Showboat 1936-1951, which is best.

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OScott
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Post by OScott »

Myrna did refer to her "yellowface" role in 13 Women as a "racist concoction." Myrna Loy: Being and Becoming c.1987
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myrnaloyisdope
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Post by myrnaloyisdope »

Ok, cool. I've read her autobiography, but I don't remember that statement.

Anyway I guess my point is that it's unfair to judge a performer for the roles they performed, particularly when they were early in their careers. So it's great that Myrna acknowledged the racism of some her early parts, it's not a big deal that Irene Dunne didn't talk about performing in blackface.
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charliechaplinfan
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Post by charliechaplinfan »

Surely these performers at the early parts of their career had one choice either play the role or have it passed on to someone else and if you wanted to be a successful in the business you didn't start off by refusing roles.

It's strange and a little distasteful for us to look on yellow and blackface roles being undertaken by white actors these days, it was a reflection of it's times, whether we like it or not.
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin
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charliechaplinfan
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Post by charliechaplinfan »

I've now had chance to see 1936 Showboat. Both have things to recommend them.

The 1936 version had the best rendition of Ole Man River, Paul Robeson and Hattie McDaniel had great chemistry featured in the story better than William Warfield in the later version.

Irene Dunne was the better Magnolia and I liked how this version finished off her story when Kim was successful on the stage.

I think this film has the better atomosphere.

What I like about the 1951 version is the glossy colour and the casting of Ava Gardner, making Julie Laverne an exotic creature and Howard Keel as Gaylord Ravenol.
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin
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Professional Tourist
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Re: Showboat 1936-1951, which is best

Post by Professional Tourist »

stuart.uk wrote:if Old Man River didn't work for Frank, it certainly did for a 44-yr-old Judy Garland on her tv show, wearing a modern day dress.
It certainly did work for her, and she had just turned 41. It was episode # 1, taped in June 1963. The black dress was designed by Edith Head (Ray Aghayan took over in episode 2).

I've only seen the 1951 version (on DVD), but reading through this thread makes me want to see the 1936 version. Even so, I imagine I'd have to vote for the 1951 film, for the divine Miss M. :P
Last edited by Professional Tourist on November 27th, 2012, 7:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.
melwalton
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Re: Showboat 1936-1951, which is best.

Post by melwalton »

Hi, Stu

mY MEMORY SAYS toss up. With me it's the songs and how they're done. Each one had a bevy of good singers, Dunne, Grayson, Jones, Keel. Robeson, Warrick etc. I take it, Gardner was dubbed. Morgan was very popular at one time but I don't regard her as a great singer, not like Ginny Simms for example.
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stuart.uk
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Re: Showboat 1936-1951, which is best.

Post by stuart.uk »

Mel

IMO the dubbing of Ava was a disgrace and to some extent spoils my enjoyment of the film. Outtakes prove she sang wonderfully well in the film. I assume it's her singing in her other film The Hucksers
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Ayres
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Re: Showboat 1936-1951, which is best.

Post by Ayres »

It has been a while since I've heard them, but I remember Ava's recordings as touching in their non-perfection, and quite emotional. And I don't think she was ever more gorgeous than she is singing "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man." Whoosh.
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Professional Tourist
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Re: Showboat 1936-1951, which is best.

Post by Professional Tourist »

Ayres wrote:It has been a while since I've heard them, but I remember Ava's recordings as touching in their non-perfection, and quite emotional. And I don't think she was ever more gorgeous than she is singing "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man." Whoosh.
Here are videos with Ava's own vocals: Bill and Can't Help Lovin' That Man. I think she sounds pretty good. :)
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Re: Showboat 1936-1951, which is best.

Post by Vienna »

It's been a while since this thread was active but I would just like to say how much I have enjoyed reading all the comments about SHOW BOAT which is probably my favorite musical on stage and in film.
Because I love the history of the show and its Broadway origins, my favorite version is definitely the 1936, for several reasons. So many wonderful Broadway shows are gone forever, but with the 30s Show Boat, we probably came as close as we ever could to seeing how it might have looked on stage. It was made only four years after Florenz Ziegfeld had revived it on Broadway in 1932 ,and it had so many performers who had performed it on stage - Helen Morgan, Paul Robeson, Irene Dunne, Charles Winninger, Sammy White.
It's interesting that Edna Mae Oliver was the original Parthy ,and although Helen Westley was fine in the film, I wonder why Edna didn't recreate her role .
I loved Hattie McDaniel as Queenie and am glad she was cast in the film.
I've always liked Allan Jones and he did well as Gaylord.
So many great songs were written for Show Boat and different stage and film versions used different songs. Kern and Hammerstein wrote extra songs for later stage versions. I don't know why 'Life Upon the Wicked Stage ' wasn't staged in James Whale's film.
Another beautiful song, Till Good Luck comes my Way" wasn't staged in either film version.
The 1951 film did use "I Might Fall Back on You".
Although I wish Irene Dunne hadn't done the specially written "Gallivanting' Around" in black face, it is a catchy number.
"I have the Room Above Her" ,sung by Allan Jones , was written for the 1936 film and is lovely.
And how wonderful that Kern and Hammerstein wrote "Ah Still Suits Me" for Paul Robeson and Hattie McDaniel.
I could go on but better stop!
RedRiver
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Re: Showboat 1936-1951, which is best.

