The Great Ziegfeld (1936)

great ziegfeld poster 1936 movie
7.0 Overall Score
Story: 6/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Good looking with good cast

Bloated story that fails to wow in today's standards

Movie Info

Movie Name:  The Great Ziegfeld

Studio:  MGM

Genre(s):  Drama/Musical

Release Date(s):  April 8, 1936

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated


Hey, baby…I can’t help that I’m surrounded by all these hot chicks!

Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr. (William Powell) is an entertainer with vision.  Willing to always risk a fortune and put himself in debt, Flo isn’t afraid to take a chance which it comes to extravagant show.  As times change and entertainment becomes more competitive, Flo must recreate his show and himself.  Challenged by his rival Billings (Frank Morgan), Flo is determined to be a success…even if it destroys his life.

Directed by Robert Z. Leonard, The Great Ziegfeld is an early biopic musical.  It was critically acclaimed upon its release and brought new interest to Ziegfeld’s work and style.  The movie received three Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Actress (Luise Rainer), and Best Dance Direction with nominations for Best Art Direction, Directing, Film Editing, and Best Original Screenplay.


Let’s do the Time Warp again!!!

The Great Ziegfeld like Flo Ziegfeld’s production is an extravaganza.  It is long, bloated and flashy.  For the time, it was something many had probably not seen…a major stage performance and it was brought to their local theater.  This type of movie had a purpose when it was released, but now it feels tired (and at almost three hours way too long).

Ironically, The Great Ziegfeld came along in an attempt by Flo’s second wife Billie Burke to pay off Ziegfeld’s debts after his death.  The movie shows the performer’s desire to put on big shows but his constant lack of cast as a running theme.  It is peppered with performances which are lavish and lush, but ultimately bog down the story.  If the movie had been pared down to two hours or at least two and a half hours, the movie might be better.


Wait, you’re the Wizard!!!

When people point to biopics being pumped out by Hollywood quickly, it has been a long trend in Hollywood which can even be seen in this film.  Forenz Ziegfeld, Jr. died in 1932 and as a result, many people in this film are the real people.  Fannie Brice plays herself and Billie Burke was upset that Myrna Loy was recast as her. Ray Bolger also played himself in the movie along with performer Harriet Hoctor.  William Powell is strong as Florenz Ziegfeld but Luise Rainer playing his first wife led to the first back-to-back Best Actress winning performances with her performance in the film version of The Good Earth.  I do enjoy Ziegfeld’s interaction with his competition Billings but Frank Morgan plays Frank Morgan the same way in every film.


Memo: Need bigger stairs

The movie is very big.  It is an exhibition and meant to wow people.  Some of the elaborate sets and shots made up most of the budget.  The “largeness” of the movie might have been something at the time, but now it fails to impress.

The Great Ziegfeld is hard to make it through.  It is one of those films that just has outlived its original purpose.  It is unfortunate and unfortunate for the people involved in the movie because the performances are strong.  The movie lead to other Ziegfeld movies being made by MGM including Ziegfeld Girl in 1941 and Ziegfeld Follies in 1946.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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