Show Boat Reviews
The film tells the story of Magnolia Hawks (Irene Dunne), the daughter of a family that owns a show boat, the Cotton Palace. They put on live shows for towns along the Mississippi, with much success. It isn't long before the eighteen-year old Magnolia finds her soulmate, Gaylord Ravenal (Allan Jones), at one of their venues. The twosome quickly get married and have a baby, but once this occurs the legacy of the Cotton Palace draws to a close.
Years later, Magnolia and Gaylord are struggling, considering they're living off of Gaylord's terrible gambling habits while Magnolia remains helpless. But when he leaves her for her own good, it isn't such a bad thing; Magnolia's opportunity to become a success on the stage comes in full-swing.
Under two-hours, it's impressive how well "Show Boat" tells its story, spanning over four decades with many characters going in-and-out through the sands of time. There are many moments that drag, as there is so much get through, but by the end, you'll be glad you watched the film. There are so many touching, endearing moments, that is instantly gives you a feeling of nostalgia. It's filmmaking at its finest, and it shows the musical genre in a whole different light.
More than anything though, "Show Boat" is famous for two things: Helen Morgan's torchy rendition of "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man" and of course, Paul Robeson's booming, chill-inducing "Ol' Man River." Both are so heavenly to the ears that they alone are worth watching the film. While neither actor gets nearly enough screen-time (or enough songs to sing), when they do get their chance, they're spectacular.
At the center of everything though, is Dunne, an unfortunately forgotten actress who as usual, gives a wonderful performance here. Much less dramatically talked about than other actresses of her era (one can quickly point to either Bette Davis or Joan Crawford), Dunne was one of the few that could make your heart melt just with a stare. She's so sweet and likable in this film, yet so vulnerable and emotional, that it sets a perfect tone for the film as a whole. "Show Boat" represents the hardships of show-business, and Dunne's Magnolia gives the honest truths of the highs and lows.
It may not be as entertaining as "Top Hat," but "Show Boat" is a dramatic musical that's much more complex than one would expect. Nearly every aspect of it is very well-done; it's a fine film, if a flawed one.
After the first ten minutes I started thinking, nah...this looks like a 70%-movie. But then Paul Robeson came along singing this old classic Ol' Man River, I've heard so many times, but never like this. Wow! I swear, I had goosebumbs by the time he had finished and said to myself; this got to be one of the highlights of the history of Hollywood-musicals. It cannot get better then this!
Or so I thought...
But then Helen Morgan came along and sang Can't Help Loving Dat Man of Mine, and later was joined by Hattie McDaniels (Who actually had a singing career behind her. Many years before her acting career started. Been researching if there exists any old records with her singing, but without any results) and Paul Robeson among others. Extacy! Magic! I don't else know how to describe that feeling I got.
But besides being an excellent musical, this is as well a very cute and sweet romantic tale.
I have a really hard time figuring out why this DVD is so hard to find, and why they show the darn 1951 on TV every second week, but not this. Bad taste or copyright problems?
After seeing this I feel ready to see the Helen Morgan Story with Ann Blyth and Paul Newman!