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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), Charles Kenyon (continuity) | 4 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 Movietone Triumph! See more »


Drama | Musical | Romance


Passed | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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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 prologue gives modern audiences a rare chance to see white actress Tess Gardella play Queenie, the African-American cook, in blackface. Although frowned upon by today's standards, it is nevertheless a fascinating curio from a different era. See more »


The first Show Boat performance depicted happens at night. But when Captain Andy rushes Julie Dozier along the deck to get on stage, they are in bright sunlight. See more »


Joe [prologue]: [singing] You an' me,/ We sweat and strain,/ Body all achin' and wracked with pain!/ "Tote dat barge!/ Lift dat bale!"/ Git a little drunk,/ And yuh lands in jail!/ Ah gits weary/ An' sick o' tryin',/ Ah'm tired o' livin',/ An' scared o' dyin', / But Ol' Man River,/ He jes' keeps rollin' along!
See more »

Crazy Credits

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

Alternate Versions

On the version shown on Turner Classic Movies, the "The End" credit has a small M-G-M logo at the right-hand bottom of the frame rather than the Universal Pictures logo. See more »


Referenced in The Muppet Show: Mummenschanz (1977) See more »


Deep River
Traditional Negro Spiritual
Sung by Laura La Plante (dubbed by Eva Olivetti)
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Beautiful, other-worldly performances
22 October 2004 | by overseer-3See all my reviews

Edna Ferber did not write "Showboat" as a musical, but as a novel, and this 1929 silent-early talkie version fleshes out the story of a complicated marriage and makes it completely believable. It is certainly not dated, especially with the number of people today who are addicted to gambling, and it stands on its own two feet without the Jerome Kern score. I was pleasantly surprised, and enjoyed TCM's broadcast completely.

Favorite scenes: when little Magnolia is torn from Julie (Alma Rubens, who would be dead from heroin addiction only two years later) by her jealous mother (Emily Fitzroy, with her customary severe hairknot appearance), when Gay and Magnolia first meet on the Showboat (how beautiful those close-ups were!), and the ending, when the elderly Gay falls at Magnolia's feet and the forlorn Lonesome Road is sung in the background. The last scene in particular seemed other-worldly to me, and that was because of the performances of both Laura La Plante and Joseph Schildkraut, which were so solid and touching.

Especially compared to the later musical versions, which glossed over some of the more difficult aspects of Gay and Magnolia's marriage, 1929's "Showboat" has the courage to show the seedier aspects of the downward turn in their relationship due to gambling. The Grayson-Keel musical has their child being born after Gay leaves, with Magnolia never informing Gay she was pregnant. But in the 1929 version Gay is shown to basically abandon both wife and young child, instead of living up to his responsibilities to get a real job to provide for them. We should have less sympathy for such a man, but somehow, we understand and forgive.

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