Show Boat (1951) starring Howard Keel, Kathryn Grayson, Ava Gardner
Product description of Show Boat
One of the greatest Broadway musicals comes to the screen in this tale of music, racial bigotry and enduring love as outsized as the American heartland set aboard a Mississippi River Show Boat. Magnolia Brown has grown up onboard a sailing theater, plying the river from town to town to entertain people, and she has always dreamed of a life on stage. When the star’s, Julie LaVerne part African American ancestry is revealed and she is forced to leave, Magnolia steps in to take Julie’s place on stage.
Magnolia soon falls in love with her leading man, the handsome gambler and rogue, Gaylord Ravenal (Howard Keel—Kiss Me Kate, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers), and the two marry, have a daughter and live happily–for a while. But Ravenal’s gambling debts force Magnolia to find a job, and Julie LaVerne again leaves her starring role–this time voluntarily–to give Magnolia the break she needs, an opportunity that leads to stardom.
Cast of characters
- Kathryn Grayson (Lovely to Look At) … Magnolia Hawks. Cap’n Andy’s beautiful young daughter. She can both sing and act, but she’s very shy. Until, in a very sweet moment, her inebriated father encourages her on stage.
- Ava Gardner (Swing Fever) … Julie LaVerne. The beautiful actress and singer. She loves her husband with all of her heart. And once he’s gone, she’s broken beyond repair. A truly wonderful performance. When Pete’s blackmail forces them to leave …
- Howard Keel (Texas Carnival) … Gaylord Ravenal. A gambler, who’s able to act. He falls in love with Magnolia at first sight. But, he can’t give up his gambling addiction.
- Joe E. Brown (Elmer the Great) … Cap’n Andy Hawks
- Marge Champion (Lovely to Look At) … Ellie May Shipley
- Gower Champion (Til the Clouds Roll By) … Frank Schultz
- Robert Sterling (Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea) … Steven Baker. The ship’s leading man. He’s truly, deeply in love with Julie.
- Agnes Moorehead (The Big Street) … Parthy Hawks. Cap’n Andy’s wife. She doesn’t show it easily, but she truly & deeply loves him.
- Leif Erickson (Strait-Jacket) … Pete. The boat’s engineer who has been making passes at Steve’s wife. And tries to ruins her life after being rejected.
- William Warfield … Joe
- Cotton Blossom (1927). Music by Jerome Kern, Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II.
- Where’s the Mate For Me?(1927) .Music by Jerome Kern, Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. Sung by Howard Kee.
- Make Believe (1927). Music by Jerome Kern. Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. Sung by Howard Keel and Kathryn Grayson.
- Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man (1927) . Music by Jerome Kern. Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. Sung by Ava Gardner (dubbed by Annette Warren) and reprised by Annette Warren and Kathryn Grayson.
- I Might Fall Back on You (1927). Music by Jerome Kern. Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. Sung & Danced by Marge Champion & Gower Champion.
- Ol’ Man River (1927). Music by Jerome Kern. Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. Sung by William Warfield and off-screen chorus.
- You Are Love (1927) Music by Jerome Kern. Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. Sung by Kathryn Grayson & Howard Keel
- Why Do I Love You? (1927) Music by Jerome Kern. Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. Sung by Kathryn Grayson & Howard Keel
- Bill (1927) Music by Jerome Kern, Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II and P.G. Wodehouse. Sung by Ava Gardner (dubbed by Annette Warren)
- Life Upon the Wicked Stage (1927). Music by Jerome Kern. Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. Sung and Danced by Marge Champion and Gower Champion
- After the Ball (1892) Written by Charles Harris. Sung by Kathryn Grayson and Trocadero audience
- Auld Lang Syne (1788) Traditional Scottish 17th century music. Lyrics by Robert Burns. Sung by the New Year’s Eve crowd
Editorial review of Show Boat courtesy of Amazon.com
The show that first defined the Broadway musical has never come to the screen intact, despite three tries. But take this splashy 1951 MGM extravaganza on its own terms, and it boggles the eyes. Not to mention the ears: The Kern-Hammerstein score includes some staples of the American songbook, such as “Make Believe,” “After the Ball,” and “Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man.” Perhaps a riverboat gambler is almost too-easy casting for Howard Keel, and Kathryn Grayson is overly twittery, which may be why the film’s middle sags when they take center stage.
But any time the uncannily beautiful Ava Gardner smolders, a lush tragic undertone takes over (even if the most interesting parts of her story seem to take place offscreen). The physical production is extraordinary: the busy riverside setting, the outrageous color design, and best of all an “Old Man River” (sung by William Warfield) staged in the mists of morning. — Robert Horton