What's new

Jack P

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Apr 15, 2006
Messages
4,963
The 1936 version is "definitive" in the sense that it's closer to the integrity of the stage production. The 1951 version, despite MGM production values (and I like Ava Gardner's performance), tends to be disowned by those who have enjoyed the many stage versions of the show over the years. It isn't so much the "happy ending" as the fact that in their desire to shorten the sweep of the storyline, the character of Magnolia is altered completely from what she represents as someone who determinedly makes it on her own after being abandoned, but instead the 1951 version has her returning home and *not* making a big success of herself.

And the 1951 version really dropped the ball in casting Joe E. Brown as Captain Andy and not keeping the scene of Andy being forced to act out all scenes of the melodrama, because that would have been absolutely perfect for him.
 

RichMurphy

Supporting Actor
Joined
Jun 15, 2005
Messages
576
Location
Alexandria, VA
Real Name
Rich
While I think the earlier James Whale version is far superior, I am looking forward to adding this new Blu-Ray release to my collection. I am interested to see what the wizards at Warner Bros Motion Picture Imaging can do to improve the imagery of the 1951 version. Also, on my DVD I couldn't understand what the chorus was singing in the opening number until I activated the closed captioning, so I am curious if the stereo soundtrack improves intelligibility.
 
  • Like
Reactions: PMF

PMF

Senior HTF Member
Joined
May 6, 2015
Messages
4,907
Real Name
Philip
[...]
I am interested to see what the wizards at Warner Bros Motion Picture Imaging can do to improve the imagery of the 1951 version.
[...]
With Showboat, DP Charles Rosher was nominated for Best Cinematography; who had previously won for The Yearling and Sunrise. So this, alone, makes Showboat a Must Own for my interests. It’s WAC. And that, too, is why this announcement holds the promise of being visually wonderful.:thumbs-up-smiley:
 
Last edited:

lark144

Premium
Joined
Feb 22, 2012
Messages
1,303
Real Name
mark gross
In other words, you should watch the 1936 version for the story, the characters, the amazing performances, the human drama, the music, and the magnificent direction of James Whale. If you've never seen any versions of "Showboat", either on the stage or screen, and are curious to know what makes it worth seeing, the 1936 version is the place to start.

You should watch the 1951 version for the Technicolor, the MGM gloss and Ava Gardner, who has never been more beautiful, though it helps if you're already familiar with the story, as there's a bunch of stuff missing, and also some big casting flaws, which changes the character of the musical, and takes away from much of the emotional resonance the first version has, though the 1951 version is still entertaining, in a big budget Hollywood kind of way.
 

Matt Hough

Reviewer
Senior HTF Member
Joined
Apr 24, 2006
Messages
22,884
Location
Charlotte, NC
Real Name
Matt Hough
And the 1951 version really dropped the ball in casting Joe E. Brown as Captain Andy and not keeping the scene of Andy being forced to act out all scenes of the melodrama, because that would have been absolutely perfect for him.
Funny you should mention that. Joe E. Brown came through Charlotte in the early 1960s in a straw hat production of SHOW BOAT, and even a decade older than he was in the MGM film, his throw-down enactment you're referring to absolutely stopped the show. I've never forgotten it.
 

RetroGuy

Stunt Coordinator
Joined
Feb 21, 2012
Messages
80
Real Name
David Edwards
I first saw "Show Boat" when I was in college and saw an ad for a free screening at the Seattle Center. I went there expecting to see the 1951 version, as that was the only version I was aware existed after having seen clips of it in "That's Entertainment!" The screening was set up in the Food Circus - a big, noisy food court where all kinds of people milled about between carnival rides at the midway. Some folding chairs had been set up in the middle of the food court with the screen suspended from the ceiling - definitely not an ideal location for watching a movie. Once the film started and the opening credits began to roll, my heart sank as the B&W images of the 1936 Universal production flashed on the screen. At first I thought they must be playing the wrong movie, as I knew "Show Boat" was a big, splashy, Technicolor musical from MGM. But as the credits continued, I realized that this was, in fact, "Show Boat" - just a much earlier production that I had never heard about. I almost got up to leave, as my heart was set on seeing the MGM production and I knew the noise in the building was going to make this a very difficult viewing experience. I'm so glad I stayed, as I was quickly entranced by the story and the performances. I left that evening completely moved by what I had just seen.

