AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Show Boat
Alternate Title: Edna Ferber's Show Boat
Director: James Whale (Dir)
Release Date:   17 May 1936
Premiere Information:   World premiere in New York: 14 May 1936
Production Date:   9 Dec 1935--11 Mar 1936
Duration (in mins):   110, 112 or 115
Duration (in reels):   12
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Cast:   Irene Dunne (Magnolia)  
    Allan Jones ([Gaylord] Ravenal)  
    Charles Winninger (Cap'n Andy Hawks)  
    Paul Robeson (Joe)  
    Helen Morgan (Julie [LaVerne])  
    Helen Westley (Parthy)  
    Queenie Smith (Elly)  
    Sammy White (Frank [Schultz])  
    Donald Cook (Steve [Baker])  
    Hattie McDaniel (Queenie)  
    Francis X. Mahoney (Rubber Face [Smith])  
    Marilyn Knowlden (Kim, as a child)  
    Sunnie O'Dea (Kim, at eighteen)  
    Arthur Hohl (Pete [Gavanaugh])  
    Charles Middleton ([Sheriff] Vallon)  
    J. Farrell MacDonald (Windy)  
    Clarence Muse (Janitor [Sam])  
    Patsy Barry (Kim, as a baby)  
    Charles Wilson (Jim Green)  
    Mae Beatty (Landlady)  
    Stanley Fields (Jeb, Hillbilly patron)  
    Stanley J. Sandford (Backwoodsman)  
    Mary Bovard (Daughter)  
    William Alston (Young man)  
    Marguerite Warner (Young girl)  
    Bobs Watson (Lost child)  
    Jane Keckley (Mrs. Ewing)  
    Isabelle LaMal (Companion)  
    Betty Brown (Girl)  
    Kathleen Ellis (Girl)  
    June Glory (Girl)  
    Tom Ricketts (Minister)  
    Gunnis Davis (Doctor)  
    Harold Nelson (Postmaster)  
    Patti Patterson (Banjo player)  
    Betty Roche (Tall girl)  
    Grace Cunard (Mother)  
    Maidel Turner (Mother)  
    Anna Demetrio (Mother)  
    Marilyn Harris (Little girl)  
    Jimmy Jackson (Young man)  
    Ricca Allen (Old woman)  
    Maxine Cook (Thin girl)  
    Monte Montague (Old man)  
    Lois Verner (Small girl)  
    Artye Folz (Fat girl)  
    Barbara Bletcher (Fat girl)  
    Helen Hayward (Mrs. Brencenbridge)  
    Harry Barris (Jake, pianist)  
    Maude Allen (Fat woman)  
    Frank Whitson (Dealer)  
    Eddy Chandler (Gambler)  
    Lloyd Whitlock (Gambler)  
    Lee Phelps (Gambler)  
    Frank Mayo (Gambler)  
    Edward Peil Sr. (Gambler)  
    Edmund Cobb (Gambler)  
    Al Ferguson (Gambler)  
    Daisy Bufford (Maid)  
    Dorothy Grainger (Chorus girl)  
    Barbara Pepper (Chorus girl)  
    Renee Whitney (Chorus girl)  
    Alma Ross (Chorus girl)  
    Jeanette Dickson (Chorus girl)  
    Arthur Housman (Drunk)  
    Forrest Stanley (Theater manager)  
    Selmer Jackson (Hotel clerk)  
    George Hackathorne (YMCA worker)  
    Max Wagner (Soldier)  
    James P. Burtis (Soldier)  
    Billy Watson (Boy)  
    Delmar Watson (Boy)  
    Harry Watson (Boy)  
    Ernest Hilliard (Race fan)  
    Jack Mulhall (Race fan)  
    Brooks Benedict (Race fan)  
    Elspeth Dudgeon (Mother Superior)  
    E. E. Clive (Englishman)  
    Helen Jerome Eddy (Reporter)  
    Don Briggs (Press agent)  
    LeRoy Prinz (Dance director)  
    Harold Waldridge (Office boy)  
    Georgia O'Dell (School teacher)  
    George H. Reed (Old black man)  
    Eddie Anderson (Young black man)  
    Theodore Lorch (Simon Legree)  
    Matthew Jones (Bartender)  
    Jack Latham (Juvenile)  
    Flora Finch    
    Helen Dickson    
    D'Arcy Corrigan    
    Ann Bupp    

