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The Great Ziegfeld
The Great Ziegfeld
Actors: William Powell, Myrna Loy, Luise Rainer, Frank Morgan, Fanny Brice
Director: Robert Z. Leonard
Genres: Drama, Musicals & Performing Arts
NR     2004     2hr 56min

Flo Ziegfeld's midway attraction isn't drawing flies. "How's business, Ziggy?" a rival taunts. This winner of 3 Academy Awards(R) including Best Picture provides the career-chronicling answer. Florenz Ziegfeld Jr.'s busine...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: William Powell, Myrna Loy, Luise Rainer, Frank Morgan, Fanny Brice
Director: Robert Z. Leonard
Creators: George J. Folsey, Karl Freund, Merritt B. Gerstad, Oliver T. Marsh, Hunt Stromberg, Sidney Algier, William Anthony McGuire
Genres: Drama, Musicals & Performing Arts
Sub-Genres: Love & Romance, Classics, Musicals
Studio: Warner Home Video
Format: DVD - Color - Closed-captioned,Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 02/03/2004
Original Release Date: 04/08/1936
Theatrical Release Date: 04/08/1936
Release Year: 2004
Run Time: 2hr 56min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 3
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
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Movie Reviews

The Greatest Show On Earth!
Alex Udvary | chicago, il United States | 07/14/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

"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."
A spectacular 1930's MGM blockbuster
Stephen H. Wood | South San Francisco, CA | 09/14/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

Covering forty years of a man's life from 1893 until 1932 in a hugely engrossing 184 minutes of screen time (plus intermission), THE GREAT ZIEGFELD (1936, MGM) is the summit of the so-called Golden Age of Hollywood, a "guilty pleasure" masterpiece, and a richly deserved Best Picture Oscar winner. Nothing could be more suitable for family viewing now, except for the length with working people and students who have to get to bed after homework. Maybe a Friday or Saturday night. The life story of Broadway showman Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr. (a wonderfully cast William Powell), the film opens at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair with a young Ziegfeld ("Flo") promoting a strong man named Sandow (Nat Pendleton). His main competition across the midway is Billings (Frank Morgan) with a dancing girl named Little Egypt. Billings and Flo will become lifetime friends from this beginning.

Around the 45 minute mark of a slow first hour, undeserved Oscar winner Luise Rainer shows up as Gay 90s European singer Anna Held. (Rainer is very good in the supporting role, but no match for Best Actress competitors Greta Garbo in CAMILLE or Carole Lombard in MY MAN GODFREY.) Held's big number is "It's Delightful to be Married." Off-stage, she seemingly becomes Ziegfeld's first wife.

THE GREAT ZIEGFELD becomes absolutely spectacular in its second hour-and for a full hour. Dazzlingly choreographed back to back musical numbers include the Oscar-winning "A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody", "You Never Looked So Beautiful Before", and the mind-blowingly lavish "Wonderful You". Only one studio in Hollywood could have made this fabulously entertaining movie that keeps topping itself with musical numbers for half an hour on either side on a theatrical intermission. (Entr'acte and prologue music have been restored to the VHS tape version I am reviewing.) It is all enthralling and exhausting.

At the beginning of the third hour, second-billed Myrna Loy finally shows up as Billie Burke at a party and soon marries Flo. (This confuses me. The real Burke was still alive in 1936. She was the Good Witch three years later in THE WIZARD OF OZ. Why didn't she play herself here?) Billings is still around as a pleasant pest to borrow money for rival stage productions. For Barbra Streisand fans, the real Fanny Brice shows up for a few fun scenes. And Anna Held divorces Flo over seeming adultery with a vain showgirl named Audrey (Virginia Bruce). Then she has a telephone scene that is one of the most overrated scenes for me in Hollywood's history as she congratulates Flo on his marriage to Billie. (One undistinguished telephone scene, and she wins a Best Actress Oscar over Garbo and Lombard?!)

The last 45 minutes of THE GREAT ZIEGFELD has Harriet Hocter play herself for another opulent musical number, "A Circus Should Be Bigger in a Ziegfeld Show." A young lady from the film's first half hour, Sally, gets a show named after her. We are up to the 1920s, and Ziegfeld has four shows running on Broadway at the same time. (One, RIO RITA, he personally supervised the 1929 film of. It shows up now and then on Turner Classic Movies.) Billings and Flo both go broke in The Great Crash. The movie ends with the great showman's poignant death in 1932.

This MGM blockbuster, mammoth even by today's standards, was produced by Hunt Stromberg, directed by Robert Z. Leonard, and written by William Anthony McGuire. In 1936, William Powell appeared in not just this cinematic sparkler, but also AFTER THE THIN MAN (also with Loy), MY MAN GODFREY (Oscar nomination), and LIBELED LADY (again with Loy). It is a stupendous product of the Hollywood factory and star systems, and again it is about perfect for family viewing--complete with an intermission if you need to do its 184 minutes in two nights.
(Reviewed from restored roadshow VHS videocassette.)

Nix Pix | Windsor, Ontario, Canada | 01/30/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)

""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!"
The Best Musical Ever Made
Terry Stuart | State College, Pa., USA | 01/12/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This movie is great family entertainment. It keeps your attention the whole way through the picture. The stars include William Powell, Luise Rainer, Frank Morgan, Fannie Brice, Ray Bolger and others. The movie has comedy, drama, romance, it has it all. The production number at the end of the first half of the film is well done. It shows a large cake design that revolves slowly and on the top is seen a girl dressed as a queen with a sky of stars in the background. One stage number shows many balloons floating slowly towards the camera and behind them is one scene after another of beauty. Another number shows a line of dogs standing still while girls dance around them. Another great number shows couples living in fancy houses, but the scenery is on moving platforms, three of them, and each one moves at a different time. The couples are singing in this scene. Then is seen a large number of tapdancers dancing on these moving platforms. There is also a fashion show with girls wearing very costly gowns and large plumes on their heads. If you like MGM musicals, you should see this one. You wont be dissappointed. The movie centers around the life of Florenz Ziegfeld. When you watch this movie for the first time, you will want to watch it again and again."