Show Boat
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Show Boat

147 min (including prologue) | USA:118 min (Turner library print)
Drama | Musical | Romance
IMDB rate:
Harry A. Pollard
Country: USA
Release Date: 1929-07-28
Filming Locations: Backlot, Universal Studios - 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, California, USA
Alma Rubens
Alma Rubens
Show Boat
Laura La Plante
Joseph Schildkraut
Gaylord Ravenal
Emily Fitzroy
Parthenia Ann Hawks
Otis Harlan
Capt. Andy Hawks
Jack McDonald
Jane La Verne
Magnolia as Child
Neely Edwards
Elise Bartlett
Stepin Fetchit
Jules Bledsoe
Joe [prologue]
Tess Gardella
Queenie [prologue]
Carl Laemmle
Himself [prologue]
Helen Morgan
Julie LaVerne [prologue]
Plantation Singers
Offscreen chorus
Dixie Jubilee Singers
Themselves [prologue] (as Jubilee Chorus)
Florenz Ziegfeld Jr.
Himself [prologue]
Max Asher
Utility Man (uncredited)
Matthew 'Stymie' Beard
Child (uncredited)
The Billbrew Chorus
Singers (uncredited)
George Chesebro
Steve Baker
Jim Coleman
Stagehand (uncredited)
Claude Collins
Carl Herlinger
Wheelsman (uncredited)
Harry Holden
Means (uncredited)
Gertrude Howard
Theodore Lorch
Frank (uncredited)
Ralph Yearsley
The Killer (uncredited)
Did you know?
Update: some of the "lost" footage of the prologue has been found, both sound and picture, and this includes footage apparently not included in the Turner Classic Movies (TCM) edition of the film. Some of this once-lost footage is included in A&E's Biography: The Great Ziegfeld (1996) and a few scenes from this footage are now included in the three-part PBS documentary Broadway: The American Musical (2004). The discovered footage includes Jules Bledsoe singing "Ol' Man River" with the Dixie Jubilee Singers in full costume. Also featured on this "Biography" episode were scenes of Tess Gardella singing "C'mon Folks" and Helen Morgan singing "Bill." All of these scenes survive in only faintly tolerable sound and picture quality, but at least they survive.
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The prologue gives modern audiences a rare chance to see white actress Tess Gardella play Queenie, the African-American cook, in blackface. Although frowned upon by today's standards, it is nevertheless a fascinating curio from a different era.
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The original production of Showboat opened in the Ziegfeld Theater on December 27, 1927 and ran for 572 performances.
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When Nola is given the letter Gaylord has left for her telling her he is leaving her, she is shown holding and reading the letter with her right hand holding the letter near the top and her left hand near the bottom. In the next shot, her hands have changed positions.
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The first Show Boat performance depicted happens at night. But when Captain Andy rushes Julie Dozier along the deck to get on stage, they are in bright sunlight.
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Julie LaVerne [prologue]: [singing] I love him, because he's - I don't know - because he's just my Bill!
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Parthenia Ann Hawks: [to the child Magnolia]
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Joe: [singing, dubbed by Jules Bledsoe] Look down, look down that lonesome road/ before you travel on./ Look up, look up, and see your Maker,/ For Gabriel blows his horn. /Weary totin' such a load,/ Trudgin' down that lonesome road,/ Look down, look down that lonesome road/ Before you travel on.
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How faithful is this film to the Broadway musical version of "Show Boat"?
Hardly faithful at all, and it was never intended to be. This film version, which is mostly silent, is based on Edna Ferber's novel (from which the musical was adapted), and was put into production as a silent film before the musical became such a hit on Broadway. When the 1929 film's producers realized that the public was probably expecting a talking film version of the musical, they panicked and shot a 17-minute sound prologue to be shown preceding the actual film, with some of the musical's original Broadway cast members singing five songs from the show. Then they added two musical sequences in which Magnolia (played in the film proper by Laura La Plante, with a dubbed singing voice) sings two songs from the show. One of these songs ("Ol' Man River") Magnolia never, ever sings in either the stage version or the 1936 and 1951 film versions.Although some of the plot is the same, the script of this film is entirely different from that of the musical version and the films adapted from it.The storyline follows the plotline of the novel, rather than that of the musical, which means that the film is sometimes drastically different from the show. The scenes with Julie on the show boat take place when Magnolia is still a little girl, instead of her being eighteen years old as in the musical. Magnolia does not meet Ravenal until more than ten years after Julie and her husband leave the boat, instead of on the same day. Magnolia's parents (Captain Andy and Parthy) both die in this film; he, in a storm during which Magnolia's daughter Kim is born. Parthy dies offscreen near the end of the film while Magnolia is in New York with Kim. In the musical and the 1936 and '51 films of "Show Boat", none of the characters die.There are three major changes to the Ferber novel in this film - one is that Julie is a white woman whose marriage is perfectly legal in this version, not a mixed-race woman illegally married to a white man as in the novel and the musical, and she is driven off the show boat by the jealous Parthy, who resents Julie and Magnolia's friendship, not, as in the novel and the musical, because of the racist laws existing at the time.The second major change is that Ravenal and Magnolia are reunited and reconciled at the end of the film, as in the musical, while in the novel, he never returns after abandoning Magnolia and eventually dies in San Francisco at some point.The third major change is in the depiction of Hetty Chilson, the whorehouse madam found in the novel, but not in the stage musical or the 1936 and 1951 films made from it. In the 1929 film, Hetty turns out to be Julie herself, unexplainedly now assuming a new identity. In the Ferber novel, Hetty is a different person from Julie, who is her secretary at the whorehouse. In both the novel and this film, Magnolia discovers that Julie works at the whorehouse, and rather than judging her, offers her friendship, but Julie is so deeply ashamed that she cannot face Magnolia.
How much of this film, once presumed lost, still exists?
It has never really been made clear. When the film is shown on television, there is no picture during the sound prologue. However, two sequences from the prologue which are NOT in the Turner Classic Movies version of the film have turned up on the internet with sound and picture; they are also included as clips on the A&E biography "Great Ziegfeld". Although the picture for the story section of the film seems to have survived complete, there is supposed to be a sound sequence of Magnolia singing the traditional spiritual "Deep River", but so far there is no evidence that this sequence has survived or even once existed. During the first half of the film, we see Magnolia with a banjo, but the sequence as it exists now is silent with orchestral accompaniment.There are about seven minutes of dialogue in this portion of the movie as it exists today, but then the sound cuts off, with not even a musical accompaniment, indicating that what we are watching was originally issued with a soundtrack. Reportedly, some of the soundtrack for this portion has recently been rediscovered on discs, which is rather odd considering the fact that the film used the Movietone system, a system placing the sound on the film rather than on a disc.
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Photos from cast
Alma Rubens