Summary: Cap'n Andy Hawks's show boat the Cotton Blossom arrives in New Orleans. Andy's daughter Magnolia, a gifted singer, meets Gaylord Ravenal and they make believe they are in love. While rehearsing, 'Nolia's good friend, Julie LaVerne, and her husband, Steve Baker, are accused of miscegenation and are forced to quit the show and leave town. 'Nolia and Gay take their places and, because their romantic involvement onstage mimics their real feelings, they are a hit. Pete Gavanaugh, who caused Julie's ostracism when she refused his advances, then writes to Andy to expose Gay as a murderer who was let off on a verdict of self-defense. After a successful run of their show, Gay and 'Nolia marry with Andy's blessing, even though 'Nolia's mother Parthy objects to the marriage because of Gay's questionable past. A year later, 'Nolia gives birth to Kim during a storm while Gay is away playing cards. Gay returns the next morning and asks 'Nolia to move to Chicago. Initially, the family lives well at the Palmer House while Gay bets on horses, but his money quickly runs out and they are forced to move. When Elly and Frank, former members of the show boat, inquire about a shabby room for rent from which the present tenants are being evicted, they discover the tenants are 'Nolia and Gay. Gay then deserts 'Nolia because he is ashamed that he cannot provide for her and Kim. 'Nolia then performs at the Trocadero after Julie, now an alcoholic, quietly quits so that her old friend 'Nolia can get work. Parthy and Andy then arrive at the Palmer House on New Year's Eve in search of the Ravenals, and Andy discovers 'Nolia singing at the Trocadero. Although the crowd is not receptive to 'Nolia's lyrical voice, Andy gives her support from the audience and she is a success. Soon 'Nolia is an international star. Years pass and she retires from the stage, after which Kim follows in her footsteps. When Kim opens on Broadway, 'Nolia recognizes Gay, who is posing as the stage doorman. After the encore, Kim invites her mother to sing and Gay joins her in song. 

Production Company: Universal Productions, Inc.  
Production Text: A James Whale Production
Distribution Company: Universal Productions, Inc.  
Director: James Whale (Dir)
  Leighton Brill (Dial dir)
  Joseph A. McDonough (Asst dir)
  Harry Mieneke (Asst dir)
  Joe Torillo (Asst dir)
Producer: Carl Laemmle (Pres)
  Carl Laemmle Jr. (Prod)
Writer: Oscar Hammerstein II (Stage play, screen play and lyrics by)
  Billie Burke (Story)
  Zoë Akins (Contr wrt)
Photography: John J. Mescall (Cine)
  Alan Jones (2d cam)
  John P. Fulton (Special cinematographer)
Art Direction: Charles D. Hall (Art dir)
Film Editor: Ted Kent (Film ed)
  Bernard Burton (Film ed)
  Maurice Pivar (Ed supv)
Costumes: Western Costume Company (Cost)
  Carl Leas (Ward)
  Doris Zinkeisen (Cost des by)
  Vera West (Cost exec by)
  Ed Brymer (Designer)
Music: Victor Baravalle (Mus dir)
  Russell Bennett (Musical arr)
Sound: Gilbert Kurland (Sd supv)
  Mike McLaughlin (Rec of mus)
  William Hedgecock (Rec of production)
Dance: LeRoy Prinz (Dance numbers staged by)
Make Up: Doris Carico (Hair)
  Jack Pierce (Makeup)
  Charles Gorman (Makeup)
Production Misc: Leighton Brill (Tech dir)
  Helen McCaffrey (Scr clerk)
Stand In: Katherine Stanley (Stand-in for Irene Dunne)
  Jack Latham (Stand-in for Allan Jones)
  Mary Stewart (Stand-in for Helen Morgan)
Country: United States
Language: English

Music: "Why Do I Love You?" and "I Have the Room Above Her" by Jerome Kern.
Songs: "Make Believe," "Ol' Man River," "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man," "You Are Love," "Gallavantin' Around" and "Ah Still Suits Me," music by Jerome Kern, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein, II; "Bill," music by Jerome Kern, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein, II and P. G. Wodehouse; "After the Ball," music and lyrics by Charles K. Harris; "Goodbye My Lady Love," music and lyrics by Joe Howard.
Composer: Oscar Hammerstein II
  Charles K. Harris
  Joe Howard
  Jerome Kern
  P. G. Wodehouse
Source Text: Based on the novel Show Boat by Edna Ferber (Garden City, NY, 1926) and the musical of the same name by Edna Ferber, Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein, II (New York, 27 Dec 1927).
Authors: Edna Ferber
  Jerome Kern
  Oscar Hammerstein II

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Universal Productions, Inc. 13/5/1936 dd/mm/yyyy LP6347

PCA NO: 2043
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Noiseless Recording

