6.8/10
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74 user 41 critic

The Great Ziegfeld (1936)

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The ups and downs of Florenz Ziegfeld Jr., famed producer of extravagant stage revues, are portrayed.

Director:

Robert Z. Leonard

Writer:

William Anthony McGuire (screenplay)
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Won 3 Oscars. Another 1 win & 5 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
William Powell ... Florenz Ziegfeld Jr.
Myrna Loy ... Billie Burke
Luise Rainer ... Anna Held
Frank Morgan ... Jack Billings
Fanny Brice ... Fannie Brice (as Fannie Brice)
Virginia Bruce ... Audrey Dane
Reginald Owen ... Sampston
Ray Bolger ... Ray Bolger
Ernest Cossart ... Sidney
Joseph Cawthorn ... Dr. Ziegfeld (as Joseph Cawthorne)
Nat Pendleton ... Sandow
Harriet Hoctor ... Herself
Jean Chatburn ... Mary Lou
Paul Irving Paul Irving ... Erlanger
Herman Bing ... Costumer
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Storyline

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 <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

The Sensation of the Century! See more »


Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

8 April 1936 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

El gran Ziegfeld See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (roadshow)

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

One of two Best Picture Oscar winners with a 'Z' in the title. The other one is also a biography, The Life of Emile Zola (1937). See more »

Goofs

At the Chicago World's Fair, as the Great Sandow (Nat Pendleton) lowers the barbell with the ladies inside, it lowers at a controlled rate, rather than as if a man was actually handling it. See more »

Quotes

Florenz Ziegfeld Jr.: [Last lines] I've got to have more steps. I need more steps... I've got to get higher... higher.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The opening credits display the title of the film and the names of the stars in marquee lights, as they would be on Broadway. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Ziegfeld on Film (2004) See more »

Soundtracks

Waiting for the Robert E. Lee
(1912) (uncredited)
Music by Lewis F. Muir
Played during the 'Paul Jones' dance
See more »

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User Reviews

 
What A Lovable Dinosaur
13 February 2005 | by LechuguillaSee all my reviews

Like some huge, lumbering, Paleozoic beast with a heart, nothing like this film has existed in a long time. And I doubt that there will be anything like it again. "The Great Ziegfeld" is a grandiose, three hour, B&W cinematic opus that chronicles the true story (more or less) of the professional life of legendary producer/showman "Flo" Ziegfeld, played convincingly by William Powell. It is an interesting, lovable film because it is so historically ... quaint.

Structurally, the narrative takes a chronological approach. However, except for the film's starting year of 1893 and the ending soon after the 1929 stock market crash, no dates are given, a shortsighted flaw in the screenplay. But during this roughly forty-year period we see Ziggy's ambition unfurl into a successful career of producing some of the most extravagant musical shows in history. And throughout, the theme remains the same: to "glorify the American girl", that is to say to glorify the early twentieth century stereotyped image of the American girl.

Despite his success as a showman, Ziggy was constantly plagued with financial problems, and embroiled in relations with women, the two most important being: the humorously indecisive Anna Held, and the lovely Billie Burke.

More interesting to me than the biography is the lavish, grandiose production numbers. In the most grandiose of all, Dennis Morgan sings "A Pretty Girl Is Like A Melody", as the camera ascends a slowly revolving spiral staircase adorned with "Ziegfeld girls" in outlandish costumes. The set, resembling a wedding cake, is about as tall as it is wide, with the stage curtain rising to what seems like stratospheric heights.

The film's strengths are its humorous script, the dazzling sets, the glamorous costumes, the music, a cameo appearance by Fanny Brice, and a great tap dance routine by Ray Bolger. My main complaint is the film's length. Also, I find it curious that this big budget beast with its theme of wealth and beauty came out right in the middle of the Great Depression. MGM must have been on a colossal ego trip.

Overall, "The Great Ziegfeld" is fun, and definitely worth watching, especially as a time capsule to an entertainment era that is gone forever.


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