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 Florenz Ziegfeld Jr.'s life story from his widow Billie Burke in late 1933. William Powell was to play Ziegfeld, 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 Jerome Kern-Oscar Hammerstein II musical "Show Boat", which Ziegfeld himself had originally produced onstage, Universal 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 (Show Boat (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 »
Tell Mr Ziegfeld, I'm not in and if I was in, I wouldn't see him and if I did see him, tell him, I wouldn't buy a thing.
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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 »
The DVD release runs 185 minutes, and includes the overture, entr'acte and exit music, as presented in the original "road show" version of the film. See more »
"I'm the funniest kind of a fellow. I love ALL the girls."
MGM's epic biopic of theatrical producer Florenz Ziegfeld, starring William Powell in the title role. As with most Hollywood biopics, liberties are taken with the facts. Since this was made in the Golden Age of Hollywood, the intention is to portray Mr. Ziegfeld in the best possible light. If it were made today, the opposite would be true and all his faults would be emphasized (probably to the point of slander). I'll leave it to you to decide which is the better approach. Anyway, the movie covers Ziegfeld's rise as a Barnum-esque showman to becoming one of Broadway's most successful producers with his Ziegfeld Follies show. Along the way he attracts many women and marries two of them (Luise Rainer, Myrna Loy).
It's a spectacle made in the grand Old Hollywood fashion, heavy on melodrama and lavish musical numbers. Powell is fine in the lead. I have no idea how closely he "gets" Ziegfeld here, as he seems very much like William Powell's usual screen persona to me. He would reprise his role as Ziegfeld a decade later in 1946's Ziegfeld Follies (also from MGM). Luise Rainer is terrific in her Oscar-winning role as Ziegfeld's first wife, Anna. Myrna Loy is a little miscast as Billie Burke but it's hard to argue against any opportunity to see Powell and Loy on screen together. The rest of the cast includes solid supporting players Frank Morgan, Virginia Bruce, Ray Bolger, Reginald Owen, and Nat Pendleton. A. A. Trimble does a spot-on impersonation of Will Rogers.
It is a bit overlong. The first half could have done with some trimming. Still, a fine cast keeps things interesting and those musical numbers are dynamite. Dennis Morgan's "A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody" number is one of the highlights. The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards with three wins, including Best Picture and Best Actress for Rainer. Its award wins are the subject of debate for some today, who argue it is one of the least-deserving Best Picture winners. That's kind of laughable when you think about it, as the Best Picture Oscar rarely goes to the most deserving film. That was true then and is even more true today, in my opinion. It's definitely something you'll want to try out if you are a fan of classic Hollywood and all its glitz and glamour. They don't make 'em like this anymore.
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