months executives couldn't decide whether to use Gardner's voice or the professional singer's. Finally, after a less-than-successful preview, they settled on Warren's vocals, which then had to be re-recorded to match Gardner's on-screen performance. For the soundtrack album, they recorded the tracks with Lena Horne, who was forced to imitate Gardner's performance. Then the legal department informed the studio that they couldn't use Gardner's name and image on the album cover without including her on the recording. So Gardner did a new version of the songs, imitating Horne imitating Gardner imitating Horne. With careful tweaking in the recording studio, her vocals actually came out quite well, and she collected a royalty on the soundtrack for the rest of her life.
Originally, the scenes involving the Cotton Blossom were to have been shot on location on the Mississippi. When production was scheduled for the early winter, however, designer Jack Martin Smith figured out a way to use the studio's Tarzan Jungle Lake as the river, with the Natchez port built along its shore. He then designed the massive ship, complete with 19 1/2-foot paddle wheels and two curving staircases leading to a staging area on the front deck, for a cost of $125,000. The ship included engines to operate the paddles and produce enough steam to flow from the smokestacks and power a calliope. When the smoke engines almost burned the ship down during filming, it had to be re-constructed for an additional $67,000. As impressive as the Cotton Blossom was, it was also the film's major historical inaccuracy. The original show boats, which began carrying entertainment to U.S. river towns in 1817, were actually barges without any engines of their own. They required tugboats to pull them from town to town. To operate paddlewheels like those on the film's Cotton Blossom would have required massive engines that would have left no room for the ship's indoor theatre.
Fortunately for MGM, historians represent only a fraction of the movie audience. Show Boat brought in almost $9 million at the box office on an investment of $2.3 million. For years, the studio maintained the Cotton Blossom as an attraction for visitors. When owner Kirk Kerkorian auctioned off MGM's properties and costumes in the early '70s, the ship was sold to the Worlds of Fun amusement park in Kansas City, where it stood in a large pond until a few years ago, when the pond was drained and the Cotton Blossom torn apart by bulldozers. But at least the ship lives on in screenings of Show Boat as William Warfield sings an eternal paean to "Ol' Man River."
Producer: Arthur Freed
Director: George Sidney
Screenplay: John Lee Mahin
Based on the Musical by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II Based on the Novel by Edna Ferber
Cinematography: Charles Rosher
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Jack Martin Smith, Edwin B. Willis
Music: Adolph Deutsch, Conrad Salinger
Principal Cast: Kathryn Grayson (Magnolia Hawks), Ava Gardner (Julie LaVerne), Howard Keel (Gaylord Ravenal), Joe E. Brown (Capt. Andy Hawks), Marge Champion (Ellie May Shipley), Gower Champion (Frank Schulz), Robert Sterling (Stephen Baker), Agnes Moorehead (Parthy Hawks), William Warfield (Joe).
C-108m. Closed captioning. Descriptive Video.
by Frank Miller
Show Boat (1951) - Show Boat (1951)
TCM Remembers Howard Keel this Monday, Nov. 15th
PLEASE NOTE SCHEDULE CHANGE
Callaway Went Thataway (1951)
Ride, Vaquero! (1953)
War Wagon (1967)
"MGM Parade Show #14"
(Keel talks with George Murphy about his latest MGM picture "Kismet")(1955)
Kiss Me Kate (1953)
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)
HOWARD KEEL (1919-2004):
Howard Keel, the strapping singer and actor whose glorious baritone took him to stardom in the early '50s in some of MGM's best musicals, including Showboat, Kiss Me Kate and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, died on November 7 of colon cancer at his home in Palm Desert, California. He was 85.
He was born Harry Clifford Leek on April 13, 1919, in Gillespie, Illinois. His father, was a coal miner and his mother, a strict Methodist, forbid the children from enjoying popular entertainments. When his dad died, his mother relocated the family to California when Harry was still a young teenager.
After he graduated high school, Keel had a brief stint as a singing busboy, but had not considered a professional career as a vocalist....until one fateful evening in 1939. It was at this time he saw celebrated opera singer, Lawrence Tibbett, at the Hollywood Bowl. Keel was inspired, and he soon began taking voice lessons. Over the next several years, he carefully trained his voice while entering any singing contest he could find. It wasn't long before his talents caught the attention of Rodgers & Hammerstein.
In 1946, they signed him to replace John Raitt in the Broadway production of Carousel, changed his name to Howard Keel (His proper surname Leek spelled backwards), and Keel was on his way to international stardom.
After his run in Carousel ended, he sailed to London the following year to play the role of Curley in Rodgers & Hammerstein's Oklahoma. He received rave reviews from the London press, and by the time he returned to the United States in 1948, he was ready to make his move into films.
