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Showboat 1936-1951, which is best.

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stuart.uk
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Showboat 1936-1951, which is best.

Postby stuart.uk » May 22nd, 2008, 10:23 am

it's a while since i've seen the 1936 version with Allan Jones and Irene Dunne, but i think i would still prefer the Howard Keel/Katharine Grayson movie of 1951.

the main reason for this is when Jones' Gaylord starts to lose money he carries on until he lands and stays in the gutter. then about 20-yrs later he gets a job on the box office where his daughter is performing. what i think is better in the later film was that it only lasted a 3-yr-period with Keel's Gaylord finding his winning streak after finding himself broke. it left still enough time for him, Krayson's Nolie and his daughter Kim to reunite as a proper family. in the earlier film though reunited, to much time as passed, Irene Dunne's Nolie is rich, famous, retired and it's hardly unlikey she and Gaylord could be a normal married couple again.

my favourite two scenes in the 51 movie come right at the end. the tearjearking Make Believe number when Gay meets Kim for the first time and his embrace with Nolie at the end. 'Happy New Year'

i imagine that the presence of Paul Roebson and Hattie MacDaniel would give the earlier film an edge, but the remake had the stunning Ava Gardner as Julie (an utter disgrace her lovely singing voice was dubbed for the picture). to be fair though as great as Ava was as Julie, Lena Horne, who partially played the role in Zeigfield Follies, would have been a more credible girl of mixed race, but though Julie was illegally married to a white man, the studio weren't prepared to actually have a mixed race actress in the role.

Natalie Wood in Kings Go Forth is another example. she was great in the role of a half negro involved with bigoted Tony Curtis and reformed bigot Frank Sinatra, but would a mixed race actress have been more realistic

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Postby MikeBSG » May 22nd, 2008, 3:55 pm

I haven't seen the 1951 version, but I have seen and like the 1936 version a lot, although it's been about 20 years since I've seen it.

I remember I really liked the scene toward the end of the movie in which Captain andy (Charles Winninger) finds Magnolia again and while her act is bombing, the Captain starts singing and wins the audience over to Magnolia. Very touching scene.

drednm

Postby drednm » May 22nd, 2008, 4:12 pm

The Irene Dunne version in 1936 is by far my favorite version (directed by James Whale of all people) and seems closest to the stage version I saw in Denver in the 90s.

The color version is far too sanitized....

jdb1

Postby jdb1 » May 23rd, 2008, 8:25 am

MikeBSG wrote:I haven't seen the 1951 version, but I have seen and like the 1936 version a lot, although it's been about 20 years since I've seen it.

I remember I really liked the scene toward the end of the movie in which Captain andy (Charles Winninger) finds Magnolia again and while her act is bombing, the Captain starts singing and wins the audience over to Magnolia. Very touching scene.


Yes, it is a lovely scene, but I think Joe E. Brown does it better in the 50s version. I am always struck by his sensitive and subdued performance as Cap'n Andy. I do not like Agnes Moorehead as Parthy in that version, though -- she was always the same, no matter what role she played; sometimes it was appropriate, sometimes not. I loathe Kathryn Grayson, so as far as I'm concerned, she can't do anything right, and although I'm not a big Dunne fan, I like Dunne's Magnolia better. Grayson was far less objectionable in the brief scenes from Showboat done at the beginning of the Jerome Kern bio movie Til the Clouds Roll By (when Grayson was much younger and hadn't yet developed all those inappropriate diva mannerisms). In the Kern movie, Virginia O'Brien is very cute as Ellie Mae doing "Life Upon the Wicked Stage."

I do think Ava Gardner was much better, dramatically, than Helen Morgan, but then, it's not the Miss Julie Show; it's the Magnolia and Gaylord Show; I think Gardner's part was unnecessarily built up.

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Postby stuart.uk » May 23rd, 2008, 9:31 am

i think Irene Dunne is a far better actress and all round entertainer than Katharine Grayson, who was merley a great soprano who could act a bit.

however, Howard Keel was a great all round entertainer, better than Allan Jones. i was just thinking though it was only a soap that his Clayton Farlow in Dallas, all but revived his then flagging musical career, which saw him become a top concert entertainer in his later yrs.

in one of his last interviews Keel said he was singer above all else, but IMO his acting abilty should not be ignored

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Postby charliechaplinfan » May 23rd, 2008, 2:11 pm

I've only ever seen the 1951 version. I liked it but I've heard much better thingd said about the 1936 version. I agree with Stuart, Irene Dunne is a better actress than Kathryn Grayson. I'd like to see it just to watch Irene Dunne.
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin

drednm

Postby drednm » May 23rd, 2008, 3:16 pm

The 1936 version is briskly paced and Irene Dunne is just wonderful. This version also boasts Helen Morgan as Julie singing "My Bill: as well as Paul Robeson singing "Old Man River" and Robeson teaming with Hattie McDaniel on "I Just Suits Me." Just about perfection!

Allan Jones is not a favorite but he sings well and teams nicely with Dunne on "Only Make Believe," "You Are Love," and "I Have the Room Above Her."

