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The Great Ziegfeld (1936)



Average Rating: 6.2/10
Reviews Counted: 24
Fresh: 15 | Rotten: 9

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


Average Rating: 5.4/10
Critic Reviews: 5
Fresh: 3 | Rotten: 2

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



liked it
Average Rating: 3.4/5
User Ratings: 2,650

My Rating

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"

Feb 3, 2004

MGM Home Entertainment

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All Critics (24) | Top Critics (5) | Fresh (15) | Rotten (9) | DVD (9)

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

February 17, 2009 Full Review Source: TIME Magazine
TIME Magazine
Top Critic IconTop 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.

January 28, 2008 Full Review Source: Variety
Top Critic IconTop 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.

May 20, 2003 Full Review Source: New York Times
New York Times
Top Critic IconTop 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.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop 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.

January 1, 1936 Full Review Source: ReelViews
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A real treat.

January 13, 2014 Full Review Source: Radio Times
Radio Times

It's a lavishly epic biopic, full of wonderful performances and breathtaking musical numbers. It definitely deserved its Oscar!

June 5, 2013 Full Review Source: Film Geek Central
Film Geek Central

Drags in places and deosn't even try for a true-to-life portrait of the great theatre entrepeneur but it's shiny and big spectacle with impressive choreography.

January 19, 2011 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

This Oscar winner for Best Picture is only great in its tediousness, length and its budget.

March 11, 2008 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

As directed by Leonard, this Oscar-winner is weak in every respect, as biopic, as musical (production numbers are mediocre), and as acting vehicle.

August 18, 2007 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com

What can you do with a movie like this? Surrender, I guess.

December 12, 2006 Full Review Source: TV Guide's Movie Guide
TV Guide's Movie Guide

Mildly entertaining when in biopic mode, The Great Ziegfeld fails to realize that its musical numbers are more a distraction than a beauty.

October 10, 2006 Full Review Source: Cinema Sight
Cinema Sight

Contrary to the most famous nugget of showbiz wisdom, the movie leaves us wanting considerably less than we're given.

August 9, 2006 Full Review Source: Nick's Flick Picks
Nick's Flick Picks

Unless you were in an air conditioned movie house in Topeka, Kansas in 1936, I can't see why anyone would want to sit through all three hours of this.

August 23, 2004 Full Review Source: Apollo Guide
Apollo Guide

It's huge, overbudget, dazzling, and entertaining, but you'd be hard-pressed to remember more than one or two of the characters or specific events.

July 25, 2004 Full Review Source: Goatdog's Movies
Goatdog's Movies

Like most biopics, the movie isn't entirely factual, but it does hit key points in a wonderfully entertaining manner.

June 3, 2004

Overlong, cliched bio-pic, not really worthy of its best picture Oscar.

February 25, 2004
Journal and Courier (Lafayette, IN)

Here's a textbook case of how a film can lose its appeal over the years.

January 8, 2004 Full Review Source:

Overlong, overblown biopic with a pair of flawless stars.

December 29, 2002
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

A bit overwhelming and overblown, it's one thing to say that this movie is great for historical purposes, but it's hard for me to imagine that anyone likes to sit through a three hour tedious musical like this.

June 29, 2002

A moving story of how the weaknesses and obsessions that ironically made one man a powerful entertainment mogul inevitably brought about his downfall.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Flick Filosopher
Flick Filosopher

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.
May 2, 2014
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.
April 10, 2012
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

Not only entertaining, it's historical and biographical too. Powell is a great actor. I really enjoyed this movie.
September 15, 2010

Super Reviewer

The Great Ziegfeld wasn't bad but it could've been about an hour shorter. The musical numbers went on way too long for not really adding much to the story. Admittedly, some of the numbers were truly fantastic from a spectacle and filmmaking standpoint--namely the one before the intermission. William Powell was his usual likable self but not introducing Myrna Loy until the last 45 minutes was pretty goddamned unforgivable. Of the 13 collaborations that Powell and Loy did together I'd have to say The Great Ziegfeld was the weakest (and before you ask, yes, I did see Song of the Thin Man), which is pretty damned ironic considering this won Best Picture of 1936. Moments of fun are to be found, but The Great Ziegfeld is just kind of a big mess.
January 14, 2010

Super Reviewer

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  • The Great Ziegfeld (1936) (UK)
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