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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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Broadway Black, Hollywood White

Broadway Black, Hollywood White


(p.166) 7 Broadway Black, Hollywood White
Show Boat

Todd Decker

Oxford University Press

This chapter considers Show Boat in the post-World War II era by way of the 1946 Broadway revival and two film versions made by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in Hollywood (extended excerpts in Till the Clouds Roll By and the 1951 Technicolor version). The Broadway production remade two black dance numbers by featuring black concert dancers Pearl Primus and LaVerne French. These changes benefitted the careers of a generation of black dancers, including Alvin Ailey. MGM underemphasized the show's black content, using “Ol' Man River” to feature Frank Sinatra and reshaping the role of Julie around screen goddess Ava Gardner. The 1951 film remains the most drastic revision of the show, truncating its historical reach and eliminating black performance as a central element of the story.

Keywords:   Helen Tamiris, Pearl Primus, Alvin Ailey, Ava Gardner, Frank Sinatra, Lena Horne, Howard Keel, Till the Clouds Roll By, masculinity, Disneyland, Jones Beach

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