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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 <email@example.com>
William Powell was loaned by MGM to Universal for the film, but Universal sold the film to MGM when costs mounted. Powell made My Man Godfrey (1936) for Universal instead. 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 »
Oh, Jack, is Ziegfeld a friend of yours?
Yes, we've been pals for years, but you wouldn't like him.
No, he's up one day and down the next. If he got $10,000 tomorrow, he'd spend it on the girl he happened to like tomorrow night. You wouldn't want to waste your time meeting a felloe like that.
Oh, not if I met him on the right night.
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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 »
William Powell stars as Florenz Ziegfeld in his "biography" of the great Broadway producer. This is a lush and long film filled with great scenes and a few that are too long. Clocking in at about 3 hours, THE GREAT ZIEGFELD is one of MGM's biggest attempts at creating a blockbuster musical, and it won the Oscar for best film.
Powell is, as always, terrific. Oddly he did not receive an Oscar nomination for this film but did get one the same year for MY MAN GODFREY. Luise Rainer won the best actress Oscar for her performance as Anna Held. Myrna Loy plays Billie Burke. The great Fanny Brice appears as herself and just about steals the show until they stupidly and abruptly cut away from her as she starts singing "My Man." She doesn't show up again.
Ray Bolger gets a whole number to himself. And Dennis Morgan fronts the mammoth "A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody" number (although it's the voice of Allan Jones), which ranks among the great production numbers of the era. The camera slowly pans up a seemingly endless spiral staircase filled with pretty girls as draperies are raised to expose more and more staircase. Then we finally reach the top with Virginia Bruce posed there. It's a giddy and spectacular sequence.
The ballet sequence featuring Harriet Hoctor is rather a bore. I'd rather have seen more of Fanny Brice. Brice is hilarious in the dressing-room with a big blonde. Who was she? Is it Gertrude Astor? Powell and Rainer are really excellent in this film. Notable co-stars include Frank Morgan, Joseph Cawthorn, Herman Bing, Marcelle Corday, Nat Pendleton, and Reginald Owen.
And while Brice appears as herself the Will Rogers and Eddie Cantor appearances are fakes.
An excellent film in the old style and worth the 3 hours it takes to watch it. Ziegfeld was a great showman and deserved this fabulous tribute. He died in 1932, having given the world a number of major stars and great shows.
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