Keel made his movie debut in the British thriller, The Small Voice (1948), but it would be his second film, and first for MGM, portraying Frank Butler, Betty Hutton's leading man in Annie Get Your Gun (1950), that sealed his success. Keel's several strengths as a performer: his supple, commanding singing voice; his athletic, 6'4" frame; striking, "matinee-idol" good looks; and his good humored personality made him one of the studios' top leading men over the next few years. Indeed, between 1951-55, Keel could do not wrong with the material he was given: Show Boat (1951), Lovely to Look at (1952), Kiss Me Kate (1953), Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954), and Kismet (1955). Clearly, he was a shining star in this golden era of the MGM musical.
By the late '50s, movie musicals began to fade out of fashion, but Keel returned to the stage and had success performing with several touring companies. He made a brief return to films when he was cast as a seaman battling carnivorous plants from outer space in the popular British sci-fi hit, The Day of the Triffids (1962). Television also provided some work, where he guest starred in some of the more popular shows in the late '60s including Run For Your Life, and The Lucy Show.
Keel would keep a low profile over the next decade, but he made an amazing comeback in 1981, when he was cast as Clayton Farlow, Ellie Ewing's (Barbara Bel Geddes) second husband in the wildly successful prime time soap, Dallas. Not only did he play the role for ten seasons, but Keel would also be in demand for many other shows throughout the '80s and '90s: The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, Murder, She Wrote, Hart to Hart, and Walker, Texas Ranger, to name a but a few. By the late-'90s, Keel retired to his home in Palm Desert, California, where still made public appearances now and again for a tribute or benefit. He is survived by his wife of 34 years, Judy; a son, Gunnar; daughters, Kaija, Kristina and Leslie; 10 grandchildren, and one great-granddaughter.
by Michael T. Toole
Important Milestones on Howard Keel:
Moved to Southern California at age 16 (date approximate)
Worked as a singing busboy in a Los Angeles cafe
Worked for Douglas Aircraft as a manufacturing representative travelling among various company plants; work included singing; won a first prize award at the Mississippi Valley while on the road; also won an award at the Chicago Music Festival
Began singing career with the American Music Theatre in Pasadena, California
Chosen by Oscar Hammerstein II to perform on Broadway in "Carousel"; succeeded John Raitt in the leading role of Billy Bigelow; also took over the leading role of Curly in "Oklahoma"
Recreated the role of Curly when he opened the London stage production of "Oklahoma"
Made feature film debut in a non-singing supporting role in the British crime drama, "The Small Voice"
Signed by MGM; became instant star as the male lead of "Annie Get Your Gun"
Provided the offscreen narration for the Western saga, "Across the Wide Missouri", starring Clark Gable
First film opposite Kathryn Grayson, "Show Boat"
First leading role in a non-musical, "Desperate Search"
Made best-remembered film, "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers"
Last musical starring roles, and last musicals for MGM, "Jupiter's Darling" and "Kismet"
Went to Britain to play the leading role in the action drama, "Floods of Fear"
Last leading role, "Red Tomahawk"
Last feature film appearance for over 20 years, "Arizona Bushwhackers"
Starred on the London stage in the musical "Ambassador"; later brought the role to Broadway (date approximate)
Toured the nightclub circuit, sometimes teaming up with his co-star from three MGM musicals of the 1950s, Kathryn Grayson
Toured in stage productions of musicals and comedies including "Camelot", "Man of La Mancha", "Paint Your Wagon", "I Do! I Do!", "Plaza Suite", "Gigi", "Show Boat", "Kismet", "The Most Happy Fella" and "The Fantasticks"
Teamed with Jane Powell on record-breaking national theater tour of "South Pacific"
Reprised screen role of eldest brother Adam in a touring stage version of "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers", opposite original screen co-star Jane Powell
Joined the cast of the CBS primetime serial drama, "Dallas", which had premiered in 1978; played Clayton Farlow
Recorded first solo album, "And I Love You So"
Was one of the hosts of the feature compilation documentary, "That's Entertainment III", revisiting the MGM musical from the coming of sound through the late 1950s
Keel was President of the Screen Actors Guild from 1958-1959.
TCM Remembers Howard Keel this Monday, Nov. 15th PLEASE NOTE SCHEDULE CHANGE
Pride is smaller than kindness.- Julie
It's Saturday night again!- Cap'n Andy Hawks
Oh!!! It's Wednesday night and don't you strike me!- Parthy
It's Saturday night forever!- Cap'n Andy Hawks
Yes, and Fourth of July...and Christmas.... and- Parthy
Hap-----py New Year!- Parthy
Don't worry darling, it's only temporary.- Gaylord Ravenal
Everything can be temporary---except us.- Magnolia
(hearing of Magnolia's engagement to Ravenal) Son, I hope it's not Saturday night one minute, with a cold Monday morning to follow. Whatever happens, Nollie, always remember to smile.- Cap'n Andy Hawks
I know there's no other woman...no flesh-and-blood woman. But I can't fight this Lady Luck of yours, this fancy queen in her green felt dress.- Magnolia
Although Annette Warren dubbed Ava Gardner's singing voice in the movie, Ms. Gardner herself sang her two songs on the MGM soundtrack album.
