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>
Humoresque, Op. 101/7
Music by Antonín Dvorák
Played on the violin during the "A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody" sequence 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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