MovieChat Forums > Show Boat (1936) Discussion > Irene Dunne in 1936 Show Boat

Irene Dunne in 1936 Show Boat


Question: My wife believes that someone other than Irene Dunne did her singing in the 1936 version of Show Boat. She says it sounds like Jennette McDonald.
Anyone have any ideas?
Thank Q

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When she was beginning her career, she auditioned for the Metropolitan Opera, but was turned down. She got her big break in the first national touring company of "Show Boat" in 1929, playing Magnolia. Since this was the stage production, she of course sang Magnolia's songs. She made such an impression that she was immediately offered a movie contract, and made her film debut in a musical, Rodgers and Hart's "Leathernecking" (based on their stage musical "Present Arms"). She then went on to make several non-musical films as well as musical ones like "Roberta" and "High, Wide and Handsome". She abandoned musicals entirely after 1938. She is one of the few musical stars who has been nominated more than once for an Oscar (five times, all for non-musical films), and was recognized as an excellent dramatic actress.

Jeanette MacDonald was considered for M-G-M's Technicolor version of "Show Boat" (they had bought the rights around 1938), but this never happened.


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I was told that she was in fact dubbed. I'm not sure, though, it's just something that was talk to me & I had always assumed she had been dubbed. But, if she wasn't than that would be good & I could prove to my friend that she does have a good voice, dammit.

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Irene's dubbed herself, just as other singing actresses did. First they record the number, then it's played as they film the scene and they lip-sync to their own recorded voice. The sound engineers can't guarantee the results if sung 'live'. She was a trained professional singer who made umpteen appearances on stage as Magnolia in the Showboat tour production.

She explained the whole process in an interview with John Kobal, I think it was.

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Irene Dunne auditioned for the Met once, and was turned down only because her voice wasn't good enough for opera, but that does prove that she could sing.

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One of Irene Dunne's earliest jobs was as the replacement for Norma Terris' Magnolia in the original company of SHOW BOAT and it's subsequent tour. She could certainly sing. And did. It's just that her career went more to film than to commercial recording.

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No, she didn't replace Norma Terris on Broadway, but she did play Magnolia in the tour.

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Re:
Irene did her own singing in SHOWBOAT-she had a lovely voice. Irene and Jeanette MacDonald were close friends from the time they first met when they were performing in Musical Theatre in New York during the 1920`s until Jeanette`s death in 1965.
Lorraine

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Wes Gehring's bio of Dunne claims she could play one melody on the piano with her right hand, another one with her left hand while singing a third. For years her film contracts had to include at least one song for her. And, it was for her singing ability that RKO first signed her in 1930.

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No surprise that Irene Dunne could perform such a feat. The woman has such a fluid body movement. I couldn't help from stareing at her the whole movie. Yes, she's beautiful but I'm talking about her physical finesse. If you pay close attention, Paul Robeson (Joe) goes off script and remarks on her little pantomine of a drunk woman, which she does in front of him and Hattie in the boats kitchen. I found myself actually laughing out loud, it's so cute and endearing. Deffinetly had to rewind and see that again.

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She had such athleticism that after she took up golf to keep more company with her husband, she scored two holes-in-one and regularly scored near par.

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Irene Dunne is delightful, but Paul Robeson indeed does not "go off-script", especially in a close-up insert shot. The line, "Look at dat gal shuffle" has always been in the script since 1927.

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I didn't know she was pantomining a drunk, but it was surely a classic scene.
Helen Morgan, Hattie McDaniel, Paul Robeson and Irene taking turns on "Can't Help Lovin That Man Of Mine". Awesome. '

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She wasn't pantomiming a drunk. She was doing a shuffle like the gals down on the levee, so to speak.

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I have seen "Show Boat" onstage three times, and I have the John McGlinn 1988 3-CD recording on EMI. It comes with a booklet containing the lyrics and a lot of the dialogue. Magnolia also shuffles in the stage version, and Joe does say "Look at that gal shuffle".

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Irene Dunne (1898-1990), the daughter of a riverboat inspector, played the part of a 20 year old in Showboat but was actually 38. Like Magnolia, she grew up along the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. Irene lived in the river town of Madison, Indiana with her grandparents from 1909 until graduating from high school in 1916. She had moved there from St Louis with her mother and brother after her father's death. I saw her in person thirty-some years ago when she returned to Madison to dedicate a restored historic fountain. She was still a very attractive woman.

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No surprise that Irene Dunne could perform such a feat. The woman has such a fluid body movement. I couldn't help from stareing at her the whole movie. Yes, she's beautiful but I'm talking about her physical finesse.


I'm glad you brought that up. I, too, paid close attention to Irene Dunne.

I was lucky enough to see the film on the Silver Screen twice in one day this past weekend. I hadn't seen it in a while, so some of the numbers took me by surprise, so to speak.

However, the second time around, I paid close attention to Miss Dunne when she did that coon shuffle. She was indeed very fluid, and a joy to watch. It's a toss-up for me as to which part of the movie brings me the most pleasure: Paul Robeson singing Old Man River, or watching Irene Dunne doing that shuffle.

She could really move, no question. Most white dancers of the period were a little stiff, IMO, which makes her fluidity stand out all the more.

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Lets face the facts, no matter how painfull....most white people are stiff period lol....which is why Yoga should be a required regimen for my clan. And yes I agree, Robeson's song and Dunnes finesse are this movies most notable features. It's a great movie that has not aged a bit.

I like waking up in the morning not knowing who I'll meet or where I'll end up: The Titanic

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"It's a toss-up for me as to which part of the movie brings me the most pleasure: Paul Robeson singing Old Man River, or watching Irene Dunne doing that shuffle."

Those are my sentiments, exactly - the 2 high points of a superb film. Irene Dunne's "shuffle" is relatively brief but is absolute perfection in its fluidity of motion and in its comic quality. Man, could she move!

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Robert Osborne said on 12-14-07 that in this movie Irene Dunne did all of her own singing, and that it was not dubbed by another singer.



"Most children grow up. Except one."

"Forget them, Wendy. Forget them all."

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[deleted]


Not very respectful of you.


"Most children grow up. Except one."

"Forget them, Wendy. Forget them all."

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She wasn't pantomiming a drunk, she was "coon shuffling."

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She wasn't pantomiming a drunk, she was "coon shuffling."


Thank you for setting the record straight. :)

I'd seen that type of dance somewhere before, but couldn't quite place it. I knew it wasn't a simple pantomime of a drunk, though, as it was just too stylized for that.

Anyway, it was pure joy watching Irene Dunne move around so effortlessly. I mean it.

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