It was many years later before I saw the 1951 version. Though there are some wonderful moments in MGM's version, for me it doesn't possess the heart and the emotional impact of Universal's 1936 production.

Whenever I want to watch "Show Boat" or when I show the movie to anyone who's never seen any production of it, it's the 1936 version that I pull out. When I do watch the 1951 version, it's mainly just to watch some of the musical numbers. That said, I am very exited to revisit the 1951 production as soon as Warner Archive's Blu-ray comes out.
 

bujaki

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Jan 1, 2012
Messages
5,357
Location
Richardson, TX
Real Name
Jose Ortiz-Marrero
December 27, 1977. The 50th anniversary of the premiere of Show Boat in Broadway. MoMA commemorated the day by showing all 3 film versions of the landmark musical, hosted by Miles Krueger. Watching all 3 films in quick succession (with breaks, of course) proved to me that the least of the 3 versions was the last. It does have its virtues, paramount among them is Ava (AVA), but it even gets the show boat wrong. And the color, forgive me, is garish beyond belief. Grayson is shrill...I could go on.
Bottom line:
I'll BE BUYING THIS RELEASE AS WELL! BECAUSE I LOVE THE MUSICAL AND I WANT TO OWN ALL VERSIONS OF IT, INCLUDING THE SILENT VERSION!
 

lark144

Premium
Joined
Feb 22, 2012
Messages
1,303
Real Name
mark gross
December 27, 1977. The 50th anniversary of the premiere of Show Boat in Broadway. MoMA commemorated the day by showing all 3 film versions of the landmark musical, hosted by Miles Krueger. Watching all 3 films in quick succession (with breaks, of course) proved to me that the least of the 3 versions was the last. It does have its virtues, paramount among them is Ava (AVA), but it even gets the show boat wrong. And the color, forgive me, is garish beyond belief. Grayson is shrill...I could go on.
Bottom line:
I'll BE BUYING THIS RELEASE AS WELL! BECAUSE I LOVE THE MUSICAL AND I WANT TO OWN ALL VERSIONS OF IT, INCLUDING THE SILENT VERSION!
Jose, I was also there; though I had seen the 1936 version previously, in one of Bill Everson's classes at NYU. Watching the 1936 version for the first time was mind expanding, like discovering the world is round and not flat. It changed my attitudes about what could be done with film as well as music. It's not just that "Showboat" is Whale's most expressive and creative film, helming a crackerjack and no holds barred production that gleams and shimmers and impresses with its mammoth, as well intimate scale. It also epitomizes and expands through editing and camerawork and general cinematic invention what was innovative and influential in the original musical, all of that originality and innovation, as well as a focus on the minutiae of people's lives and hopes and sorrows, being excised from the MGM version, turning it into another gloriously Technicolored, "gotta sing, gotta dance" spectacular.
 
Last edited:

lark144

Premium
Joined
Feb 22, 2012
Messages
1,303
Real Name
mark gross
Yes, that's true about the design of the boat being wrong. They depict the Show Boat as a steamboat with its own engines when all "Showboats" were powerless vessels towed or pushed by another vessel.
I can just imagine Louis B. Mayer saying, "Why spend money on an extra boat when we've already got a boat?"
 

bujaki

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Jan 1, 2012
Messages
5,357
Location
Richardson, TX
Real Name
Jose Ortiz-Marrero
Jose, I was also there; though I had seen the 1936 version previously, in one of Bill Everson's classes at NYU. Watching the 1936 version for the first time was mind expanding, like discovering the world is round and not flat. It changed my attitudes about what could be done with film as well as music. It's not just that "Showboat" is Whale's most expressive and creative film, helming a crackerjack and no holds barred production that gleams and shimmers and impresses with its mammoth, as well intimate scale. It also epitomizes and expands through editing and camerawork and general cinematic invention what was innovative and influential in the original musical, all of that originality and innovation, as well as a focus on the minutiae of people's lives and hopes and sorrows, being excised from the MGM version, turning it into another gloriously Technicolored, "gotta sing, gotta dance" spectacular.
I first saw the Whale version at Theatre 80 St. Mark's and subsequently at Bill Everson's James Whale class, which he gave me permission to audit gratis. Did you take that class? I was there every week, so between Bill's prints of Whale's films and those shown during the Universal cycle; and "Hello, Out There," shown by Marty Rubin, I was able to see Whale's complete output. A rare feat to accomplish nowadays!
 

