Friday, September 18, 2009

Show Boat (1936)

James Whale directs this version of "Show Boat" from Universal Pictures.  I really wanted to see this film because James Whale is one of my favorite directors of all time.

Irene Dunne plays the daughter of a Show Boat captain.  She wants to be the star of the show and when the female lead is forced to leave for being half black, she takes the lead role.  A new male lead is hired as well and they soon fall in love.  After a successful tour, the couple leaves the boat to start a life together.  After having a child and realizing that he can't afford a family, Dunne's husband, played by Alan Jones, takes off.  Dunne is then left alone and forced to find a job herself.  She gets hired for a new stage show and she is a success.  She becomes a world famous entertainer and after retiring, her daughter takes her place.  Jones gets a job working as the door man of the theater where his daughter sings.  At the end of the film, the family is reunited.  

I was actually a little disappointed with "Show Boat".  The only scene I had viewed before was the "Old Man River" scene with Paul Robeson.  I love that scene.  The song is wonderful and a great montage is shown.  I thought that the film was going to be about slavery and race issues.  There were subplots that dealt with this, but the main story did not.  I would have preferred the slavery issues to the love story.  The slave characters are much more interesting.

James Whale does do a good job directing the film, but I felt that it was also rushed.  The songs just seem to come and go way too fast.  There is no build up to a song.  But the way the film is shot and the way the actors are directed is excellent.

All of the acting was great and Irene Dunne was spectacular.  She begins the film as a youthful teenager and by the end, she is in her 50s.  She was very convincing playing both stages of life.

Overall, "Show Boat" was good, but it was not the great classic I thought it was going to be.  This was James Whale's favorite film in which he directed, but I still gotta stick with "Bride of Frankenstein."

B  I recommend it.

By the way, Irene Dunne's father is Barney Kurtz of "Mertz and Kurtz" from "I Love Lucy."

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