Show Boat (1951)

Approved   |    |  Drama, Family, Musical


Show Boat (1951) Poster

The daughter of a riverboat captain falls in love with a charming gambler, but their fairytale romance is threatened when his luck turns sour.

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7/10
4,114

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  • Ava Gardner and Kathryn Grayson in Show Boat (1951)
  • Ava Gardner in Show Boat (1951)
  • William Warfield in Show Boat (1951)
  • Kathryn Grayson and Howard Keel in Show Boat (1951)
  • Gower Champion and Marge Champion in Show Boat (1951)
  • Ava Gardner and Howard Keel in Show Boat (1951)

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Reviews & Commentary

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User Reviews


8 May 2001 | Doylenf
Why all the putdowns of this great musical??? In many ways an improvement over 1936 original...
I strongly disagree with some of the other viewers. 'Showboat' -- the 1951 version -- is not inferior to the earlier, darker Universal version with Irene Dunne and Allan Jones. The talent used for the lavish technicolor remake is in itself superior to the cast of the original--Howard Keel, Kathryn Grayson, Ava Gardner, Joe E. Brown, Agnes Moorehead, Robert Sterling -- and most importantly, Marge and Gower Champion who can do no wrong with dance numbers. By comparison, the dances in the original version appear uninspired--and even the legendary Helen Morgan (not a conventional beauty by any standards) fails to evoke the same magic Ava Gardner does as Julie. True, Morgan did her own singing but Gardner's voice on the soundtrack could just as well have been used instead of Annette Warren's.

Other than that, the MGM film is just fine--everything is staged with much more zest and enthusiasm than is present in the awkward, lumbering James Whale version. And Marge and Gower Champion's version of "Life Upon the Wicked Stage" is a priceless example of this team's artful way with a show tune. Their contribution is a major asset of the newer version.

Likewise, Grayson and Keel blend their rich voices in song the way they were meant to be heard by Kern & Hammerstein. Irene Dunne had a modest soprano voice but she was not as accomplished a singer as Grayson nor did she deliver numbers with Kathryn's uncommon ease. Performance-wise, Grayson is a bit too subdued against Gardner's more colorful character and did not kick up her heels the way she would in 'Kiss Me Kate', one of her best roles.

As for Allan Jones in the earlier version, he was a personable enough singer/actor but he was nowhere close to Keel's adroit handling of both songs and dialogue. Keel went on to become a staple of some of MGM's finest musicals and a fine reputation as a strong singer.

The pacing of the older film was slow, leisurely and downright boring at times. The remake is much easier on the eyes and ears. There's a hint of snobbism in the putdowns this film gets from some of the more discriminating viewers who cannot forgive whatever changes were made to make the plot line and time frame smoother. A deliberate change in story structure does not make a film inferior to the original.

A high point of the film is, of course, William Warfield's full-bodied version of "Old Man River" -- just another of the film's memorable musical moments. An MGM musical in the grand tradition--not to be missed.

Critic Reviews



Did You Know?

Trivia

The showboat built for the film (known as the Cotton Blossom) became an amusement park attraction in 1973, after MGM sold many of its props at an auction. Unfortunately, in 1995, it was dismantled and torn apart. For this film, the Cotton Blossom was built on top of a flat-bedded barge so that it could be towed into position by underwater cables for the musical number which opens the film. Even though the Cotton Blossom was built to exact specifications and was fitted with a stern paddle-wheel, the thrust of the paddle wheel would have been too strong to maneuver the boat in the studio lake. Too little thrust would have moved the boat very slowly if it moved the boat at all. Hence, it was necessary to move the boat into position by underwater cables. This underwater towing technique also made it easier for the boat to move into its mooring position at exactly the right moment when the musical number came to an end.


Quotes

Magnolia: 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.


Goofs

After Gaylord defends Julie with a single punch, he exits through a doorway. Julie asks the bartender for a drink. After downing the the drink, Julie modestly pulls up the short sleeves of her dress before following Gaylord. As the scene shift, Julie's sleeves are down; she then pulls up one sleeve.


Crazy Credits

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.


Alternate Versions

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.


Soundtracks

Auld Lang Syne
(1788) (uncredited)
Traditional Scottish 17th century music
Lyrics by
Robert Burns
Sung by the New Year's Eve crowd

Storyline

Plot Summary


Synopsis (WARNING: Spoilers)


Genres

Drama | Family | Musical | Romance

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