MovieChat Forums > Show Boat (1936) Discussion > Warfield or Robeson- whose rendition do ...

Warfield or Robeson- whose rendition do you like better?


For me, it's Robeson. Warfield's very rich rendition of Ol' Man River is wonderful, but Robeson's for its power and richness is just timeless.

Also do you have any other favourite renditions of this classic song? Nelson Eddy's was quite nice, but my favourite renditions of Ol' Man River other than Robeson and Warfield are Samuel Ramey and Sherrill Milnes.

What about you?













"Life after death is as improbable as sex after marriage"- Madeline Kahn(CLUE, 1985)

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For me, it's a tie between Robeson and Warfield, though Robeson has a better voice. Robeson's version also uses much of the original orchestration as well.

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When Robeson gets the first time to the line--"Get a little drunk and you land in jail"--he stands in front and behind him and beneath are a group of Negres, as if to evoke the hold of a slave ship... There is a very different tone to this song in the 1936 version than in the 1951 version with Warfield.

Keep in mind--the Civil War in 1927 would we well within the oral memory of elderly people who would have heard of it from their parents/grandparents; even in 1936--the Civil War would be within oral memory of elderly people. By 1951--this intimate oral memory would be lost or terrible diminished...

So Robeson's version (and by extension--the set designer/director) evokes that not so distant time of slavery in America--that get's lost in the 1951 Warfeild version.

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My favorite version is by neither of these men but by Judy Garland, when she sang it live on her TV show in the early 1960s. Coming from a tiny (under 5'), seemingly fragile woman, the song gains an unexpected sort of power it can't get from a burly man. She makes the words of hardship and frustration at least as real as any male singer ever did, and no human being ever lived who had a voice like hers.

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It could ONLY be Paul Robeson.






"I do hope he won't upset Henry..."

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I would have to say Robeson. There is a version by Frank Sinatra that is also powerful. This has always been one of my favorite songs Have sung it talent shows for years.

There is more Gravy about you then the Grave. Scrooge.

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I saw (and heard) William Warfield peform this number as an encore at a concert in about 1966. He had sung primarily art and opera pieces during his performance, but when he asked prior to his encore, "Would you like to hear something from Porgy and Bess?" the house roared. His closing number was Old Man River, and brought the house down. I never heard Robeson live, but I know that Warfield was tremendous.

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