The Sedona International Film Festival is proud to welcome legendary actress and dancer Marge Champion to town for special screenings of “Showboat” on Tuesday, Sept. 7. Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne will be hosting the films and conducting live Q&A discussions with Ms. Champion following both screenings. Showtimes will be at 3:30 and 7:00 p.m. at Harkins Sedona Six Theatres. This is part of the film festival’s “Living Legends” series.
“This is a big coup for Sedona and for anyone who is a Marge Champion and ‘Showboat’ fan,” said Patrick Schweiss, festival director. “To get to experience this film the way it was meant to be seen — on the big screen — and then get to meet Ms. Champion herself and enjoy a Q&A with classic movie master Robert Osborne goes beyond description. It is Hollywood movie magic at its finest … live, right here in Sedona!”
Riverboat entertainers find love, laughs and hardships as they sail along on the Cotton Blossom riverboat in “Showboat”, which was nominated for two Academy Awards including Best Musical Score and Best Cinematography. Ms. Champion stars as Ellie May Shipley in the classic, lavish musical.
From novel to Broadway smash to three film versions to stage revivals, like “Old Man River”, “Showboat” just keeps rolling along. Produced by Arthur Freed and directed by George Sidney, this 1951 version of the saga of riverboat lives and loves has glorious stars (Kathryn Grayson, Ava Gardner, Howard Keel, Marge and Gower Champion) in Technicolor radiance. A made-from-scratch 170-foot paddle wheeler, timeless songs, extravagant dance numbers and an equally timeless outcry against racial bigotry, “Showboat” has stood the test of time and remains one of film’s — and Broadway’s — most beloved musical extravaganzas.
The Cotton Blossom, owned by the Hawk family, is the show boat where everyone comes for great musical entertainment down south. Julie Laverne and her husband are the stars of the show. After a snitch on board calls the local police about Julie (who’s half- African-American) being married to a white man, they are forced to leave the show boat because down South interracial marriages are forbidden. Magnolia Hawk becomes the new show boat attraction and her leading man is Gaylord Ravenal, a gambler. The two instantly fall in love and marry. Magnolia and Gaylord leave the Cotton Blossom for a whirl-wind honeymoon and begin to live in a fantasy world. Magnolia soon faces reality quickly, that gambling means more to Gaylord than anything else. Magnolia confronts Gaylord and after he gambles away their fortune he leaves her — not knowing she is pregnant. Magnolia is left penniless and pregnant, and is left to fend for herself, and make a new start. Two of her friends — dancers Ellie May Shipley and Frank Schultz (Marge and Gower Champion), take her to audition for stage manager Jake Green and help turn her life around.
A celebrated dancer, actress, and choreographer of stage, screen and TV, Marge Champion, together with her then-husband and partner Gower Champion, excelled at the “story dance”, a combination of dance and pantomime, which they performed to great renown on Broadway, in several films, and on television. Ms. Champion was a human figure model for the heroine of Disney’s animated “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (1937), and later modeled for the blue fairy in “Pinocchio” (1940). She made her film debut in “The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle” (1939) and went on to star in dozens of films, television shows and Broadway musicals. In 1975, Ms. Champion won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Choreography for creating the dances for the celebrated TV-movie “Queen of the Stardust Ballroom”.
Ms. Champion, who turns 91 just days before her Sedona appearance, is still dancing daily and is featured in the short film “Keep Dancing” which will play before both screenings of “Showboat”. After celebrated careers, legendary dancers Ms. Champion and Donald Saddler became friends while performing together in the Broadway Show Follies (2001). When the show closed, they decided to rent a private studio together where they have been choreographing and rehearsing original dances ever since. At 90+ years old, they continue to pursue their passion for life through their love and mastery of dance. “Keep Dancing” seamlessly blends 9 decades of archival film and photographs with present day footage to tell a story through dance of the passing of time and the process of aging.
“Keep Dancing” director, Greg Vander Veer, will join Ms. Champion and Mr. Osborne for the Q&A discussions.
The title sponsor of this special event is L’Auberge de Sedona Resort. Additional support is provided by the Arizona Commission on the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, the City of Sedona and the Sedona Community Foundation.
“Showboat” will be shown at Harkins Sedona Six Theatres on Tuesday, Sept. 7 at 3:30 and 7:00 p.m. Tickets are $12 each or $9 for Film Sedona members. Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased in advance at the Sedona International Film Festival office, 1785 W. Hwy. 89A, Suite 2B, or by calling 282-1177.
For more information, visit: www.SedonaFilmFestival.com.