Post by RedRiver »

Vienna, if you find this piece of Americana fascinating, I recommend Edna Ferber's fine novel. As for the movies, I like the Whale film.
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Lucky Vassall
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Re: Showboat 1936-1951, which is best.

Post by Lucky Vassall »

Continuing my Whaling with Jimmy, after The Invisible Man and Bride of Frankenstein, I watched the DVD of his Show Boat, then the included commentary, and for comparison, MGM’s color version.

Afterwards, in looking for a place to publish my thoughts, I discovered this thread and greatly enjoyed reading the various comments. I recommend it to anyone who’s interested in the subject but hasn’t read through it yet. In fact, I think doing a search on any subject that interests you and then reading all the comments is a wonderful way for newer members to catch up.

Now to throw in my thoughts (written before I found the thread, so there’s some duplication):

Certainly, MGM did a good job, even smoothing out some of Ferber’s “unfilmable” storyline, and they brought back my favorite song from the Broadway show: “Life Upon the Wicked Stage.” (Whale’s version just uses it as exit-music when the audience is leaving the boat.) However, they didn’t have the “original” cast, including Helen Morgan and Paul Robeson. (Actually, I learned from the commentary, Joe was written for Robeson, but he was unavailable for the original Broadway opening. He did get to appear in the London version and played Broadway in the revival.) In fact, every member of the cast had appeared on stage, most in the original production—Charles Winninger, who created the role of Captain Andy, was the biggest name in the cast at the time.

So we can thank Universal for saving these performances for posterity, and it gets my vote for “best.” Comments from the others, I note, seem to run about 4 to 1 in favor of the 36 film, but like me, most found something to cherish in each of the versions.

Other facts I learned from the commentary include some surprises about the two biggest classics from the show: “Old Man River” was written simply because they needed “a good loud song” at the end of the first scene in order to cover a noisy set change. Even stranger, “Bill” was originally written by Jerome Kern and P. G. Wodehouse (not Hammerstein), for a much earlier show, but dropped in try-outs. They tried to fit it into two other shows, but didn’t succeed. Then, when they needed a torchsong for Helen Morgan, Kern dug it out of his trunk! And, as they say, the rest is history!

I don’t believe there are two better performances of two great classics than Robeson’s “Old Man River” and Morgan’s “Bill.” You really believe every word they’re singing comes from their own lives, and that’s pretty rare in any musical! How unusual that both classic numbers should be in the same show.

One more fact from the commentary: Both film versions intentionally got one thing wrong— showboats were NOT paddlewheels. They were build on flatbeds and had to be towed from town to town. (Not very scenic for film.) Actually, if they had been steamboats, the engines would have to have been located right in the center of the audience section of the theater, sightlines be damned!

I feel I must add a comment regarding the blackface number. Sad to say, it was historically accurate to the period shown in the film (as were the Southern anti-miscegenation laws) and was probably accepted unnoted by the audience of the 30's. I remember a homage to Bert Williams by Ben Vereen in a Boston Pops concert. He started by sitting at a makeup table and applying blackface as he explained that in those days even African-American performers had to apply blackface. Telling indeed! If you really want to see something terribly objectionable (by today’s standards), watch the film SingYou Sinners (1938) for Hoagy Carmichael’s “Small Fy,” with Bing Crosby (as Pappy), Fred MacMurray (as Mammy), and Donald O’Connor (as Small Fry). The rest of the film is truly enjoyable; outstanding early performances by Bing, Fred, Elizabeth Patterson as their mother, and Donald’s breakthrough performance. Still, times have certainly changed. For the Better!

Already too long (So what else is new?), but I have to mention a coincidence, common in life but we’d never accept in a movie: The day after I finished this, I picked up a “Bay Area Reporter” and found an article which, in part, compared the two Show Boat versions. Some duplication of our comments, but the author also found some added insights, including cogent comments on the racism angle. For any who might be interested, I’m posting the pertinent part of the article in the HOT OFF PRESS! section.
[size=85]AVATAR: Billy DeWolfe as Mrs. Murgatroid, “Blue Skies” (1946)

[b]“My ancestors came over on the Mayflower.”
“You’re lucky. Now they have immigration laws."[/b]
[i]Mae West, The Heat’s On” (1943[/i])

[b]:–)—[/b]
Pinoc-U-no(se)[/size]
RedRiver
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Re: Showboat 1936-1951, which is best.

Post by RedRiver »

I prefer Whale's film, though neither is a great favorite. I heard Mrs. Oscar Hammerstein was at a party, and somebody said Jerome Kern wrote "Ol' Man River." Mrs. H said, "No. My husband wrote 'Ol' Man River'. Jerome Kern wrote DUM-DUM-DUM-DUM!"
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Fossy
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Re: Showboat 1936-1951, which is best.

Post by Fossy »

I have three versions of Showboat in my collection. To decide which is the best version between the 1936 and 1951 versions is difficult. Kathryn Grayson and Howard Keel`s “Only Make Believe” is just great. Ava Gardner`s “Bill” and “Can`t Help Lovin` Dat Man” were just great. In the movie her voice was dubbed by Annette Warren, but an album of the movie songs was later released with the voice of Ava Gardner.

I believe that Irene Dunne performed Showboat on stage for two years before moving to Hollywood. As a singer Irene was probably overshadowed by Jeanette MacDonald, although Irene did sing in 18 of her 42 movies.
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