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This got the Criterion treatment and I picked it up during the July sale.

It's a tough political moment to watch Irene Dunne in blackface. While Shana L. Redmond's excellent feature on the Criterion DVD helps to contextualize race in the show and film -- I'm not sure I could appreciate the film on its own terms. To the extent that I understand her carefully parsed argument, there were elements of Show Boat (the film) that were (or were meant to be) progressive for the time. (Example: Robeson insisting on changing the "N" word in 'Ole Man River' to the marginally less offensive 'Darkies'?) Yet she also acknowledges that some of the characters and relationships were themselves limitations. 

For me these issues are complicated by the face that the music isn't all that memorable aside from "Ole Man River." I was shocked when that number was played in full in the first act of the film. I assumed it was the showstopper/climax. 

I also never knew James Whale directed. I guess I just bought into the caricature of Whale that all he ever did was Frankenstein. If he was more sensitive to some of the subplots (such as Laura passing as white), I didn't necessarily see that. 

I'm glad it is preserved as a work of cultural history, but I didn't find it a particularly moving film nor one that reached me on a personal level.

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