Show Boat (1951)

106-108 mins | Musical | July 1951

Director:

George Sidney

Writer:

John Lee Mahin

Producer:

Arthur Freed

Cinematographer:

Charles Rosher

Editor:

John Dunning

Production Designers:

Cedric Gibbons, Jack Martin Smith

Production Company:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
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HISTORY

Onscreen credits incorrectly spell actor Leif Erickson's name as "Lief." Edna Ferber's novel Show Boat was serialized in Woman's Home Companion (Apr-Aug 1926). M-G-M's plan to film an adaptation of Show Boat was publicized as early as Jun 1942. According to news items in HR in Jun and Jul 1942, Oscar Hammerstein, II had planned to direct a revival of the play to feature M-G-M's popular operetta stars Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, and the studio was planning to buy the film rights from Universal. Zeke Colvan was also said to be staging the revival and possible film.
       In Dec 1943, a HR news item announced that Kathryn Grayson was "likely" to play "Magnolia Hawks," and by May 1944, a HR news item announced that producer Arthur Freed had chosen Judy Garland for the part of "Julie LaVerne." In Dec 1945, a HR news item noted that production was set to begin in mid-summer with Walter Huston in the role of "Cap'n Andy." According to a Dec 1949 DV news item, Ethel Barrymore, who was originally slated to play the role of "Parthy," had to withdraw because of a previous commitment. Mildred Natwick was then considered for that part. Eddie Foy, Jr. was a candidate for the role of "Capt. Andy" according to the same news item.
       A 1950 NYT news item noted that M-G-M would go ahead with its plans to include the miscegenation aspect of the story, despite objections from the PCA, which explicitly forbade the depiction of miscegenation. ...

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Onscreen credits incorrectly spell actor Leif Erickson's name as "Lief." Edna Ferber's novel Show Boat was serialized in Woman's Home Companion (Apr-Aug 1926). M-G-M's plan to film an adaptation of Show Boat was publicized as early as Jun 1942. According to news items in HR in Jun and Jul 1942, Oscar Hammerstein, II had planned to direct a revival of the play to feature M-G-M's popular operetta stars Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, and the studio was planning to buy the film rights from Universal. Zeke Colvan was also said to be staging the revival and possible film.
       In Dec 1943, a HR news item announced that Kathryn Grayson was "likely" to play "Magnolia Hawks," and by May 1944, a HR news item announced that producer Arthur Freed had chosen Judy Garland for the part of "Julie LaVerne." In Dec 1945, a HR news item noted that production was set to begin in mid-summer with Walter Huston in the role of "Cap'n Andy." According to a Dec 1949 DV news item, Ethel Barrymore, who was originally slated to play the role of "Parthy," had to withdraw because of a previous commitment. Mildred Natwick was then considered for that part. Eddie Foy, Jr. was a candidate for the role of "Capt. Andy" according to the same news item.
       A 1950 NYT news item noted that M-G-M would go ahead with its plans to include the miscegenation aspect of the story, despite objections from the PCA, which explicitly forbade the depiction of miscegenation. The news item indicated that M-G-M planned to defend its decision by pointing to the precedent set by the PCA in allowing the subject to remain in the 1936 film adaptation of Show Boat. According to a 22 Feb 1950 news item in DV, an additional problem was caused by a revision in Garland's contract, which allowed her four months off between films and would delay production until Aug 1950.
       According to a HR news item, director George Sidney was to appear in his first bit role in the film, playing a card player, but his appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. A 25 Oct 1950 HR news item announced Adrienne Fazan as the picture's editor, but Fazan was not listed in any other source. Another news item indicated that rehearsals for the film began on 26 Oct 1950. Studio publicity material contained in the file for the film in the AMPAS Library noted that some "atmospheric shots" were filmed on location in Natchez, MS. A Nov 1950 NYT article indicates that a $100,000 replica of the Cotton Blossom was constructed on the M-G-M backlot and placed in the studio's 1,200-foot river. A 1972 DV news item noted that the replica, which was used in more than twenty films following Show Boat, was sold in an auction to a Kansas City company that planned to display it at a recreation center. The film was nominated for Academy Awards in the categories of Cinematography and Music Score.
       A 30 Nov 1981 article in People magazine contains a statement by African-American actress and former M-G-M contract player Lena Horne in which she claimed that she was passed over for the role of Julie, which eventually went to Ava Gardner. Horne played the role in a segment of the 1947 M-G-M film Till the Clouds Roll By, along with Grayson, who appeared as Magnolia (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50), and commented on her experience in the 1994 documentary That's Entertainment III. In a 19 Dec 1981 letter to the editor of the LAT, George Sidney denied Horne's claim, stating that he tested only Gardner and Dinah Shore for the role. Sidney did note, however, that he used a recording of Horne's voice for playback purposes during Gardner's screen test.
       The 1952 picture, which was restored by Turner Entertainment in 1991, marked the third motion picture adaptation of Ferber's Show Boat. Show Boat was ranked 24th on AFI's list of the 25 Greatest Movie Musicals. The previous film versions of Ferber's story, both produced by Universal Pictures, were the 1929 adaptation, directed by Harry A. Pollard and starring Laura La Plante and Joseph Schildkraut; and the 1936 picture, directed by James Whale and starring Helen Morgan (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30 and 1931-40). Included among the many stage revivals of Show Boat are: the 1928 London production starring Cedric Harwicke, Colin Clive and Paul Robeson, the 1946 Broadway production starring Buddy Ebsen and Jan Clayton, and the 1994 Broadway production directed by Harold Prince and starring John McMartin and Elaine Stritch.

