Youthful Father Chuck O'Malley led a colorful life of sports, song, and romance before joining the Roman Catholic clergy, but his level gaze and twinkling eyes make it clear that he knows ... See full summary »
The story of a farmer in China: a story of humility and bravery. His father gives Wang Lung a freed slave as wife. By diligence and frugality the two manage to enlarge their property. But ... See full summary »
In eighteenth century England, "first cousins" Tom Jones and Master Blifil grew up together in privilege in the western countryside, but could not be more different in nature. Tom, the ... See full summary »
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 »
Florenz Ziegfeld Jr.:
[after catching Ray Bolger doing a little softshoe backstage]
Buddy, you're better with your feet than you are with your broom.
Mr. Ziegfeld, you think so? Gee, I wish you'd give me a chance. I've got talent, and I'd like to get away from shifting scenery and moving props.
Florenz Ziegfeld Jr.:
How long have you been a property boy?
Five years, but my heart hasn't been in it.
You've been working a long time without your heart, buddy.
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 »
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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