On this day in 1927: The musical version of Edna Ferber’s novel “Show Boat” debuts at the Ziegfeld Theatre in New York.
Ferber researched “Show Boat” not on the Mississippi River but on the N.C. coast — she had never even laid eyes on the Mississippi.
She heard about the James Adams Floating Theatre, a family-operated show boat that worked the mid-Atlantic coast, and in 1925 met the boat in Bath, on the Pamlico River, for its first stop of the season.
Ferber spent several days aboard the 700-seat boat. Her hosts, Charles and Beulah Hunter (“The Mary Pickford of the Chesapeake”) provided her a private bedroom, and the troupe regaled her with tales, which she took down on a yellow pad.
“Show Boat” scored enormous success not only as a musical (revived in 1994) but also in three movie versions.
Among the disappointed underbidders at the recent Debbie Reynolds memorabilia auction was the Ava Gardner Museum in Smithfield.
According to Donna Bailey-Taylor, acting director, the nurse’s uniform Gardner wore in “The Sun Also Rises” fetched $2,500 (plus premium), $1,000 past the museum’s limit.
The museum had already returned to the Reynolds collection several items on loan from “Show Boat” and “Mogambo.” “Our appeal to Debbie was that we would care for and showcase these two iconic movies’ artifacts for visitors to enjoy,” Bailey-Taylor says, “but alas she was not inclined to donate or sell to us privately.”
A second Reynolds auction is scheduled for December, and the museum hopes to bid again. Want to pitch in? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Addendum: This Virginia Postrel column marveling at Marilyn Monroe’s 22-inch waist led me to ask Bailey-Taylor about Ava Gardner’s.
“We have measured some of her costumes at the museum, and we can verify that
her waist was 19 inches in her costume from ‘The Great Sinner’ [made in 1949, when she was 26]…. It’s a stunning black velvet dress with whalebone corset sewn in — I’m not sure how she sat down in it. It must have been very uncomfortable.”