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Ava Gardner Loves That Man: Show Boat

Ava Gardner Loves That Man: Show Boat

For your pleasure, here’s Ava Gardner (dubbed by Annette Warren) singing Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II’s “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man of Mine” from the 1951 musical Show Boat. Ella Fitzgerald, Liza Minnelli, Barbra Streisand, Lena Horne and Judy Garland all covered this, and Helen Morgan made it famous in the original 1927 Broadway show. But Gardner singing in the context of the movie is sublime. (Gardner’s voice wound up on the soundtrack album of the film Show Boat, but not in the film itself.) She’s playing a character passing for white who could have been played by Horne, but wasn’t.

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Ava Gardner had only a passable singing voice. When she sang the word “can’t” in the song, she sounded horrendously nasal. Warren’s voice may be trained, but it is better than Gardner’s, and the fact that she dubbed Gardner’s singing does not make her voice inferior. Have you ever heard Leslie Caron’s real singing voice? Awful, and Audrey Hepburn’s wasn’t so hot either. It’s time fans and critics realized that actors are not being robbed , and that there’s often a simple reason that actors’ singing voices are dubbed – the dubbed voices invariably sound better.


Helen Morgan also sang it in the 1936 film version of “Show Boat”, which is much superior to this version.

virginia santiago

Thank you for posting these two scenes from “Show Boat” – Ava’s scenes.She was so absolutely beautiful and talented. I had attended the Ava Gardner Festival which was held in the Ava Gardner Museum (a great place to visit) in Smithfield, NC. Part of the festival was the opportunity to see “Show Boat” on the silver screen in the Howell Theatre. I’ve read that she and her mother would go to the Howell Theatre so that was a nostalgic history adventure. When these two scenes appeared on the silver screen, we (may I take the liberty of stating) in the audience were spell bound and remained silent in awe. The rest of the cast did get applause for their songs. But Ms Gardner cast a spell. She did not consider herself a movie star and because of that she wouldn’t give herself credit for her truly fine acting in the movies. The scripts could have been better in some instances;but she still came through as the role demanded of her. Rest in Peace, dear Ms Gardner, you are still missed. The studio should have let her sing in the movie because she did have a very nice voice as proven on the cd.

Gary Lee Smith

I’ve compared the “ghosted” version used in the 1951 film to the cut from the sountrack album and I have to say that Ava’s actual voice was much prettier, natural and appropriate to the scene than the one that ended up in the film. Annette Warren’s enunciation was far too precise and trained for the character to be believable. Ava Gardner’s voice was surprisingly good, on key and emotionally convincing. Too bad MGM couldn’t see that a more natural voice was actually a quality that made you like the character more. Because of this, MGM musicals often look like over processed factory items.


According to James Baldwin, Ava once expressed to him her desire to play Billie Holliday in a movie. Baldwin, in the friendliest possible way, disabused her of the notion, although admitting that she was more “down” than most black women he knew.


Absolutely beautiful. I believe MGM put her voice back into the movie in “That’s Entertainment.”

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