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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Cinematographer
1 Aug 1951
pp. 304-05, 323-28
Box Office
9 Jun 1951
---
Daily Variety
29 Dec 1949
p. 4
Daily Variety
22 Feb 1950
p. 6
Daily Variety
28 Feb 1950
p. 3
Film Daily
5 Jun 1951
p. 5
Hollywood Reporter
3 Jun 1942
p. 1
Hollywood Reporter
29 Jun 1942
p. 2
Hollywood Reporter
20 Jul 1942
p. 2
Hollywood Reporter
1 Dec 1943
p. 1
Hollywood Reporter
12 May 1944
p. 1
Hollywood Reporter
28 Dec 1945
p. 2
Hollywood Reporter
25 Oct 1950
p. 6
Hollywood Reporter
26 Oct 1950
p. 4
Hollywood Reporter
5 Nov 1950
---
Hollywood Reporter
17 Nov 1950
p. 10, 12
Hollywood Reporter
14 Dec 1950
p. 6
Hollywood Reporter
5 Jan 1951
p. 10
Hollywood Reporter
5 Jun 1951
p. 3
Hollywood Reporter
24 Nov 1951
---
Los Angeles Times
19 Dec 1981
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
9 Jun 1951
p. 877
New York Times
19 Jul 1951
p. 19
New York Times
20 Jul 1951
p. 14
People
30 Nov 1981
---
Variety
6 Jun 1951
p. 6
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Robert Stebbins
Earl Hodgins
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Richard A. Pefferle
Assoc
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus dir
Vocal arr
Addl orch
SOUND
Rec supv
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Mont seq
DANCE
Dances by
MAKEUP
Hair styles designed by
Make-up created by
STAND INS
Singing voice double for Ava Gardner
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor col consultant
Technicolor col consultant
SOURCES
LITERARY
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).
LITERARY SOURCE AUTHORS
SONGS
"Cotton Blossom," "Where's the Mate for Me?" "Make Believe," "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man," "I Might Fall Back on You," "Ol' Man River," "You Are Love," "Why Do I Love You?" "Life on the Wicked Stage" and "Ballyhoo," music by Jerome Kern, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein, II; "After the Ball," music and lyrics by Charles K. Harris; "Bill," music by Jerome Kern, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein, II and P. G. Wodehouse.
SONGWRITERS/COMPOSERS
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
July 1951
Premiere Information:
World premiere in Hollywood: 17 Jul 1951; New York opening: 19 Jul 1951
Production Date:
17 Nov 1950--early Jan 1951
Copyright Info
Claimant
Date
Copyright Number
Loew's Inc.
11 June 1951
LP996
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Sound System
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
106-108
Length(in feet):
9,695
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
15118
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

