Greatest Film Scenes
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The Great Ziegfeld (1936)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

The Great Ziegfeld (1936)

In director Robert Z. Leonard's and MGM's lengthy, big-budget musical biography, a Best Picture winner, the fictionalized musical biography of the career of the flamboyant Broadway show business impresario Florenz ("Flo") Ziegfeld, Jr. (William Powell) was presented; it featured the fictional and real-life portrayals of past Ziegfeld Follies greats, including Fanny Brice, Will Rogers, and Eddie Cantor:

  • there were many lavish and grand dance production numbers, extravagant and huge sets (especially for "A Pretty Girl Is Like A Melody"), and a number of memorable songs, including "Look For the Silver Lining," "If You Knew Susie," "Shine On, Harvest Moon," and "Rhapsody in Blue"
  • the film followed Ziegfeld's rise from a sideshow barker to his world-famous and opulent New York "Follies" featuring hundreds of beauties - dubbed his "Glorified Girls"
  • the musical drama also revealed Flo's relationships with his co-workers (mostly Audrey Dane (Virginia Bruce)) and his two wives: French singer Anna Held (Best Actress-winning Luise Rainer) (known for bathing in milk every day to preserve her complexion) and after a divorce, his second marriage to red-haired Broadway star Billie Burke (Myrna Loy).
  • in the film's most celebrated, moving telephone scene, heartbroken Anna Held, the first of womanizing impresario Flo's wives, congratulated her ex-husband on his re-marriage, after reading the World newspaper article headlined: "ZIEGFELD WEDS BILLIE BURKE; PRODUCER AND STAR IN SECRET CEREMONY AT HOBOKEN - Frohman Enraged at News of Romance, Friends Learn" - and she pretended to be cheerful and happy for him: ("Hello, Flo... Yes. Here's Anna... I'm so happy for you today, I could not help calling you and congratulate you... Wonderful, Flo! Never better in my whole life!... I'm so excited about my new plans! I'm going to Paris. Yes, for a few weeks, and then I can get back, and then I'm doing a new show, and... Oh, it's all so wonderful! I'm so happy!... Yes... And I hope you are happy, too... Yes?... Oh, I'm so glad for you, Flo... Sounds funny for ex-husband and ex-wife to tell each other how happy they are, oui?... Yes, Flo... Goodbye, Flo... Goodbye..."); after her show of support, she collapsed sobbing
  • although there were many financial challenges and hurdles in his rise to success, Flo was able to produce four successful shows in the same season in the late 1920s - but then he suffered as many did with the Stock Market crash of 1929.
  • its most famous sequence was a lavish, elaborately-costumed, gargantuan, overly-long production number "A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody" filmed in one continuous shot and featured 180 performers; after the singing of the song in front of an immense curtain, it was drawn back to view a fabulous crane shot of a slowly-spinning, cork-screwing tower of stairs holding singers, dancers, musicians, and other artists; at the end was the appearance of Audrey Dane (Virginia Bruce) - a Glorified Ziegfeld Girl, perched atop the giant revolving platform or pillar (a towering white staircase)
"A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody"

The Curtain


The Staircase
  • in the closing segment, "You Never Looked So Beautiful" was sung by Audrey Dane with tuxedoed men; it was followed by a fashion show, of sorts, with many poses of numerous chorines wearing extravagant costumes and headdresses, ending with a close-up of Audrey Dane
  • the aging and seriously-ill Ziegfeld's final scene was with his faithful butler Sidney (Ernest Cossart); after viewing his Ziegfeld Theatre sign from his window, Ziegfeld dreamt of wanting to do an even more spectacular Follies show in the future: "I must do the biggest Follies of my whole life. I-..." but then, he realized that he was broke and only dreaming: "I can't laugh any more, Sidney, because I've been wrong. I've got nothing, nothing to leave anyone."
  • when encouraged, Ziegfeld began to speak hopefully again, but then passed away in his arm-chair (as he recalled images, super-imposed atop his face, of his stage productions): "(You leave them) the memories of the finest things ever done on the stage... I've got to have more steps. I need more steps. I've got to get higher, higher!"); a white rose dropped from his right hand, signifying his death
Ziegfeld's Death Scene

Telephone Scene with Ex-Wife Anna Held (Luise Rainer)

Ray Bolger Dance

"You Never Looked So Beautiful" (with Virginia Bruce)


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