Re: 1929 Show Boat

From: David P. Hayes
Date: 1997/10/23
Newsgroups: alt.movies.silent, rec.arts.movies.past-films

In article <62lm02$>, wrote:
> (Kathy O'Connell) wrote:
> >I'm so confused! Can someone tell me the story of the 1929 Show Boat?
> >I'm watching the tape from TCM's showing of "Show Boat" a couple of weeks
> >ago.  It's silent…title cards and all. …
> >Well, halfway through the movie, it's no longer a silent movie!!!
> >Did this movie take an unusually long time to film?  Did talkies come in
> >smack in the middle of the filming?

The 1929 "Show Boat" had a very long production history.  Universal bought the movie rights to the book before there ever was the 1927 Broadway musical.  Universal was unfazed and went on to shoot their silent film.  When talkies and the success of the Broadway musical made it clear to Universal that the public would expect the movie to use the popular songs, they contracted for them (but surprisingly didn't use much of it).

Two reels of sound is missing, which is why on TCM and the "Complete Showboat" laserdisc there are superimposed subtitles--and complete silence.

> Does anyone know if the prologue to Showboat is lost?
> There is sound, but no picture.
> ----------------------------
> Scott Cleveland

There are two issues here: before and after the story, there is entrance and exit music without picture.  This seems to be the way that the film was made.  HOWEVER, what you didn't see on TCM was a lengthy prologue of songs from the show, presented apart from the story, and featuring different actors than in the story part of the movie.  (This is almost like the structure of "The Dancing Cavalier" in "Singin' in the Rain," where a "modern" part featuring songs then gives way to a story of the past, with the film never returning to the "modern" setting.)

The prologue I just wrote of does exist and was excerpted in quantity on the supplements disc of the CAV Criterion edition of the 1936 "Show Boat."  Strangely enough, MGM/UA's "Complete Show Boat" (a set of the 1929, 1936 and 1951 versions, with a lot of supplements for the 1951) doesn't contain any of the non-story prologue, just the drama itself and thus only has those songs that are integrated into the story as filmed for the 1929 version.

David Hayes


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