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USA 1951
Directed by
George Sidney
107 minutes
Rated G

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

Show Boat

Although the 1936 version (with Paul Robeson singing “Ol' Man River”) of this classic Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II musical is often referred to as superior and, acknowledging that Kathryn Grayson is a bit of a weak point, as I have not seen that version I am willing to recommend this one strongly. Filmed in colour for the first time and with most of the original songs retained as well as turn-of-the-century favourites such as “After The Ball” included Sidney's Showboat is chocolate box stuff but good for the occasional indulgence.

Show Boat was adapted from the Edna Farber story about a family of riverboat entertainers and centres on the fortunes of Magnolia (Grayson), daughter of Cap’n Andy (Joe E. Brown) and her beau, Gaylord Ravenal (Howard Keel), a gambler who sweeps her off her feet. This is mixed in with the story of Julie, a "miscegenated" chanteuse cast down by Southern bigotry.In the role Ava Gardner gives a touching performance as well as doing a fine job of miming the vocals of Annette Warren in numbers such as “Bill”. Marge and Gower Champion turn in a couple of nifty dance numbers and William Warfield performs the magnificent “Ol' Man River". Shot on MGM's backlot, the riverboat was at that time one of the most expensive props ever made.




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