But as I have come to watch it recently, I have discovered it is more magnificent the second time around. As a North Carolina native, I must say this movie holds something very special for me -- and that is TWO North Carolina natives from "Grabtown" and Winston-Salem, our ladies Ava and Kathryn respectively.
First of all, the Technicolor is vibrant and lovely and represents the very fiber that those beautiful, glorious MGM musical treasures of the 1950's were made of.
Supporting characters Joe E. Brown and Agnes Moorehead were, as usual, delightfully wonderful. I don't think I've ever seen either of them do anything "bad." William Warfield's delivery of "Ol' Man River" (accompanied with Julie/Ava's last wistful look toward The Cotton Blossom, of course) never fails to put a tear in my eye.
Howard Keel's voice was in fine form, and he did a great job of portraying the slick gambler, Gaylord Ravenal. Kathryn's voice was, as always, up to par and beautiful, and while perhaps her representation of Magnolia wasn't as vibrant as her portrayal of Lilli in "Kiss Me Kate" or Aunt... whoever it was she played in "Anchors Away" (ooh, I can't remember the name... that's BAD... REAL BAD), she was still her lovely, charming self. I found that her progression from innocent child-like creature to a portrait of woman- and motherhood was captured and characterized very well.
But my favorite parts of the movie were simply Ava Gardner, and Marge and Gower Champion.
Ava is, as always, ridiculously and insanely gorgeous. In fact, I would have liked to have seen more of her than I did. It's a stretch for a white woman to play a bi-racial woman, but she did it with what seemed like such ease. She accompanies so much with a look (which is evident as she watches Gay and Nolie sail off together with Kim -- you all know what I'm talking about). And yes, Ava's singing pipes (in my opinion) were far better than Annette Warren's and MGM is stupid for having dubbed her (just like they were stupid for dubbing Debbie Reynolds in "Singin' in the Rain"). Her songs, "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man of Mine" and "Bill," were extremely effective, but could've been even more so had they used her real voice. Such expression in those eyes. And my gosh... her speech to Gay! I don't think people in Hollywood ever really looked beyond Ava as anything but a "sex goddess" -- but she really had a beautiful talent.
Now for Marge & Gower Champion: who couldn't love them? Gower is this sort of... fluid-like creature with a stature and grace like Fred Astaire, but instead of Astaire's "lanky movements" that defined his style, he somehow executes the more athletic, brisk movements that defined Gene Kelly's style. And Marge has to be just about the cutest little person I have ever seen (great facial expressions!) and one of the most talented dancers (up there with Gwen Verdon, Carol Haney, Ginger Rogers, Chita Rivera, and all those gifted people) I've ever seen grace a screen. They're sheerly magnetic, and they never miss. "I Could Fall Back on You" and "Life Upon the Wicked Stage" are two of the most outstanding moments in the movie. You'll love them.
All in all, "Show Boat" is most definitely worth a look. Or two. Or three. Or... well, as many as you feel like!