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(aka "Edna Ferber's Show Boat" or "Showboat")


directed by James Whale
USA 1936


Edna Ferber's classic tale of life and love among a theatrical troupe on a Mississippi riverboat has received many dramatic treatments since its birth over eighty years ago. But none is more satisfying than this 1936 production, widely accepted as the best and most faithful of three screen versions of the Jerome Kern-Oscar Hammerstein II musical. A splendid, indeed definitive cast features Irene Dunne as the lovely Magnolia, fated to fall for Allan Jones' dashing riverboat gambler, Gaylord Ravenal. It is their turbulent romance and Magnolia's growth from a shy guileless girl to a mature star of the stage that form the core of the story. In her last film appearance, Helen Morgan will break your heart as the tragic Julie, with her songs "Bill" and "Can’t Help Lovin' That Man." And there is perhaps no more memorable performance in musical history than Paul Robeson's moving rendition of "Ol' Man River."


Theatrical Release: 14 May 1936 (New York City, NY)

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DVD Review: Warner Home Video (Warner Archive Collection) - Region 0 - NTSC

Big thanks to Gregory Meshman for the Review!

DVD Box Cover

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Warner Home Video

Region 0 - NTSC

Runtime 1:53:20

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 7.95 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.


Audio Dolby Digital Mono (English)
Subtitles None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Warner Home Video

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
� None

DVD Release Date: February 25th, 2014
Keep Case

Chapters 44






Since around 2006, a Blu-ray collection of 3 Show Boat film versions (1929, 1936 and 1951) to commemorate Broadway show's 80th anniversary has been rumored around the internet, but 2007 came and gone and no collection was released. Even more disappointing, 1929 and 1936 films were still missing on digital media despite extensive restorations of the films. Finally, in 2014 Warner Archive released 1936 version on dual-layered DVD. It's worth noting that the initial pressing was replicated and made our list of best DVD releases of the year 2014.

Often eclipsed by Technicolor MGM remake of 1951, 1936 Universal production is more faithful to the source musical and overall is a better film. This is James Whale's only musical, but the innovative direction and staging of musical numbers makes us wish he made another attempt in this genre. Irene Dunne is charming and believable as a ingenue in the beginning of the film and as a seasoned star of stage in the end. Helen Morgan is heartbreaking in her last film role - one wishes for a revisionist musical of her character's story. Hattie McDaniel and Paul Robeson portray typical for the times African-American stereotypes and the film features cringe-worthy blackface musical number by Irene Dunne, but Paul Robeson's Ol' Man River rendition is definitive.

Like said earlier, Show Boat went through restoration and the film looks excellent on this progressive disc. It is missing Universal opening logo and starts off immediately with the credits. The damage on the print is minimal and grain is healthy. The disc is dual-layered allowing to max-out on the bitrate and while it's not high-definition, there is no compression or any other issues with the encode. The mono audio is fine throughout, with no distortion or damage. There are no extras on the disc, but Warner Archive Podcast issued a CBS Lux Radio Theatre adaptation from June 24th, 1940 on February 27th, 2014 featuring 3 of the film's original stars - Irene Dunne, Allan Jones and Charles Winninger that is worth seeking out. The film gets 44 chapters making access to the musical numbers very easy and the whole package is highly recommended for any classic movie fan.

  - Gregory Meshman


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DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:






Warner Home Video

Region 0 - NTSC



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