The Great Ziegfeld(released April/36)was MGMs most lavish musical picture for that time and many would argue its' most lavish ever.Based loosely on the life of Florence Ziegfeld Jr.,it traces his beginnings as a side show barker to his greatest triumphs on Broadway and to his decline and death in 1932.Of course this is Hollywood and very little is "truth" here,only similarities or suggestions of.Stars such as Fanny Brice,Will Rogers,Eddie Cantor,Bert Williams,Anna Held among so many more,were to pass through his productions,the Follies.Anna Held he married,and eventually another actress Billie Burke(played by Myrna Loy,a natural choice,by now VERY popular with audiences starring next to Powell in the Thin Man series),who many will recall as Glinda the good witch in the Wizard of Oz.The fact is Florence was quite the ladies man and he went into debt many times over during his illustrious career.He in fact left a giant debt for Billie which is the reason she had to return to work just to pay off Florence's substantial bills,when he died of pleurisy in 1932.The theatre he had built and named after himself was taken over by William Hearst who had originally loaned him the money to build it in the first place.
There is no denying Ziegfeld`s great influence in the show business world,even to this day,and fewer still can match a track record of 24 years of lavish stage productions;1907 to 1932.This film does manage to capture the ``spirit`` of Ziegfeld however and MGMs pick of William Powell as Ziegfeld was a great choice.Luise Rainer plays his French wife,star Anna Held,and she got an OSCAR for her outstanding performance.In fact the picture got two more OSCARS,one for best picture and one for dance director Felix Seymour.This is also the closest any studio ever got to matching the lavishness and technical brilliance of Busby Berkeley musical numbers;any one of them could have given Berkeley a good run for his money in their design and execution.The huge sets are still breathtakingly beautiful to watch.
Technically the movie is,at times,a bit scratchy and it could certainly use a good remastering.But over all it is a clear and crisp print.Extras include a featurette on the making of the film and a rare vintage newsreel from the film`s premiere.The newsreel is a real kick as for the most part it is a camera staring at an open mike and stars waltzing up to it and saying a few syllables about anticipating the films premiere.Watch for a very young Ed Sullivan waxing lyrical,looking more like a member of the mob than the entertainment columnist and radio man he was(he Walter Winchell's biggest competition at that point).This film(thankfully)is the road show version which means you are getting the top dollar $2.20-of-the-day price version as opposed to the 176 minute pared down standard version.It is a whopping 185 minutes;that`s three hours and five minutes for those in Hoboken.But those 185 minutes go by quite fast,which is a sign of a very good film.
The Great Ziegfeld is an engrossing 185 minute juggernaut which does NOT fail to entertain and impress thanks to the performances of Rainer,Powell,Loy and its`great supporting cast.It`s lavish production and dance numbers are a sight to behold and they give Busby a real run for his money.This was MGM`s highest budgeted pic for the depression and a gamble,but it paid off and was a hit.You won`t find a factual biography of Ziegfeld but Powell`s resemblance and his turn as Flo give the film the impetus it needs to chug right along in grand style to the end.Recommended.
on February 18, 2004
a big extravaganza musical. the musicals are very grand and ostentious but very much in the tradition of musicals in the 30s when entertainment was escape from the dreary reality of the Depression. william powell, luise rainer and myrna loy are all wonderful, thought myrna loy's billie burke came very late in the movie. my favorite scene was when Flo (powell) was courting Billie (loy) at grant's tomb. simplicity and wonderful sweet. you ll have to see it just for that scene. luise rainer's telephone won her the oscar. the movie has a few touching scenes, but i did wish the movie was brisker and tighter.
on February 3, 2004
"The Great Ziegfeld" is a biographic film based on the life of Broadway impressario, Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. Brimming with stellar performances by William Powell, Myrna Loy and Luise Rainer (who walked off with the Best Actress Oscar)a wonderful score and mind-boggling production values, this is one heck of a good time for a night's entertainment!
TRANSFER: Unfortunately, Warner Brothers gives us a somewhat tired looking print of this classic film. Though the gray scale is generally well balanced, some of the picture appears to be out of focus while other portions are filled with excessive film grain. Dirt, age related artifacts and an incredible amount of scratches in some scenes really detract from the over all visual presentation. The audio is MONO and, as with the picture, is not adequate. During some of the songs the background hiss is excessive.
EXTRAS: A flimsy featurette that all too briefly attempts to "sum up" the film and the real life of one of the 20th century's greatest showman.
BOTTOM LINE: Because you are not likely to see this film revisited in a Deluxe Edition I am recommending to add it to your library. But it in no way stands up to Warner's previous DVD mastering efforts on "Now Voyager" or "Mildred Pierce".
on January 30, 2004
"The Great Ziegfeld" is a biographic film on Broadway impressario, Florenz Ziegfeld Jr., the man who "glorified the American girl". Determined to squeeze every last ounce of opulence from its coffers, MGM spared no expense in retelling what is essentially a melodrama with musical numbers tossed in for good effect.
