1880's- 1920's on the Mississippi. Cap'n Andy claims that his show boat is "one big happy family"--and that includes his wife, daughter Magnolia, as well as stars Julie and husband Steve, and black help Queenie and Joe. But it won't be for long; because a river rat's love for Julie goes unrequited, and he informs the sheriff that she's a "half-breed" with Negro blood. Steve knowing this was coming, pricks her finger and sucks her blood so that he too will have black blood in him. Julie and Steve must leave the show boat, which greatly upsets Magnolia, who adores Julie, she is mollified, however, when Steve is replaced on the boat by Gaylord, with whom she immediatly falls in love. Magnolia and Gaylor wed; it's a bad match, however, for Gaylord is not the marrying kind, and in time winds up abandoning his wife and their daughter after they too have left the boat. Magnolia needs a job, and fate brings her back to Julie, who pretends to be drunk when auditioning for a show once she sees that Magnolia needs it even more than she does. But the sadder- but- wiser Magnolia is found by her father, and they are reunited at curtain's fall.
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