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Discovery by Flo Ziegfeld changes a girl's life but not necessarily for the better, as three beautiful women find out when they join the spectacle on Broadway: Susan, the singer who must leave behind her ageing vaudevillian father; vulnerable Sheila, the working girl pursued both by a millionaire and by her loyal boyfriend from Flatbush; and the mysterious European beauty Sandra, whose concert violinist husband cannot endure the thought of their escaping from poverty by promenading her glamor in skimpy costumes. Written by
Michael Meigs <Michael.Meigs@dos.us-state.gov>
One of the Last Great Musicals from Hollywood's Golden Era
For some reason Ziegfeld Girl has been panned and patronized by the critics, when in fact it was the last of a series of glorious black & white musicals turned out in the 1930' and early 1940's and one of the best.
Don't listen to the critics who say the musical numbers and the melodramatic story don't work well together. This well-directed musical does an unusually efficient job of melding them together. The "backstage" story itself is probably one of the best with more believable characters and situations than usual. I thought it better than that of the more highly rated 42ond Street. Don't listen to the hard-faced feminist doctrinaires who can't stand seeing women and men and their families portrayed as real human people instead of the social-engineered zombies they would prefer. When someone says this movie would have been been better if in color, cover your ears as if you were being subjected to a stream of blasphemous cursing. Ziegfeld Girl is a gem of sensuous, luminous, black & white cinematography. The costumes and the choreography were wonderfully designed for black and white, and both work better than those of any subsequent color musical.
Jimmy Stewart got top billing in this movie, and he admittedly dominates all of the modest amount of screen time he has. But this is fourth-billed Lana Turner's movie when it comes to the dramatic side of the story. In addition to being at her most glamorous, she turns in a bravura performance as the poor kid from Flatbush rising to stardom and riches only to descend into despair and alcoholism. Hedy Lamarr, billed ahead of Lana, doesn't have much to do except to look beautiful, but she could do that better than any other actress. Nevertheless, don't listen to the critics who say she couldn't act. Check out some of her other movies, such as Dishonored Lady (see my review) and Algiers. Never mind, when the musical numbers start, the show is all Judy Garland, Tony Martin, and Busby Berkley's musical direction. Especially Judy. She has never been cuter or more charming, both in her singing and her not inconsiderable acting talent. The lovable Charles Winninger, playing her hammy, vaudevillian father, is a nice foil for Judy dramatically as well as musically. Some people have found the early musical number performed by the two the best of the show. You can listen to them! But there are plenty of other good numbers.
If you would like two hours and twelve minutes of engrossing, thoroughly entertaining, glittering, spectacular entertainment as only MGM in its golden years could dish out, watch Ziegfeld Girl. They don't, couldn't, and wouldn't if they could make 'em like this any more.
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