James Whale

Show Boat

Show Boat

Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II’s immortal musical adaptation of Edna Ferber’s sprawling novel receives its most faithful and enduring cinematic treatment under the elegant direction of James Whale. A rich portrait of changing American entertainment traditions and race relations, Show Boat spans five decades and three generations as it follows the fortunes of the stagestruck Magnolia (Irene Dunne), an aspiring actor whose journey takes her from her family’s humble floating playhouse in the 1880s South to the bright footlights of the 1930s North. The cast of show-business legends includes Helen Morgan, Hattie McDaniel, Charles Winninger, and the great Paul Robeson, whose iconic, soul-shaking rendition of “Ol’ Man River” is one of the crowning glories of the American stage and screen.

Film Info

  • James Whale
  • United States
  • 1936
  • 113 minutes
  • Black & White
  • 1.37:1
  • English
  • Spine #1021

Special Features

  • New, restored 4K digital transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Audio commentary from 1989 featuring American-musical historian Miles Kreuger
  • New interview with James Whale biographer James Curtis
  • Recognizing Race in “Show Boat,” a new interview program featuring professor and author Shana L. Redmond
  • Paul Robeson: Tribute to an Artist (1979), an Academy Award–winning short documentary by Saul J. Turell, newly restored
  • Four performances from the sound prologue of the 1929 film version of Show Boat, including songs from original Broadway cast members Helen Morgan, Jules Bledsoe, and Tess Gardella, plus twenty minutes of silent excerpts from the film, with audio commentary by Kreuger
  • Two radio adaptations of Show Boat, featuring stage and screen cast members Morgan, Allan Jones, and Charles Winninger; producer Orson Welles; and novelist Edna Ferber 
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • PLUS: An essay by critic Gary Giddins

New cover design by Raphael Geroni

Purchase Options

Special Features

  • New, restored 4K digital transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Audio commentary from 1989 featuring American-musical historian Miles Kreuger
  • New interview with James Whale biographer James Curtis
  • Recognizing Race in “Show Boat,” a new interview program featuring professor and author Shana L. Redmond
  • Paul Robeson: Tribute to an Artist (1979), an Academy Award–winning short documentary by Saul J. Turell, newly restored
  • Four performances from the sound prologue of the 1929 film version of Show Boat, including songs from original Broadway cast members Helen Morgan, Jules Bledsoe, and Tess Gardella, plus twenty minutes of silent excerpts from the film, with audio commentary by Kreuger
  • Two radio adaptations of Show Boat, featuring stage and screen cast members Morgan, Allan Jones, and Charles Winninger; producer Orson Welles; and novelist Edna Ferber 
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • PLUS: An essay by critic Gary Giddins

New cover design by Raphael Geroni

Show Boat
Cast
Irene Dunne
Magnolia
Allan Jones
Gaylord Ravenal
Charles Winninger
Cap’n Andy Hawks
Paul Robeson
Joe
Helen Morgan
Julie
Helen Westley
Parthy Ann Hawks
Queenie Smith
Elly
Sammy White
Frank
Donald Cook
Steve
Hattie McDaniel
Queenie
Francis X. Mahoney
Rubber Face
Mariyln Knowlden
Kim (as a child)
Sunnie O’Dea
Kim (at sixteen)
Arthur Hohl
Pete
Charles Middleton
Vallon
J. Farrell MacDonald
Windy
Clarence Muse
Sam, the janitor
Charles C. Wilson
Jim Green
Harry Barris
Jake, the pianist
Stanley Fields
Backwoodsman
Stanley J. Sandford
Zebe
May Beatty
Landlady
J. Gunnis Davis
Doctor
Credits
Director
James Whale
Producer
Carl Laemmle Jr.
Based on the novel by
Edna Ferber
Stage play, screenplay, lyrics
Oscar Hammerstein II
Music
Jerome Kern
Cinematographer
John J. Mescall
Special cinematographer
John P. Fulton
Art director
Charles D. Hall
Musical director
Victor Baravalle
Costumes
Doris Zinkeisen
Choreography
LeRoy Prinz
Editor
Ted J. Kent
Editor
Bernard W. Burton
Musical arrangements
Robert Russell Bennett
Choral arrangements
Will Vodery

From The Current

Show Boat: Rollin’ on the River
Show Boat: Rollin’ on the River

A landmark stage musical receives its greatest cinematic treatment in this beautifully mounted saga that reflects the changing state of race relations across three generations.

By Gary Giddins