Director George Sidney was forced to leave for a few days because of illness, so uncredited associate producer Roger Edens directed the beautifully shot, fog-enshrouded "departure" sequence, including the performance by William Warfield of "Ol' Man River." It is the one scene in the film that has been praised even by critics who detest this version of "Show Boat."
The Breen Censorship Office tried to raise an objection against the use of the "miscegenation sequence" in this film version of the show, but they were unable to do so because the 1936 film version had already used it and thus set a precedent.
The original choice for the role of Julie was 'Garland, Judy' , but she had since ended her contract with MGM. Lena Horne was the next in line until it finally went to Ava Gardner.
The showboat built for the film (known as the Cotton Blossom) became an amusement park attraction in 1973, after M-G-m sold many of its props at an auction. Unfortunately, in 1995, it was dismantled and torn apart.
The body of water which doubled as the "Mississippi River" throughout nearly all the river scenes was actually the lake used for the Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan movies made at M-G-M.
Onscreen credits incorrectly spell actor Leif Erickson's name as "Lief." Edna Ferber's novel Show Boat was serialized in Woman's Home Companion (Apr-August 1926). M-G-M's plan to film an adaptation of Show Boat was publicized as early as June 1942. According to news items in Hollywood Reporter in June and July 1942, Oscar Hammerstein, II had planned to direct a revival of the play to feature M-G-M's popular operetta stars Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, and the studio was planning to buy the film rights from Universal. Zeke Colvan was also said to be staging the revival and possible film.
In December 1943, a Hollywood Reporter news item announced that Kathryn Grayson was "likely" to play "Magnolia Hawks," and by May 1944, a Hollywood Reporter news item announced that producer Arthur Freed had chosen Judy Garland for the part of "Julie LaVerne." In December 1945, a Hollywood Reporter news item noted that production was set to begin in mid-summer with Walter Huston in the role of "Cap'n Andy." According to a December 1949 Daily Variety news item, Ethel Barrymore, who was originally slated to play the role of "Parthy," had to withdraw because of a previous commitment. Mildred Natwick was then considered for that part. Eddie Foy, Jr. was a candidate for the role of "Capt. Andy" according to the same news item.
A 1950 New York Times news item noted that M-G-M would go ahead with its plans to include the miscegenation aspect of the story, despite objections from the PCA, which explicitly forbade the depiction of miscegenation. The news item indicated that M-G-M planned to defend its decision by pointing to the precedent set by the PCA in allowing the subject to remain in the 1936 film adaptation of Show Boat. According to a February 22, 1950 news item in Daily Variety, an additional problem was caused by a revision in Garland's contract, which allowed her four months off between films and would delay production until August 1950.
According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, director George Sidney was to appear in his first bit role in the film, playing a card player, but his appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. A October 25, 1950 Hollywood Reporter news item announced Adrienne Fazan as the picture's editor, but Fazan was not listed in any other source. Another news item indicated that rehearsals for the film began on October 26, 1950. Studio publicity material contained in the file for the film in the AMPAS Library noted that some "atmospheric shots" were filmed on location in Natchez, MS. A November 1950 New York Times article indicates that a $100,000 replica of the Cotton Blossom was constructed on the M-G-M backlot and placed in the studio's 1,200-foot river. A 1972 Daily Variety news item noted that the replica, which was used in more than twenty films following Show Boat, was sold in an auction to a Kansas City company that planned to display it at a recreation center. The film was nominated for Academy Awards in the categories of Cinematography and Music Score.
A November 30, 1981 article in People magazine contains a statement by African-American actress and former M-G-M contract player Lena Horne in which she claimed that she was passed over for the role of Julie, which eventually went to Ava Gardner. Horne played the role in a segment of the 1947 M-G-M film Till the Clouds Roll By, along with Grayson, who appeared as Magnolia (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50), and commented on her experience in the 1994 documentary That's Entertainment III. In a December 19, 1981 letter to the editor of the Los Angeles Times, George Sidney denied Horne's claim, stating that he tested only Gardner and Dinah Shore for the role. Sidney did note, however, that he used a recording of Horne's voice for playback purposes during Gardner's screen test.
The 1952 picture, which was restored by Turner Entertainment in 1991, marked the third motion picture adaptation of Ferber's Show Boat. The previous versions, both produced by Universal Pictures, were the 1929 adaptation, directed by Harry A. Pollard and starring Laura La Plante and Joseph Schildkraut; and the 1936 picture, directed by James Whale and starring Helen Morgan (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30 and 1931-40). Included among the many stage revivals of Show Boat are: the 1928 London production starring Cedric Harwicke, Colin Clive and Paul Robeson, the 1946 Broadway production starring Buddy Ebsen and January Clayton, and the 1994 Broadway production directed by Harold Prince and starring John McMartin and Elaine Stritch.