Tagline – The Grandest Show You’ll Ever Know!
Starring – Irene Dunne (Magnolia Hawks), Allan Jones (Gaylord Ravenal), Charles Winninger (Cap’n Andy Hawks), Paul Robeson (Joe), Helen Morgan (Julie LaVerne), Helen Westley (Parthy Hawks), Queenie Smith (Ellie May Chipley).
Released – May, 1936
Directed By – James Whale
Produced By – Universal Pictures
Distributed By – Universal Pictures
Description – Magnolia Hawks is a naive eighteen-year-old on the Cotton Palace, her family’s show boat that travels the Mississippi River. Magnolia is a talented singer and hopes to be a star in the show one day.
She is best friends with the current star Julie LaVerne. Julie is part African-American and is married to Steve Baker. Julie’s mixed race is kept a secret due to the racial feelings of the time. However, her secret comes out, and she and Steve are forced to leave the show boat and town. Their marriage is also considered to be illegal.
Just prior to this, Magnolia has met charming gambler Gaylord Ravenal with whom she has fallen in love. Magnolia and Gaylord replace Julie and Steve as the show boat’s headliners and are a huge hit.
Pete Gavanaugh, who is responsible for giving away Julie’s secret because she refused his advances, now claims that Gaylord is a murderer. While it is true that Gaylord was tried for murder he was acquitted with a verdict of self-defense.
The success of the show continues. Magnolia and Gaylord marry and have a daughter they name Kim. But, everything is not as great as it may seem. Gaylord has managed to gamble away all of the couples money, while Steve has abandoned Julie who has now become an alcoholic.
Only time will tell if anyone can rebuild, or repair the damage that has been done to all their lives.
NOTABLE: In 1996, Show Boat was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.
This was the first all-sound version of the hit Broadway musical based on the Edna Ferber novel.
During filming it was necessary to obtain permission from the Hays office to include the famous “miscegenation” scene in the film. The scene had been omitted from the 1929 version of the film.
Director James Whale has stated that this film was his favorite of all the pictures he had directed.
Paul Robeson’s performance of the song “Ol’ Man River” was ranked #24 on the American Film Institutes top 100 songs featured in films.
In 2006, this version of Show Boat was voted, by the American Film Institute, as one of the top 25 film musicals of all time.
Production costs for the film quickly got out of hand. Studio head Carl Laemmle, Jr. was forced to borrow money to save both the film and the studio. He reneged on repaying the loan, and Universal Studios was taken over by the New York lending institution. Laemmle would lose his position at the studio his father had started, and would never work in Hollywood again.