The Great Ziegfeld (1936)



Critic Consensus: This biopic is undeniably stylish, but loses points for excessive length, an overreliance on clichés, and historical inaccuracies.

Movie Info

In MGM's three-hour-plus The Great Ziegfeld, William Powell stars as the titular theatrical impresario, whose show business empire begins when he stage-manages a tour for legendary strongman Sandow (Nat Pendleton). With nary a penny in the bank, he charms European stage star Anna Held (Luise Rainer) to headline his "Follies", and later marries the luscious Ms. Held. From 1907 onward, Ziegfeld stages annual editions of Broadway's most fabulous revue, dedicated to "Glorifying the American Girl" … More

Rating: Unrated
Genre: Drama, Romance, Musical & Performing Arts, Classics
Directed By:
Written By: William Anthony McGuire
In Theaters:
On DVD: Feb 3, 2004
MGM Home Entertainment


as Florenz Ziegfeld

as Anna Held

as Billie Burke

as Billings

as Sampson

as Sandow

as Audrey Lane

as Dr. Ziegfeld

as Herself

as Mary Lou

as Herself

as Himself

as Herself

as Julian Mitchell

as Herself

as Will Rogers

as Will Rogers

as Patricia Ziegfeld

as Eddie Cantor

as Himself

as Prima Donna

as Customer

as Erlanger

as Gene Buck

as Stage Door Man

as Little Egypt

as Miss Blair

as Wardrobe Woman

as Telegraph Boy

as Customer

as Customer

as Customer

as Customer

as Marilyn Miller

as Detective

as Carriage Starter

as Desk Clerk

as Miss Carlisle

as Fat Woman

as Clarence

as Press Agent

as Girl with Sage

as Wife of French Ambas...

as French Ambassador

as Willie Zimmerman

as Charles Froman

as Lillian Russell

as Dave Stamper

as Inspector Doyle

as Extra

as Stage Singer
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for The Great Ziegfeld

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Critic Reviews for The Great Ziegfeld

All Critics (26) | Top Critics (6)

The producers are to be congratulated on every phase of the beautiful production except their lack of courage cutting the film.

Full Review… | February 17, 2015
New York Daily News
Top Critic

Pretentious, packed with hokum and as richly sentimental as an Irving Berlin lyric, it is, as such, top-notch entertainment.

Full Review… | February 17, 2009
TIME Magazine
Top Critic

Considering the recent screen standards in book musicals with five numbers for 100 to 110 minutes of running time this Metro Santaclausing of numbers becomes virtually a double-feature filmusical.

Full Review… | January 28, 2008
Top Critic

If the picture overcrowds its screen, at least we must admit it is an impressive kaleidoscope; and probably nothing short of that could reflect the gaudy career of America's foremost showman.

Full Review… | May 20, 2003
New York Times
Top Critic

It's amazingly dull, even with William Powell in the lead and guest appearances by the likes of Ray Bolger and Fanny Brice, so of course it won the Best Picture Oscar for 1936.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Although some of the production's technical aspects remain impressive, the dramatic elements come across as trite and many of the musical numbers are dated.

Full Review… | January 1, 1936
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for The Great Ziegfeld


Florenz Ziegfeld rises from anonymity to become one of the most successful theater producers of all time.
As a character study, this film is sorely lacking. By the end of the film, there's no understanding about what makes Ziegfeld successful, unless you count his devil-may-care ballsiness or his penchant for using his friends to bail him out of his money matters. And while William Powell plays Ziegfeld with energy from big spectacle to big spectacle, the film rarely slows down to reflect on Ziegfeld's raison d'etre.
All that said, the Ziegfeld spectacles recreated for the film are remarkably compelling and a feast for the eyes. There's a dance sequence in this film that rivals anything Gene Kelly ever attempted.
Overall, the characters aren't fully explored, but there's still fun to be had.

Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

Winner of some Oscars way back when, this is a lengthy, lavish spectacle driven biopic about Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr.- a legendary theatrical impressario who went from being a small time manager for a strongman, to being basically penniless, but managing to head a Broadway empire.

This film undoubtedly takes liberties with how the actual story went down, but I kinda expected that. This is a very long film, and at times it's basically a drawn out soap opera, but the perforamnces are decent, the stage numbers are extremely well done, and this film has some excellent costumes and set designs. There's also lots of well known musical pieces throughout, and the inclusions of real life Ziegfeld players adds to the integrity and authenticity of things.

All in all, if you dig old fashioned epic spectacle type films, you'll probably enjoy this one. As a biopic it is pretty routine, but the acting is good, the cast likeable, and overall this proves to be decently fun and entertaining.

Chris Weber

Super Reviewer


Not only entertaining, it's historical and biographical too. Powell is a great actor. I really enjoyed this movie.

Aj V

Super Reviewer

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