Steamboat Round the Bend

Screening on Film
Directed by John Ford.
With Will Rogers, Anne Shirley, Eugene Pallette.
US, 1935, 35mm, black & white, 80 min.
Print source: 20th Century Fox

A delightfully lighthearted yet insightful tour of the Deep South led by the comic Will Rogers – at the time one of the most popular actors in America – as an artful elixir peddler turned Mississippi river boatman. One of Ford’s few successful comedies, Steamboat Round the Bend is enlivened by Rogers’ inimitable homespun humor as well as by the film’s frequently outlandish plot twists - including a thrilling boat race - and strange, at times almost surrealist, imagery. Bolstered by a wonderful cast of character actors (although contemporary audiences cannot help but wince at Stepin Fetchit’s notoriously dimwitted manservant), including Anna Lee and Eugene Pallette, The Steamboat Round the Bend wonderfully captures Rogers’ cracker-barrel political innuendo and Ford’s affection for the American landscape and vernacular. The film would be Rogers’ last, finished just weeks before his tragically premature death in a plane crash.

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