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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>
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 »
In the "Rhapsody in Blue" portion of the mammoth "Pretty Girl" number, one of the silver-fringe-and-antlers quartet of dancers gets visibly disoriented when her group does its final moves. She's the second one from the left, and her movements are completely out of sync with the other three until, with a thump, she sits down on the stairs. Since the incredibly complex number was shot in very long takes, the error was allowed to remain in the film. 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 »
Ol' Man River
Music by Jerome Kern
Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
Played during the opening credits
Sung by an uncredited male vocalist and played during the last two montages 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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