The Great Ziegfeld (1936)



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

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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.
Classics , Drama , Musical & Performing Arts , Romance
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
MGM Home Entertainment

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William Powell
as Florenz Ziegfeld
Luise Rainer
as Anna Held
Myrna Loy
as Billie Burke
Frank Morgan
as Billings
Reginald Owen
as Sampson
Nat Pendleton
as Sandow
Virginia Bruce
as Audrey Lane
Joseph Cawthorn
as Dr. Ziegfeld
Fanny Brice
as Herself
Jean Chatburn
as Mary Lou
Ann Pennington
as Herself
Ray Bolger
as Himself
Harriet Hoctor
as Herself
Charles Trowbridge
as Julian Mitchell
Gilda Gray
as Herself
Andrew A. Trimble
as Will Rogers
A.A. Trimble
as Will Rogers
Joan Holland
as Patricia Ziegfeld
Buddy Doyle
as Eddie Cantor
Leon Errol
as Himself
Esther Muir
as Prima Donna
Herman Bing
as Customer
Paul Irving
as Erlanger
William Demarest
as Gene Buck
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
Richard Tucker
as Customer
Clay Clement
as Customer
Larry Wheat
as Customer
Selmer Jackson
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
Selmar Jackson
as Customer
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
Wallis Clark
as Broker
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 (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… | December 31, 1999
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… | December 31, 1935
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
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
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
Aj V

Super Reviewer

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