Flo (William Powell)is a cheap carnival barker when he crosses paths with Anna Held (Luise Rainer). Their chemistry is instant and through her talent as an artist, fame comes to them both. However, all bliss is fleeting and their marriage ends when Flo takes up with a chorus girl. But he ditches her for sassy Billie Burke (Myrna Loy) and then proceeds to create a series of lavish spectacles that only MGM could afford to do justice to. The most spectacular of these remains "A Pretty Girl Is Like A Melody"; a gargantuan revolving platform covered in dancers and art deco magificence.
Aside: Flo's second wife, Billie was a contract player at MGM during this time. Her best known role is as 'Glinda' the witch of the north in "The Wizard of Oz".
TRANSFER: Surprisingly smooth and very well balanced black levels and a good gray scale are the real selling features of this 3 hr. plus spectacle. Unfortunately an excess of age related dirt and scratches greet the viewer throughout the first hour of running time. However, things get cleaned up half way through for a really stunning transfer. Shadows and contrast levels are exemplary. The audio is clean, well balanced and quite simply, one of the best you are likely to encounter for a film of this vintage.
EXTRAS: A couple of featurettes that round out the history of the film - all too briefly.
BOTTOM LINE: Next to "Yankee Doodle Dandy" - another show folk bio with guts, "The Great Ziegfeld" is most readily recognized as one of the best! Add it to your film library!
on December 22, 2003
The first half of this film is exciting--as Florenz Ziegfeld creates his Broadway reputation, woos Anna Held to the stage, and mounts his "Follies." There is a thrilling backstage atmosphere, and a beautiful recreation of the era (at least 1936's view of it--as stills from the original follies prove they weren't nearly as stupendous, how could they be?). But then, after the centerpiece "Melody" number (in a word--wow), the movie slips into a sleepwalk, tries to create drama where there isn't any, and commits felonies like cutting away from Fanny Brice while she's singing "My Man." There is also a ballet number with Harriet Hoctor that is a horror, and is what fast forward buttons were invented for. Essential viewing for those interested in 30s cinema--it truly is a gigantic movie. But you should brace yourself for that last hour. (See also "Rosalie," a Ziegfeld show MGM turned into a film the following year, for more of the studio's crazy "bigger is better" mentality. That film, written by the same writer and almost topping this one in scale, is catastrophically bad.)
on September 25, 2002
There are a few things to know going in: It's a biography with music (but not a musical), it's more than 60 years old, and it's three hours long!! Now I'm okay with all that, but I'm an old movie snob. This one is proof positive of the old Hollywood dream factory, where you were guaranteed happiness, pathos, bells, and whistles in practically every picture. But the film isn't as happy-go-lucky as you might expect; it gives a rather astringent portrayal of a gifted showman who knew how to dazzle audiences, but never how to save a buck. According to this book, his was a never-ending cycle of glittery and expensive theatrics pitted against dodging creditors his whole life. In that respect, we are to conclude that his lack of business sense was tempered by his need to entertain. He also knew talent, as is represented by his discovery scenes with Bolger and real Ziegfeld veteran Fanny Brice. (Watch how he hires her on the strength of her comedy, then humiliates her during a rehearsal in order to get her in the mood to belt out "My Man.") And of course, not enough can be said of the eight-minute "A Pretty Girl Is Like A Melody" finale where spangled showgirls, opera singers, grand pianos, and a single, all-enveloping curtain hang on a revolving "wedding cake" spiral staircase. You have to see it to believe it.
on July 14, 2002
I can't quite remember how old I was when I first saw this film, I must of been 4 or 5, all I remember was I didn't attend school yet, but, "The Great Ziegfeld", was the ultimate movie of my childhood. It's what first put the thought of making films in my head. Recently I viewed the movie again, and it's still as charming and as wonderful as ever! Just about every momemnt of it brought enjoyment.
It's not hard to see why this movie won the best picture Oscar in 1936. The big sets, the lavish costumes, beautiful women, and the all-star cast headed by William Powell (whom sadly wasn't given a nomination for this film, but, was up that year anyway, for "My Man Godfrey")and including Myrna Loy (Whom has acted with Powell in "The Thin Man" in 1934, I think), Luise Rainer (Who won an Oscar for her role, she also won the following year for "The Good Earth"), Frank Morgan & Ray Bolger (Both probably best known for their roles in "The Wizard of Oz" Morgan - Oz, Bolger - The Scarecrow), Fanny Brice, and Virgina Bruce, are just a few of the famous face who appear in and out of this movie. One can only imagine, since I wasn't even born yet, what kind of reaction this film was received with when first released. I can only guess people were truly taken away with it. It really must of been something special to see this back then. This isn't really a great film. I enjoy it true, and I will continue to watch it again and again. But, this movie is just like the shows put on by Florenz Ziegfeld himself, an extravaganza! It "pretty" to watch. It's fun to go back in time and relive the past. To see what entertained people back then, but otherwise, this is not a "best picture" type of film. But, like I said, it's understandable as to why it won back then. People, I assume must of never seen a big, splashy movie like this before. And even in the modern world, I'm still amazed by it. Then again, I'm a bit bias towards these movies. I love films from the 30's and 40's. They're part of my childhood. Even though I'm 19.
