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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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Universal Pictures bought the film rights to Ziefeld's life story from his widow Billie Burke in late 1933. William Powell was to play Florenz Ziegfeld Jr., Billie Burke was to play herself, and it would feature specialties by Fanny Brice, Judy Garland (and her sisters), Eddie Cantor and Ray Bolger. When Universal decided to make a faithful film version of the Kern-Hammerstein musical "Show Boat", which Ziegfeld himself had originally produced onstage, the studio heads sold "The Great Ziegfeld" to MGM in March 1935 while still in pre-production. Only Powell, Brice and Bolger survived to the final picture. Ironically, MGM would buy the rights to "Show Boat" from Universal in 1942, and remake the musical, in Technicolor, in 1951. See more »
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 »
If I can give Belasco four dollars for silk stockings made of cotton, I can give Ziegfeld a little more for a mink coat made of skunk.
See more »
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 »
"Harriet Hoctor Ballet"
(also called "A Circus Must Be Different in a Ziegfield Show")
Music by Con Conrad
Lyrics by Herb Magidson
Sung and danced by male and female choruses
Danced by Harriet Hoctor See more »
Interesting & Generally Entertaining, Though Sometimes Overblown
Like its subject, this movie is interesting and generally entertaining, but often overblown. It's well worth seeing, although it could also have been whittled down by a good portion of its running time without losing anything important. It does present a believable and entertaining look at Ziegfeld's shows and personality, along with some good scenes and some good performances that keep it going.
William Powell was a pretty good choice to play Ziegfeld, since he has the knack of making a character eccentric and distinctive without having it come across as too forced or unnatural. And Myrna Loy is always a charming co-star, for Powell or anyone else. Yet it is Luise Rainer who delivers by far the most memorable performance - she makes her character temperamental but endearing, unpredictable but completely sympathetic. The best parts of the movie come when she is a big part of the action, and when her character slips into the background in the second half, the movie loses something. The rest of the large cast does get some good moments, and it's fun to see a couple of performers playing themselves, although some of them don't get nearly enough to do. The many production numbers contain some very good ones, but there are others that aren't worth the amount of time they were given, and that could have been cut down considerably without losing anything.
You can see why this impressed a lot of viewers in its time, and it's still pretty good entertainment. It could have been better, though, with a little more restraint. But then, its excesses are rather in keeping with its subject, and at any rate they don't keep it from being worth seeing.
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