Show Boat (1936)

Approved   |    |  Comedy, Drama, Musical

Show Boat (1936) Poster

Despite her mother's objections, the naive young daughter of a show boat captain is thrust into the limelight as the company's new leading lady.


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User Reviews

26 September 1999 | Steeber
The Mid 30's wins again
No question that this is the Show Boat with soul. The '51 version has some lovely chorus numbers, including a beautiful opening sequence, but it is entirely safe and a predictable piece of MGM-dom.

On this 1936 version, I found myself thinking "There isn't a dull moment in this thing".

The pacing is fast and most unsentimental. The editing is so curt as to be almost surreal, and songs are suddenly launched out of nowhere, which is curiously satisfying. To be truthful, the film's strongest cohesive stretch is its first third, after which the story-telling becomes a bit rushed (presumably) to keep the film to a tolerable length. Hattie McDaniel and Paul Robeson are magical. McDaniel's first scene is positively electric and Robeson is given to a pleasant, warm demeanor, and both he and McDaniel seem surprisingly modern during a time in which blacks were seldom portrayed as such, especially in a mixed cast.

Charles Winninger shows his Vaudeville roots here, and he does a most riveting take on the Show Boat stage, portraying a melodrama for two. His timing is perfect, and his energy is inspiring throughout the picture.

Magnolia's blackface peregrinations do ring true to the time (more 1870's, than 1930's), but the wince-worthy scenes are more those of the black river boat hands who must constantly be shown bucking and winging their way to the irresistible music, eyes rolling.

The ending has some satisfaction to it, and is lightened considerably by the fact that Gaylord Ravinal is not completely humiliated by story's end. This last scene must have somehow anticipated "A Star Is Born", with undying love and honor being its undercurrent theme.

George Gershwin once stated on network radio that Kern's [Show Boat] score was the finest light opera in American history. It may still be. Just the bridge to "Only Make Believe" is heart stopping stuff.

Critic Reviews

Did You Know?


The songs "Why Do I Love You?", as sung by Irene Dunne and Allan Jones and the chorus "Happy The Day" (from the Act I Finale) were filmed but deleted before release, because it was felt that the movie was too long. Although "Queenie's Ballyhoo' had been sung in the prologue to the 1929 film version by Tess Gardella, it was not intended to be in the 1936 film version, where it would have had to be sung by Hattie McDaniel. "Life Upon The Wicked Stage" was also never filmed, and contrary to some claims, would not have been sung by Queenie Smith and Sammy White, but by Queenie Smith and a women's chorus. (Only the 1951 film version had Ellie - played by Marge Champion- and Frank - played by Gower Champion - singing the song.) The song "Why Do I Love You?" was to be sung in the scene in which Magnolia and Ravenal are riding in an automobile with their baby daughter, Kim. The rest of the scene remains in the film.


Julie: (singing) Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, I gotta love one man till I die, Can't help lovin' dat man of mine.


As Ellie May is applying cold cream on her face, the amount she puts on changes from shot to shot.

Crazy Credits

The credits for this film say "A James Whale Production" although Whale did not produce the film, while the film's posters say "A Carl Laemmle, Jr. Production", and Laemmle did produce the film.


A Hot Time in the Old Town
(1896) (uncredited)
Music by
Theodore A. Metz
Played briefly by Trocadero orchestra on New Year's Eve


Plot Summary

Synopsis (WARNING: Spoilers)


Comedy | Drama | Musical | Romance

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