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Show Boat (1929)

Passed | | Drama, Musical, Romance | 28 July 1929 (USA)
A mostly silent version of Edna Ferber's original novel, with some songs from the musical as a last-minute addition


Harry A. Pollard, Arch Heath (uncredited)


Edna Ferber (by), Edward J. Montaigne (story supervisor) | 3 more credits »


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Complete credited cast:
Laura La Plante ... Magnolia
Joseph Schildkraut ... Gaylord Ravenal
Emily Fitzroy ... Parthenia Ann Hawks
Otis Harlan ... Capt. Andy Hawks
Alma Rubens ... Julie Dozier
Jack McDonald Jack McDonald ... Windy
Jane La Verne Jane La Verne ... Magnolia as Child / Kim
Neely Edwards ... Schultzy
Elise Bartlett ... Elly
Stepin Fetchit ... Joe
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Jules Bledsoe Jules Bledsoe ... Joe [prologue]
Tess Gardella Tess Gardella ... Queenie [prologue] (as Aunt Jemima)
Bettye Junod Bettye Junod ... Perfomer
Carl Laemmle ... Carl Laemmle [prologue]
Helen Morgan ... Julie LaVerne [prologue]


The film begins with Magnolia, daughter of Captain Andy Hawks and his domineering wife Parthy, enjoying her childhood aboard her father's show boat. Parthy, irritated over the supposed influence of leading lady Julie (Magnolia's idol and best friend) fires her, despite her husband's objections. Many years later, Magnolia is a young woman and becomes a leading lady. Her leading man is Gaylord Ravenal, a riverboat gambler with whom she falls in love and elopes. But the sudden and unexpected death of Captain Andy forces the couple to leave the boat and move to Chicago rather than endure the disapproving Parthy, and Ravenal's gambling luck soon runs out. Then, Parthy announces she's coming to visit. Written by Albert Sanchez Moreno

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Universal's Motion Picture Triumph! See more »


Drama | Musical | Romance


Passed | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »






Release Date:

28 July 1929 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Show Boat See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Universal Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


(including prologue) | (Turner library print)

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric System) (talking and singing sequences)| Silent

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The silent version (missing reels 1, 2 and 5) is held by the UCLA Film and Television Archives. See more »


When Nola is given the letter Gaylord has left for her telling her he is leaving her, she is shown holding and reading the letter with her right hand holding the letter near the top and her left hand near the bottom. In the next shot, her hands have changed positions. See more »


Gaylord Ravenal: Where's Kim?
See more »

Crazy Credits

All performers in the prologue are identified verbally. See more »

Alternate Versions

When originally released, this film was shown in both a part-talking and singing version and in a totally silent one for theatres not yet equipped for sound. The silent version ran some thirty minutes shorter than the sound version (if one counts the elimination of the two-reel sound prologue). See more »


Version of Show Boat (1951) See more »


Symphony No.6 in B Minor (Pathétique), Op.74
(1893) (uncredited)
Written by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
First movement partially played in the score twice
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

SHOW BOAT (Harry A. Pollard, 1929) **1/2
5 March 2011 | by Bunuel1976See all my reviews

This primitive Part-Talkie "Super Production" was thought lost until a few years ago, but the print that was eventually unearthed missed a sizeable portion of the dialogue and music track…so that, for about 30 minutes during the second half, it features no sound at all (which makes one wonder why underscoring was not employed by the 'restoration' team to counter this utter silence) – with the spoken lines being superimposed in the form of subtitles over the image itself!

Incidentally, I was under the impression that this was to be a Musical – since the coming of Sound ushered in a flood of such fare. However, it chose to follow the Edna Ferber novel and, consequently, differs to a considerable extent from the subsequent two musical renditions. The shooting incident during a performance occurs much earlier here; similarly, the Julie character gets ousted from the show boat while Magnolia is still a child; her fault in the eyes of her employers (whereas they would stick by her in later versions!) does not relate to race but rather morals, as she is eventually discovered to be the Madam of a clandestine brothel!; Captain Andy dies in a sea-storm in this case (while he is allowed to survive elsewhere) on the night Magnolia gives birth; the leading man's re-appearance at the end occurs on the riverboat rather than in a theater; most conspicuously, perhaps, the character of Joe (who sang the show's most enduring number, "Ol' Man River") barely registers this time around!

Even if we do get to see the heroine – a rather unlikely Laura LaPlante, best-known as the imperiled heiress of THE CAT AND THE CANARY (1927; itself a studio-hopping warhorse) – performing and strumming on a banjo a couple of times, these turn up during the stretch where the soundtrack goes missing! Ironically, though most of the songs were dropped, this still emerges as the longest version at 119 minutes; the IMDb lists an even longer running-time of 147 and, since only 2 of the 5 announced songs are heard during the "Overture" (one of which features Helen Morgan, the Julie of James Whale's 1936 remake!), this may well be true. Given the straightforward narrative in this version, the inherent mawkishness (what with Magnolia's insufferably prudish mother) of the unfolding drama is much more to the fore now. Still, the money problems afflicting the hero (nicely played by Joseph Schildkraut, from Whale's THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK [1939] and which I also viewed recently!) are better delineated here than later – while sets and expository footage came in handy when dusting off the property just 7 years afterwards! That said, the last act feels just as rushed as always.

I am not familiar with how SHOW BOAT passed on to MGM (from Universal) but the closing title card, obviously bearing the epithet "The End", of this particular version is unaccountably accompanied by the Metro logo – for the record, a similar situation exists with respect to the 1931 Paramount version of DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE! Finally, comparisons between the 1929 and 1936 movies unequivocally favor the latter, which is stylish where this is generally stodgy. For the record, I own another film by the same director – UNCLE TOM'S CABIN (1927), based on yet another chestnut – with which this also happens to share its Southern setting.

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