1936 Motion Picture

RodgersShow Boat

Released by Universal Studios on May 14, 1936, the first musical motion picture adaptation of Show Boat was written by librettist Oscar Hammerstein II. The film featured Irene Dunne as Magnolia and Allan Jones as Gaylord Ravenal, and director James Whale insisted on casting certain members of the original Broadway cast, including Paul Robeson singing his signature song, “Ol’ Man River,” as Joe. The film also showcased Hattie McDaniel, who would later become the first African American woman to win an Academy Award, for her role in Gone with the Wind.

The film reunited the talents of the show’s original orchestrator, Robert Russell Bennett, and conductor Victor Baravalle. Their talents were also needed for three additional songs Kern and Hammerstein wrote for the film, including “I Have the Room Above Her,” which Harold Prince later included in his 1993 stage revival of Show Boat.