Wednesday, June 7, 2017

1951 - SHOWBOAT, MGM updates an old musical

In 1936, Universal Studios made a version of Showboat that was directed by James Whale.  This version apparently follows the stage musical fairly closely.  MGM remade and updated it in the 1950's with some significant changes. 

The screenwriter an old Hollywood veteran named John Lee Mahin changed almost all of the dialog and condensed the action to have the lovers reunited while they are young instead of 40 years later.  MGM filmed Showboat in Technicolor and clearly poured a lot of money into the production.  They kept the Jerome Kern songs and hired Howard Keel and Kathryn Grayson to belt out the score with their almost bombastic singing styles.

If you are looking for a version of Showboat as the ground breaking musical theater that it was in the 1920's this isn't it.  The racial issues that production addressed have been played down quite a bit and Julie the mixed racial tragic heroine is played by the very glamorous Ava Gardner,

Still the music is good the film looks great and the score is well sung.  The dancing in the film is from the then husband and wife team Marge and Gower Champion.  Overall this is a slick piece of MGM film making.

107 minutes.

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