I think there are more songs in this version than the 50s version, including fuller roles for the black couple played by Robeson and McDaniel.

The cast also includes Charles Winninger, Helen Westley, Sammy White, and Queenie Smith.

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Postby charliechaplinfan » May 23rd, 2008, 4:49 pm

You've sold it to me :D Especially Paul Robeson.
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin

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Postby mrsl » May 23rd, 2008, 7:30 pm

I saw the Irene Dunne version last time it was on and although Robeson and McDaniel are more than noteworthy, the 1951 is 100 times better. This had to be Irene Dunne's worst ever attempt at a musical and her simpering, wimpering ways just never change. Also the 1951 cast includes the Champions who cannot be beaten as well as Howard Keel in really fine voice. Kathryn Grayson was a trained Soprano giving the songs the proper inflections and resonance as opposed to Dunne's warbling. I would so much have preferred seeing a Jeanette MacDonald in the part, but that's just me.

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Moraldo Rubini
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Postby Moraldo Rubini » May 24th, 2008, 1:55 am

For some years now we've been hearing about the promised DVD release that features all three versions of the Jerome Kern musical. Where is it? Where's George Feltenstein when we need him? :wink:

I've only recently caught most of the 1936 version was really charmed by it. William Warfield and Paul Robeson are both great. It was wonderful to see Hattie McDaniel working her musical muscles in 1936 and Irene Dunne was charming and poignant. I'm so sorry that Lena Horne wasn't given her chance in 1951. I'll hold off on a final decision once I've seen them both again within a a close range of time.

Where's that DVD set?

drednm

Postby drednm » May 25th, 2008, 1:47 pm

in the 1936 version with Robeson singing "Old Man River" and Morgan singing "My Bill," it's impossible not to have chills run up your back. These were two of the great singers singing their signature songs. It just doesn't get any better.

The 50s version is all gloss and venner with Ava Garder NOT singing, pretty Technicolor, and the sticky Marge and Gower Champion (yuck). It's also as sanitized as any MGM production and becomes a pretty little musical with no guts. This is NOT the Edna Ferber novel, nor is it the great stage production.

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Ann Harding
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Postby Ann Harding » May 26th, 2008, 2:28 am

drednm wrote:The 50s version is all gloss and venner with Ava Garder NOT singing, pretty Technicolor, and the sticky Marge and Gower Champion (yuck). It's also as sanitized as any MGM production and becomes a pretty little musical with no guts. This is NOT the Edna Ferber novel, nor is it the great stage production.


I completely agree with this statement. I far prefer the 1936 version. It's much grittier and better directed than the 1951 one. The MGM gloss does little for me and Ava Gardner's dubbing makes things even worse....
But if you want to be convinced, just watch the scene whan a policeman comes on board to check Helen Morgan's 'black blood'....it's really scary and chilling. Not so in the sanitized MGM version.
I should add that Irene Dunne IMHO is a far better singer than the shrilly Kathryn Grayson. She knows how to phrase and was also an operetta singer in her youth. :wink:

drednm

Postby drednm » May 26th, 2008, 3:01 pm

Ann I agree.... Irene Dunne was a consummate artist and excelled in comedy, musicals, and drama.... The only thing I ever liked Kathryn Grayson in was KISS ME KATE....

and my note should have said VENEER and not VENNER....I can't type.

Yes the cop is played by J. Farrell McDonald and it's a great scene when Donald Cook (hugely underrated) admits he has "black blood in him." A chilling and wonderful moment in film.

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Postby mrsl » May 26th, 2008, 3:18 pm

This is where I differ from most Classics lovers. Although I love a deep, dig in to the toes, drama which can be analyzed countless times like Liberty Valence or Best Years of our Lives, my idea of a musical is exactly what you described as a 'pretty little musical, with no guts.' I watch musicals to be thoroughly entertained, as I stated Robeson and McDaniel (forgot to list Morgan) are all you would want from a 'star,' but I want a musical to fill me with fun and laughs, as well as leave me humming the songs for a day or two. I don't want tears and recriminations in a musical, except maybe a five minute scene like in Carousel, or the 1951 version of Showboat.

No one could top Irene in White Cliffs of Dover or I Remember Mama, but as a musical actress she leaves me cold. In some of their numbers Marge and Gower were equal to Fred and Ginger, but like I said, That's Me. I also believe William Warfield was more than equal to Robeson - that was one number that should not be contested - they were both exceptional exhibitions of a wonderful song that only certain people should attempt to sing. Sinatra did o.k. when he was younger, but as he got older he should have stopped, because he no longer had the vibrancy needed.

So one way or another, even if I dislike someone, I'm still willing to give them credit for their otherwise fine portrayals. Being an Irene Dunne semi fan, I have seen people in many of her parts who I much prefer, as Deb Kerr As Ms. McKay, and oddly enough I don't like any of the actresses who have played the part in A Guy Name Joe, but I dislike Dunne the most over Holly Hunter.

I'll shut up now.

Anne
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