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Show Boat

By far the best film version of Oscar Hammerstein and Jerome Kern’s landmark stage show.

Image from Show Boat

USA 1936
Dir James Whale
With Irene Dunne, Allan Jones, Hattie McDaniel, Paul Robeson, Helen Morgan
Certificate U

Adapted from the landmark stage show – the first musical to have a narrative and where black and white actors were given equal prominence – Show Boat takes place on and around the Mississippi, and like several of Oscar Hammerstein’s works it addresses racial prejudice. This is by far the best of three film versions, and Paul Robeson, with his deep velvety tones, performs the definitive version of ‘Old Man River’.

Heather Osborn

Also available on BFI Player.


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