Robin9

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Dec 13, 2006
Messages
5,826
Real Name
Robin
With Showboat, DP Charles Rosher was nominated for Best Cinematography; who had previously won for The Yearling and Sunrise. So this, alone, makes Showboat a Must Own for my interests. It’s WAC. And that, too, is why this announcement holds the promise of being visually wonderful.:thumbs-up-smiley:
I need to double check to be sure but, going from memory, I believe the partnership of George Sidney and Charles Rosher was one of the great unrecognized teams in movie history.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: PMF

PMF

Senior HTF Member
Joined
May 6, 2015
Messages
4,907
Real Name
Philip
I need to double check to be sure but, going from memory, I believe the partnership of George Sydney and Charles Rosher was one of the great unrecognized teams in movie history.
IMDB cites 8 collaborations, but I could only locate 7:

The Red Danube (1949)
Annie Get Your Gun (1950)
Scaramouche (1952)
Showboat (1951)
Young Bess (1953)
Kiss Me Kate (1953)
Jupiter’s Darling (1955)
 
Last edited:

lark144

Premium
Joined
Feb 22, 2012
Messages
1,303
Real Name
mark gross
I first saw the Whale version at Theatre 80 St. Mark's and subsequently at Bill Everson's James Whale class, which he gave me permission to audit gratis. Did you take that class? I was there every week, so between Bill's prints of Whale's films and those shown during the Universal cycle; and "Hello, Out There," shown by Marty Rubin, I was able to see Whale's complete output. A rare feat to accomplish nowadays!
It might have been; though I don't recall taking that class. Like you, I might have been sitting in. This was in the early 70's, when Bill was showing films at the Bleecker Street Cinema. He screened a lot of Whale in his classes, as well as what to me were then obscure UK films like "Gaslight", "The Spy in Black" & "Night Train to Munich." I also saw "Hello Out There" at the Cultural Center, as well as "Waterloo Bridge", "The Old Dark House" &"The Kiss Before the Mirror" at MOMA.
 

bujaki

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Jan 1, 2012
Messages
5,357
Location
Richardson, TX
Real Name
Jose Ortiz-Marrero
The definitive Show Boat? I'm afraid you'll have to look beyond the movies to EMI's 1988 studio cast recording.
That is correct, and it runs very long and it is every-minute-magnificent, and it can't ever, ever be staged as is. Unfortunately. Starting with the very historically correct N word. Inappropriate today.
 

RichMurphy

Supporting Actor
Joined
Jun 15, 2005
Messages
576
Location
Alexandria, VA
Real Name
Rich
The definitive Show Boat? I'm afraid you'll have to look beyond the movies to EMI's 1988 studio cast recording.
I agree that the recording is an awesome achievement, but McGlinn really came across as an ass in the liner notes, especially his contention that the three songs Kern and Hammerstein wrote for the 1936 film "have absolutely no place in a staged production" (McGlinn's italics) with no explanation why. "Ah Still Suits Me" helps flesh out the characters of Queenie and Joe, and "I Have the Room Above Her" is a song that helps develop the blossoming love between Magnolia and Gaylord - oh, and it just happens to be jaw-droppingly beautiful.

As I mention in the Criterion release thread, "Ah Still Suits Me" also contains one of my all-time favorite Hammerstein lyrics, as Paul Robeson complains about his wife Hattie McDaniel nagging him:

"I may be no good, no good for your good. I may be lifeless, but with one wife less, my life would be more strife-less, yesiree. No matter what you say, ah still suits me"
 

Users who are viewing this thread

Forum Sponsors

Similar Threads

Latest Articles

Forum statistics

Threads
346,480
Messages
4,780,208
Members
141,820
Latest member
Rabidcatfan
Top