Show Boat

Director: James Whale
Year Released: 1936
Rating: 3.5

Magnolia (Irene Dunne), who works for her parents' show boat (a theatre that floats), takes over as the lead actress of their shows and falls in love with her leading man Gaylord (Allan Jones), but he's a gambler (and possible murderer) and leaves both her and the child they had together.  It combines behind-the-scenes drama and historical fiction in the most wonderful way - except when the "blackface" bits come up (which sour the mood) - and many of the songs (by Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II) are unforgettable, with the best being Paul Robeson singing "Old Man River" and his duet with Hattie McDaniel (Charles Winninger "reenacting" a whole section of a play by himself is just marvelous).  It also exists as an early reminder that showbiz has a history of being nepotistic, with Magnolia training her daughter Kim to take her place.