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The Great Ziegfeld (1936)

6.9
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Ratings: 6.9/10 from 3,754 users  
Reviews: 54 user | 33 critic

This biography follows the ups and downs of Florenz Ziegfeld, famed producer of extravagant stage revues.

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Title: The Great Ziegfeld (1936)

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Won 3 Oscars. Another 1 win & 5 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
...
...
Jack Billings
...
Fannie Brice (as Fannie Brice)
...
Audrey Dane
...
Sampston
...
Ray Bolger
Ernest Cossart ...
Sidney
Joseph Cawthorn ...
Dr. Ziegfeld (as Joseph Cawthorne)
Nat Pendleton ...
Sandow
Harriet Hoctor ...
Herself
Jean Chatburn ...
Mary Lou
Paul Irving ...
Erlanger
Herman Bing ...
Costumer
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Storyline

At the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, sideshow barker Flo Ziegfeld turns the tables on his more successful neighbor Billings, and steals his girlfriend to boot. This pattern is repeated throughout their lives, as Ziegfeld makes and loses many fortunes putting on ever bigger, more spectacular shows (sections of which appear in the film). French revue star Anna Held becomes his first wife, but it's not easy being married to the man who "glorified the American girl." Late in life, now married to Billie Burke, he seems to be all washed up, but... Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

The Last Word In Entertainment! See more »


Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

8 April 1936 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Great Ziegfeld  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (roadshow)

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

During filming, Venita Varden's costume caught fire while she was in the dressing room. She was saved when Maxine Cantway and Sheila Browning helped extinguish the flames. See more »

Goofs

One of the newspapers announcing the upcoming bout between Sandow and the lion is dated April 20. The newspaper shown after the match, decrying it as a fraud, is dated April 17. See more »

Quotes

Billie Burke: I'm here.
Florenz Ziegfeld Jr.: Yes, and so am I.
Billie Burke: But it must seem like kindergarten to you.
Florenz Ziegfeld Jr.: Why?
Billie Burke: The great Mr. Ziegfeld, producer of the Follies, surrounded by hundreds of beautiful women, sitting on a bench holding hands, watching the riverboats go back and forth. Doesn't sound a bit like you, does it?
Florenz Ziegfeld Jr.: No, it doesn't. But, here I am, sitting on a bench, holding hands and watching the riverboats go back and forth... And regretting all the years I haven't known you.
Billie Burke: Didn't Anna Held take up a few of those years?
Florenz Ziegfeld Jr.: Yes...
[...]
See more »

Crazy Credits

An actor portraying composer Jerome Kern is seen in an office playing "Look for the Silver Lining" on the piano, but he is not mentioned on any cast list for this film. He is simply called "Jerry" by the other characters in the scene. See more »

Connections

Featured in Precious Images (1986) See more »

Soundtracks

Won't You Come and Play with Me
(uncredited)
(also called "I Wish You'd Come and Play with Me")
Written by Alfred Plumpton
Performed by Luise Rainer
See more »

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User Reviews

 
What A Lovable Dinosaur
13 February 2005 | by (Dallas, Texas) – See all my reviews

Like some huge, lumbering, Paleozoic beast with a heart, nothing like this film has existed in a long time. And I doubt that there will be anything like it again. "The Great Ziegfeld" is a grandiose, three hour, B&W cinematic opus that chronicles the true story (more or less) of the professional life of legendary producer/showman "Flo" Ziegfeld, played convincingly by William Powell. It is an interesting, lovable film because it is so historically ... quaint.

Structurally, the narrative takes a chronological approach. However, except for the film's starting year of 1893 and the ending soon after the 1929 stock market crash, no dates are given, a shortsighted flaw in the screenplay. But during this roughly forty-year period we see Ziggy's ambition unfurl into a successful career of producing some of the most extravagant musical shows in history. And throughout, the theme remains the same: to "glorify the American girl", that is to say to glorify the early twentieth century stereotyped image of the American girl.

Despite his success as a showman, Ziggy was constantly plagued with financial problems, and embroiled in relations with women, the two most important being: the humorously indecisive Anna Held, and the lovely Billie Burke.

More interesting to me than the biography is the lavish, grandiose production numbers. In the most grandiose of all, Dennis Morgan sings "A Pretty Girl Is Like A Melody", as the camera ascends a slowly revolving spiral staircase adorned with "Ziegfeld girls" in outlandish costumes. The set, resembling a wedding cake, is about as tall as it is wide, with the stage curtain rising to what seems like stratospheric heights.

The film's strengths are its humorous script, the dazzling sets, the glamorous costumes, the music, a cameo appearance by Fanny Brice, and a great tap dance routine by Ray Bolger. My main complaint is the film's length. Also, I find it curious that this big budget beast with its theme of wealth and beauty came out right in the middle of the Great Depression. MGM must have been on a colossal ego trip.

Overall, "The Great Ziegfeld" is fun, and definitely worth watching, especially as a time capsule to an entertainment era that is gone forever.


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