In the late nineteenth century, Magnolia Hawks, daughter of Cap'n Andy, the owner of the Mississippi show boat the Cotton Blossom , falls in love with gambler Gaylord Ravenal while touring in a small town. Magnolia's strict mother Parthy disapproves of her daughter's friendship with the show's leading actress, Julie LaVerne, whom she calls a "hussy." Despite Julie's protective feelings towards Magnolia, Parthy forbids Magnolia from spending any more time with her. Meanwhile, a jealous suitor whom Julie has spurned exacts his revenge by providing the local sheriff with birth records proving that Julie is a mulatto. Seeing that the sheriff is about to board the ship to charge Julie with miscegenation and arrest her, Stephen, Julie's white husband, deliberately cuts his finger and exchanges blood with his wife so that the he, too, will have black blood in him. No longer able to justify Julie's arrest, the sheriff departs, but not before advising her to leave the ship to avoid the wrath of the townspeople. Steve leaves the troupe to join Julie, and Gaylord later takes Steve's place as the leading man in the show. Gaylord then suggests that Magnolia replace Julie, and the two prove a hit with audiences all along the Mississippi. In time, the two stars fall deeper in love, and, after marrying, they spend their honeymoon in Chicago. There Gaylord resumes his heavy gambling and loses all his money. Suspecting that Magnolia no longer loves him, Gaylord leaves her, unaware that she is pregnant. Magnolia becomes distraught, but two of her friends, dancers Ellie May Shipley and Frank Schultz, take her to audition for ...

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In the late nineteenth century, Magnolia Hawks, daughter of Cap'n Andy, the owner of the Mississippi show boat the Cotton Blossom , falls in love with gambler Gaylord Ravenal while touring in a small town. Magnolia's strict mother Parthy disapproves of her daughter's friendship with the show's leading actress, Julie LaVerne, whom she calls a "hussy." Despite Julie's protective feelings towards Magnolia, Parthy forbids Magnolia from spending any more time with her. Meanwhile, a jealous suitor whom Julie has spurned exacts his revenge by providing the local sheriff with birth records proving that Julie is a mulatto. Seeing that the sheriff is about to board the ship to charge Julie with miscegenation and arrest her, Stephen, Julie's white husband, deliberately cuts his finger and exchanges blood with his wife so that the he, too, will have black blood in him. No longer able to justify Julie's arrest, the sheriff departs, but not before advising her to leave the ship to avoid the wrath of the townspeople. Steve leaves the troupe to join Julie, and Gaylord later takes Steve's place as the leading man in the show. Gaylord then suggests that Magnolia replace Julie, and the two prove a hit with audiences all along the Mississippi. In time, the two stars fall deeper in love, and, after marrying, they spend their honeymoon in Chicago. There Gaylord resumes his heavy gambling and loses all his money. Suspecting that Magnolia no longer loves him, Gaylord leaves her, unaware that she is pregnant. Magnolia becomes distraught, but two of her friends, dancers Ellie May Shipley and Frank Schultz, take her to audition for stage manager Jake Green. Julie, who has turned to heavy drinking after Steve left her, is a singer in Green's variety show, but quietly leaves the show when she hears Magnolia auditioning. Magnolia performs her first show on New Year's Eve, and although she very nervously starts to sing "After the Ball," she later gains the confidence needed to sing beautifully when she sees her proud father in the audience. While Gaylord continues his obsessive gambling, Magnolia gives birth to a girl, whom she names Kim Ravenal. Time passes, and Julie, accidentally meeting Gaylord on a show boat, tells him that he has a five-year-old daughter. Gaylord finds his daughter in the town of Natchez, where she is performing with her mother and grandfather, and he takes her into his arms. Much to Julie's delight, Magnolia and Gaylord reconcile, and Gaylord gives up his gambling to rejoin his wife and family on the Cotton Blossom .

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Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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