Show Boat, Universal’s second talkerized version, is a smash filmusical. Basic tender romance [from Edna Ferber’s novel] between Magnolia (Irene Dunne) and Gaylord Ravenal (Allan Jones), romantic wastrel of the Mississippi river banks, has been most effectively projected by this reproduction of the classic  Edna Ferber-Oscar Hammerstein II-Jerome Kern operetta.
The now classic songs, ‘Make Believe’, ‘Ol’ Man River’, ‘Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man’, ‘Why Do I Love You’, ‘Bill’ and ‘You Are Love’, as the duet thematic have been retained and three new numbers, all in a novelty vein, have been added.
Dunne and Jones are superb in the roles originally created by Norma Terriss and Howard Marsh. Charles Winninger in his original Captain Andy role is, as ever, engaging; Helen Morgan is the same Julie as in the Ziegfeld original; Paul Robeson has Jules Bledsoe’s basso opportunities with ‘Ol’ Man River’; Helen Westley has the original Edna Mae Oliver assignment and delivers adequately, if a bit morosely, lacking the subtle brittleness of the Oliver interpretation.
Dunne maintains the illusion of her Magnolia throughout – from her own secluded girlhood; into sudden stardom on the Cotton Blossom; and later, as a more mature artist, carrying the torch for the disappeared Ravenal and rearing her own child into professional prominence.
Robeson’s ‘Ol’ Man river’ is perhaps the single song highlight, although some may be captious a bit over the camera angles illustrating ‘totin’ the bales’ and ‘landing in jail’.