The Great Ziegfeld


The Great Ziegfeld

Critics Consensus

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



Total Count: 29


Audience Score

User Ratings: 2,763
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Movie Info

In this biopic, William Powell stars as the titular theatrical impresario, whose show business empire begins when he stage manages a tour for legendary strongman Sandow. He charms European stage star Anna Held to headline his "Follies." From 1907 onward, Ziegfeld stages annual editions of Broadway's most fabulous revue.


William Powell
as Florenz Ziegfeld
Luise Rainer
as Anna Held
Myrna Loy
as Billie Burke
Frank Morgan
as Billings
Virginia Bruce
as Audrey Lane
Joseph Cawthorn
as Dr. Ziegfeld
Fanny Brice
as Herself
Jean Chatburn
as Mary Lou
Ray Bolger
as Himself
Charles Trowbridge
as Julian Mitchell
Gilda Gray
as Herself
Andrew A. Trimble
as Will Rogers
Joan Holland
as Patricia Ziegfeld
A.A. Trimble
as Will Rogers
Buddy Doyle
as Eddie Cantor
Leon Errol
as Himself
Esther Muir
as Prima Donna
Herman Bing
as Customer
Paul Irving
as Erlanger
Alfred P. James
as Stage Door Man
Miss Morocco
as Little Egypt
Suzanne Kaaren
as Miss Blair
Sarah Edwards
as Wardrobe Woman
Mickey Daniels
as Telegraph Boy
Clay Clement
as Customer
Larry Wheat
as Customer
Rosina Lawrence
as Marilyn Miller
Jack Baxley
as Detective
Charles Coleman
as Carriage Starter
Eric Wilton
as Desk Clerk
Mary Howard
as Miss Carlisle
Evelyn Dockson
as Fat Woman
David Burns
as Clarence
Phil Tead
as Press Agent
Susan Fleming
as Girl with Sage
Adrienne D'Ambricourt
as Wife of French Ambassador
Charles Fallon
as French Ambassador
Boothe Howard
as Willie Zimmerman
Edwin Maxwell
as Charles Froman
Ruth Gillette
as Lillian Russell
John Hyams
as Dave Stamper
Raymond Brown
as Inspector Doyle
Pat Nixon
as Extra
Dennis Morgan
as Stage Singer
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Critic Reviews for The Great Ziegfeld

All Critics (29) | Top Critics (6) | Fresh (18) | Rotten (11)

Audience Reviews for The Great Ziegfeld

  • Nov 29, 2017
    As this film clocks in at three full hours, one reviewer likened it to a "huge, lumbering, Paleozoic beast with a heart", and it's a great analogy. It's a chronicle of the career of showman and theater producer Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr, and the highlights are the musical numbers and showy costumes by Adrian in the middle third of the movie which are truly over-the-top. They're also apparently true to the extravagance of his Ziegfeld Follies, which ran on Broadway from 1907 to 1931. The number ""A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody" is particularly stunning, with the camera going up a lavish, revolving spiral staircase adorned with beautiful men and women, dancers, and performances of classical music along the way. Google it and be suitably impressed for eight minutes. I also liked seeing the tap dance routine from Ray Bolger (the scarecrow from 'The Wizard of Oz'), featuring a few splits that would undoubtedly be quite painful to the average man. Of the cast, William Powell delivers a nice performance in the title role, capturing both the taste and generosity of Ziegfeld, and his relationship with his rival (played by Frank Morgan) is touching. The two of them imbue this biography with class, and through sheer force of will in the production, one can see why the film won the Academy Award for Best Picture. I have to say though, it had too much detail, and for me the first and third hours were too long. Myrna Loy doesn't even make her appearance as Billie Burke until the 2:10 point or so, and her part is rather modest. Luise Rainer plays his first wife, the performer Anna Held, and turns in a mediocre performance, so it's harder to understand her Oscar. Lastly, the film lacks an edge. Ziegfeld was a notorious womanizer, and while that's alluded to, it's all pretty innocent, lacking a certain zest, authenticity, or both. Emotions in general are all muted and glossed over, making us aware of the movie being a theatrical production of its own. You can certainly do worse, but I would only recommend the film with reservations.
    Antonius B Super Reviewer
  • May 02, 2014
    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 H Super Reviewer
  • Oct 02, 2013
    This early circus film is more of a waste of time than a good use of one. One imagines that circuses thrilled more in the thirties and this was an attempt to bring it onto screen with William Powell, Myrna Loy and the rest of the stars of the era. Ultimately it is forgettable.
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Mar 14, 2011
    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 W Super Reviewer

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