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Show BoatPerforming Race in an American Musical$
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Todd Decker

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199759378

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199759378.001.0001

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Featuring Robeson

Featuring Robeson


(p.125) 6 Featuring Robeson
Show Boat

Todd Decker

Oxford University Press

Paul Robeson played Joe for just over a decade, appearing in the first London production in 1928, the 1932 Broadway revival, the 1936 Universal Pictures film, and a 1940 Los Angeles production. All these versions altered Show Boat to accommodate Robeson's presence. He was particularly important to Show Boat's success in London. Morgan remained the show's signature personality in the United States. The role of Queenie was definitively passed to black performers with the casting of Alberta Hunter in the part. In addition to the above versions, the 1929 Universal film is also discussed in this chapter, which focuses more generally on how the show's presentation of black performance and performers was adjusted in its first decade of remaking and how individual performers used Show Boat to further their larger careers.

Keywords:   Helen Morgan, Florenz Ziegfeld, Alberta Hunter, Bill Bojangles Robinson, Irene Dunne, Charles Winninger, James Whale, Carl Laemmle, Universal Pictures, blackface in Hollywood, Drury Lane, Negro spirituals, Ol' Man River

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