"The Great Ziegfeld" tells the story of America's greatest showman, Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. (William Powell). We see him at the Chicago World Fair in the late 1890's. He's struggling with a "world's strongest man" act. His main competition is Jack Billings (Frank Morgan), who also happens to be a close friend. He has a "women's show" called "Little Egypt". We see Ziegfeld, then turn himself into a great showman. By playing the press. He creates stories to keep his talent in the papers, then he gets a break. It meets Anna Held (Luise Rainer, and I agree with everyone on here, her performance is a standout. It's truly unforgettable). Who he opens a lot of doors for and she for him. But, it's not untill he gets an idea to do a "women's show" "glorifying" the everyday women, "The Ziegfeld Follies", that he achieves his greatest success. I really don't want to spoil too much of the film for those who haven't seen to film yet, but, that was a brief description of the events that take place.
"The Great Ziegfeld" went on to earn 7 Oscar nominations, and won 3;"Best Picture", "Best Actress" & "Best Dance Direction". The film's highpoints for me include the big elegant dance number of "A Pretty Girl Is Like A Melody" which goes into a medley including Puccini's Un Bel Di Verdremo, and closing with Gershwin's "Rhpasody In Blue". Then there's Ray Bolger's song and dance to "She's A Follies Girl". His dancing is really amazing and proves what type of talent he was. I also enjoyed seeing Buddy Dolye impersonate one of my favorites Eddie Canntor singing "If You Knew Susie". Seeing Fanny Brice sing "Yiddle On Your Fiddle" and "My Man" was also wonderful. There's a nice set piece when Vigina Bruce sings "You Never Looked So Beautiful" and hearing "You" put a smile on my face.
If you enjoy classic films, than this should please all filmbuffs. It's nice knowing, that while Hollywood can't make 'em like this anymore, I'm still able to revisit my childhood as long as we have these tapes.
Bottom-line: The ultimate movie of my childhood is one of the great early movie musicals of all time! Big and splashy it shows us what Hollywood was once like, and what it can never be like again. This is one to watch for it's "time capsule" purposes mostly.
on March 30, 2002
The legendary Florenz Ziegfeld was the consummate showman who, in the 1907-32 period "glorified the American girl" in a series of Broadway productions that made him (and them) famous the world over. Billie Burke, the fey and sparkling character actress who made a new career for herself in the talkies following the death of her spouse, personally chose Powell for the role. While Powell didn't resemble the showman physically, he reputedly had the right "manner and approach". Costing a phenomenal (by 1936 standards) l.5 million dollars to film, this extravaganza traces Ziegfeld's entire career from his sponsorship of strongman Sandow at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair to his initiation of his famed Follies in 1907 which led to a great career as a musical entrepreneur - i.e., the 1927 stage version of SHOW BOAT, etc. - followed by his death in the depressed year of 1932. Powell is strangely touching as Ziegfeld; his performance conveys many facets about the man: his esthetically impeccable and exquisite taste, his unique genius in his chosen field - and even his financial impracticality. Powell's performance is winning, poised and charming as he gets across the poignancy implicit in Ziegfeld's financial misfortunes following the 1929 crash, and scenes with his daughter Patricia are done with sensitivity. Loy was not exactly an inspired choice to play Burke, but she plays with poise and charm. Luise Rainer won an AA for her playing of the famous chanteuse, Anna Held and her telephone scene is classic: she poignantly hides her grief while congratulating Flo upon his marriage to Billie. I certainly didn't think Virginia Bruce was best choice for the gal on top of the "Stairway to the Stars", i.e. A PRETTY GIRL IS LIKE A MELODY (as sung by Stanley Morner aka Dennis Morgan) sequence!
on January 22, 2002
On a purely technical level, everything about THE GREAT ZIEGFIELD is big: big sets, big costumes, big musical numbers, big crowds, all of it lavish, all of it over the top, all of it very enjoyable. The main cast--William Powell, Luise Rainer, Frank Morgan, and Myrna Loy--plays with considerable wit and precision, and the supporting cast includes such famous Ziegfield stars as Fanny Brice and Ray Bolger.
Unfortunately, the film is not as much fun as it sounds. The script and story give us an extremely sanitized and rather sentimental version of showman Flo Ziegfield, his loves, and his stars, and in spite of film's lavishness and fine performances, it gradually becomes a very mild but very elephantine movie that only really comes to life during its musical numbers. These a justly famous, with the "A Pretty Girl" number living up to its reputation as perhaps the single most extravagant musical number ever placed on film.
Luise Rainer's famous performance as Anna Held will charm virtually every viewer, and fans of Powell, Loy, and Morgan will certainly find much to enjoy--as will musical fans of all stripe. But even so, as the film drags on and on, most viewers will be tempted to hit the fast-forward button more than once.
on August 10, 2001
I saw this movie when it first came out, I was about 12 years old.I have always been a big movie fan,and I always loved the lavish musicals, and the comedies. This movie has the best of the best. Almost all the screen greats of the 40s, and then some, are showcased here. I saw it once on TV, and this is a movie I could watch a hundred times. A perfect example of why movies were so great, they don't make em like this anymore.Pure intertainment!!!!!