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Show Boat

Screening on Film
Directed by James Whale.
With Irene Dunne, Allan Jones, Helen Morgan.
US, 1936, 35mm, black & white, 112 min.
Print source: HFA

Paul Robeson and Helen Morgan reprise their Broadway roles with wonderful effect in director James Whale’s cinematic take on the much-loved Kern-Hammerstein musical—the second, and best, of the three film versions of this sentimental favorite. The cast’s performances are enhanced by handsome sets and the lustrous camera-work of John Mescall. Robeson’s voice is at its peak, the young Dunne is delightful in her cakewalk sequence, and the screen seems to come to life with every appearance of Morgan. Director Whale, better known for reviving the horror genre with his Frankenstein (1931) managed to breathe new life into the musical comedy form as well in this melodramatic tale of two contrasting love affairs on a Mississippi riverboat.

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