Jerome Kern’s Show Boat (1951) was an immortal gift to the Broadway stage. An instant hit upon its initial debut, the movies just couldn't wait to capitalize on that success – and didn’t. Universal produced a lavishly mounted version in 1936 starring Allen Jones and Irene Dunne. But today, its this Technicolor MGM remake that everyone seems to remember best.
The plot concerns a tragic mulatto, Julie Lavern (Ava Gardner) – who passes for white until her secret is exposed by river rat, Pete (Leif Erikson). On board the Cotton Blossom, Julie develops a mentor relationship with Captain Andy’s (Joe E. Brown) only child, the precocious and inexperienced, Magnolia Hawkes (Kathryn Grayson). Magnolia becomes smitten with gambling scallywag, Gaylord Ravenal (Howard Keel), the man who will both steal and break her heart.
This reincarnation of Kern’s show removes the racial undertones of the original and focuses more on the doomed romantic elements between baritone and soprano with elegant schmaltz. Director George Sidney also felt it necessary to interject ‘After the Ball’, a song standard from the 1900s - not written by Kern into the proceedings. Despite these artistic liberties, the results a la MGM's sterling production values are astoundingly beautiful. Dancers Marge (Ellie) and Gower Champion (Frank) perform a stunning buck n’ wing. Stalwart Agnes Moorehead (Pathena Hawkes) rounds out the cast.
Warner Home Video’s DVD transfer is a direct import of the previously issued MGM DVD release. The image is clean, bright and with bold colors – but it has not been progressively processed. Age related artifacts are kept to a bare minimum. Contrast levels are nicely realized. Fine detail is present throughout. The audio is mono but adequately presented. There are NO extras.
FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)