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Warner Archive releases 1936 'Show Boat' on DVD

This month's Warner Archive releases include a rare treat for fans of classic movie musicals, a new DVD edition of the 1936 screen version of "Show Boat." Widely considered the best of three film adaptations of the popular stage musical, the 1936 "Show Boat" has been difficult for movie lovers to see for many years, but the newly released Warner Archive edition will make the iconic picture much more accessible to fans.

Warner Archive's new releases include the 1936 version of "Show Boat."
DVD cover from Warner Archive

Directed by James Whale, the movie stars Irene Dunne, Allan Jones, Charles Winninger, and Helen Morgan, along with Paul Robeson and Hattie McDaniel in memorable supporting roles. Like the Edna Ferber novel from which the stage production was adapted, the film tells the story of several couples from a traveling show boat and covers four decades of their lives. A subplot involving miscegenation made the movie controversial in the 1930s, especially in the South, but Paul Robeson's stunning performance of the iconic song, "Ol' Man River," ensured that the movie would never be completely forgotten, even when it was largely unavailable to viewers. (Read a full review of "Show Boat" on the classic movie blog, Virtual Virago).

The Warner Archive DVD lacks special features, but the film itself is newly remastered. Like other Warner Archive DVDs, the disc is made to order. "Show Boat" is currently available from the Warner Archive site for $18.95. Other new releases in the Warner Archive Collection include "The Barretts of Wimpole Street" (1934), "The Bride Wore Red" (1937), and "The Oklahoma Kid" (1939). Visit the website for a look at the complete catalog of films and television programs.

You can learn more about "Show Boat" star Paul Robeson by watching the video at the top of this article. The pioneering African-American actor faced much prejudice both for his race and his left-wing political views, but his performance in "Show Boat" remains a testament to his incredible talent.

Jennifer Garlen writes as the Huntsville and National Classic Movies Examiner. Her book, "Beyond Casablanca: 100 Classic Movies Worth Watching," is available in paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.

Warner Archive provided a review copy of this product at no charge to the author. No promise of a positive review was given or expected.