Genre: Comedy-drama
Sub-Genre: Show business
Subjects (Major): African Americans
  Desertion (Marital)
  Theatrical troupes
  United States--South
Subjects (Minor): Alcoholics
  Chicago (IL)
  Family relationships
  Mississippi River
  Spirituals (Songs)

Note: This film's title card reads "Edna Ferber's Show Boat ." Ferber's novel was serialized in Woman's Home Companion (Apr-Aug 1926). Many actors from the 1927 Florenz Ziegfeld-produced Broadway musical recreated their roles for the film, including Charles Winninger, Helen Morgan, Francis X. Mahoney, and Sammy White, who made his film debut in this production. According to modern sources, Paul Robeson was originally wanted for the role of "Joe" in the 1927 stage version but was unavailable. He did, however, appear in the 1928 London production with Cedric Hardwicke and Colin Clive, and the 1932 Ziegfeld Broadway revival. "Ol' Man River" later became Robeson's signature song. Irene Dunne, Allan Jones and Hattie McDaniel also starred in earlier productions.
       This film was the last feature presented by Universal president and founder Carl Laemmle, who then sold his interest in the company to J. Cheever Cowdin and Charles R. Rogers. HR announced on 12 Oct 1935 that Universal was negotiating with M-G-M to borrow Dave Gould to stage the dances in this film, however, LeRoy Prinz was eventually hired. According to the Call Bureau Cast Service, Prinz also appeared in the film in the role of a dance director. In 1933, Universal began negotiating for Winninger and Robeson to appear in this film. According to a modern source, production was originally planned for 1933 under Frank Borzage's direction, with a script by Jo Swerling. Dunne, Winninger, Robeson and Russ Columbo were set to star. Reportedly, in 1935, initial screenplays by Zoë Akins were scrapped, and the final shooting script was completed by Oscar Hammerstein II. Akins is listed as contributing writer in Universal production files at the USC Cinema-Television Library. According to DV , this film started production on 9 Dec 1935 without a male lead. Wilbur Evans, John Boles, Michael Bartlett and Francisco Del Campo were still being considered for the role of "Ravenal" as of 6 Dec. Universal had hoped to borrow Nelson Eddy from M-G-M, but negotiations fell through. According to a news item in FD on 16 Dec 1935, three hundred African-American actors were used in this production. Cameraman Alan Jones is not to be confused with actor Allan Jones.
       In an interview in the NYT on 17 May 1936, Irene Dunne said she regretted that her rendition of the song "Why Do I Love You?," sung during an automobile ride on a bumpy road, was cut from the film; her location rendition was much too "jerky," while her studio performance was much too smooth to match the scene. "Why Do I Love You?" remains in the film's orchestral background, however. Dunne made a personal appearance at the film's opening at the Radio City Music Hall in New York on 14 May 1936. The songs "I Have the Room Above Her," "Gallivantin' Around" and "Ah Still Suits Me" were original songs written by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II for the film. According to a modern source, "Got My Eye on You" and "Negro Peanut Vendor's Street Cry," also written by Kern and Hammerstein for the film, were not used.
       Modern sources also claim that W. C. Fields was considered for the role of "Cap'n Andy Hawks." Modern sources list Leon Shamroy as an uncredited cinematographer. Irene Dunne and Charles Winninger performed a radio version of Show Boat in a Lux Radio Theatre broadcast on 24 Jun 1940. Universal made a 1929 adaptation of the Ferber story, directed by Harry A. Pollard and starring Laura La Plante and Joseph Schildkraut (see above). In 1951, M-G-M made a feature version of Show Boat , directed by George Sidney, that starred Kathryn Grayson, Ava Gardner, Howard Keel and Joe E. Brown (see below) 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Daily Variety   6 Dec 35   p. 7.
Daily Variety   9 Dec 35   p. 3.
Daily Variety   12 Mar 36   p. 8.
Daily Variety   27 Apr 36   p. 3.
Film Daily   16 Dec 1935.   
Film Daily   30 Apr 36   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   18 Sep 33   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   21 Sep 33   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   12 Oct 35   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   27 Apr 36   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   17 Jun 36   p. 5.
Motion Picture Daily   14 Apr 36   p. 10.
Motion Picture Herald   1 Feb 36   p. 44.
Motion Picture Herald   18 Apr 36   pp. 16-17.
Motion Picture Herald   9 May 36   p. 39.
MPSI   Jan 37   p. 7.
New York Times   15 May 36   p. 29.
New York Times   17 May 1936.   
Variety   20 May 36   p. 12.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
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