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Sunday, May 25, 2014

SHOWBOAT: the Show that Most Changed Broadway


I wrote this posting a couple of months ago and never had it published.  This started as my second tribute to Showboat, but Irene Dunne sort of captured the spotlight.  Today, I plan on seeing a couple of films, so, for now, here is my offering.  Might later review these films if worthy of comment.

I happened to be watching X-Factor on TV and during one of their interminable commercials, I happened to flip to TMC, which was playing the 1936 version of Roberta, where Irene Dunne was singing "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes."  Click on that for a 6 minute version.  This was one of those Fred Astaire - Ginger Rogers dance films, but the star was Dunne.  I never made it back to X-Factor.

I wondered, who was really singing that song.  Well, that was her voice.  This is a 7-minute rendition.


Then, I remembered, yes, of course, she was in the 1936 Showboat, the best (Rotten Tomatoes:  100% reviewers and 74% audience) of three Showboats.  (This is my second posting on Showboat). The original show was a play in 1927 at the National Theater in DC, which Oscar Hammerstein and Jerome Kern thought on opening night was a disaster.  What a watershed moment, as this was the first time that there was song, dance and plot, and how would the public accept the matter of race.  Blacks and whites together?  Miscegenation?  However, every night the show was a sellout, and the first film produced in 1929 (left)  did extremely well.  No official trailer available, for this was 84 years ago.





Here is Dunne (above) in "Make Believe" with Alan Jones.

Ol' Man River was memorable in both, with  Paul Robeson (1936) and William Warfield (1951).  The Showboat most have seen is the 1951 film (RT reviewers 89% and audience 73%) with Kathryn Grayson (playing the Dunne role) and Howard Keel.  Here, their "Make Believe."The stories are not the same.  


There have been at least seven Broadway-type revivals of Showboat, and the latest was produced at the Kennedy Center in DC exactly a year ago, with Andriana Chuchman and Michael Todd Simpson.  New York City must be thinking about a comeback, as the most recent was in the mid-90's, and Showboat could well be the show that most changed Broadway.

(Finally, let me add that Dunne's version of Love Affair--watch the whole movie here--with Charles Boyer in 1939 I thought was more endearing than the later An Affair to Remember with Deborah Kerr -and Cary Grant--although this later version in 1957 did have that memorable song--and played Anna in Anna and the King of Siam opposite Rex Harrison in 1946, before Rodgers and Hammerstein staged the musical version.  She never won an Oscar, but Dunne was nominated for Best Actress five times.)

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Oh my, Hurricane Amanda in the East Pacific is now up to at a Category 4 at 155 MPH, with gusts to 190 MPH:


Computer models, however, show Amanda weakening and making landfall somewhere between the bottom tip of Baja and Mazatlan.

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