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Florenz Edward Ziegfeld Jr. (March 21, 1867 – July 22, 1932), popularly known as Flo Ziegfeld, was an American Broadway impresario, notable for his series of theatrical revues, the Ziegfeld Follies (1907–1931), inspired by the Folies Bergère of Paris. He also produced the musical Show Boat. He was known as the "glorifier of the American girl".[1] Ziegfeld is a member of the American Theater Hall of Fame.[2]

Florenz Ziegfeld Jr.
Florenz-Ziegfeld-1928.jpg
Florenz Ziegfeld in 1928
Born
Florenz Edward Ziegfeld Jr.

(1867-03-21)March 21, 1867
DiedJuly 22, 1932(1932-07-22) (aged 65)
OccupationProducer, impresario
Spouse(s)
Billie Burke (m. 1914)
Partner(s)Anna Held (1897–1913)
ChildrenPatricia Ziegfeld Stephenson

Contents

BiographyEdit

 
Poster for The Sandow Trocadero Vaudevilles, produced by Ziegfeld (1894)

Florenz Edward Ziegfeld Jr. was born on March 21, 1867,[3][4]:8 in Chicago, Illinois. His mother, Rosalie (née de Hez), who was born in Belgium, was the grandniece of General Count Étienne Maurice Gérard.[5] His father, Florenz Ziegfeld Sr., was a German immigrant whose father was the mayor of Jever in Friesland. Ziegfeld was baptized in his mother's Roman Catholic church. His father was Lutheran.[4]:7–8

As a child Ziegfeld witnessed first-hand the Chicago fire of 1871. His father ran the Chicago Musical College and later opened a nightclub, the Trocadero, to obtain business from the 1893 World's Fair.[6] To help his father's nightclub succeed, Ziegfeld hired and managed the strongman Eugen Sandow.[6][7]

During a trip to Europe, Ziegfeld came across a young Polish-French singer by the name of Anna Held. His promotion of Anna Held in America brought about her meteoric rise to national fame.[8][9] It was Held who first suggested an American imitation of the Parisian Follies to Ziegfeld.[6][10] Her success in a series of his Broadway shows, especially A Parisian Model (1906), was a major reason for his starting a series of lavish revues in 1907.[11] Much of Held's popularity was due to Ziegfeld's creation of publicity stunts and rumors fed to the American press.

Ziegfeld's stage spectaculars, known as the Ziegfeld Follies, began with Follies of 1907, which opened on July 7, 1907,[12] and were produced annually until 1931.[13] These extravaganzas, with elaborate costumes and sets, featured beauties chosen personally by Ziegfeld in production numbers choreographed to the works of prominent composers such as Irving Berlin, George Gershwin and Jerome Kern.[1] The Ziegfeld Follies featured the famous Ziegfeld Girls, female chorus dancers who wore elaborate costumes and performed in synchronization.

The Follies featured many performers who, though well known from previous work in other theatrical genres, achieved unique financial success and publicity with Ziegfeld. Included among these are Nora Bayes, Fanny Brice, Ruth Etting, W. C. Fields, Eddie Cantor, Marilyn Miller, Will Rogers, Bert Williams and Ann Pennington.[13]

Ziegfeld and Held commenced a common-law marriage in 1897, but she divorced him in 1913, according to her obituary in The New York Times dated August 13, 1918.[9][4]:45 Held served Ziegfeld with divorce papers on April 14, 1912, and their divorce became final on January 9, 1913.[4]:124–125 Held had submitted testimony about Ziegfeld's relationship with another woman.[14] The unnamed party in this romantic triangle was showgirl Lillian Lorraine, an entertainer of limited talent but charismatic stage presence and beauty whom Ziegfeld discovered in 1907 when she was a 15-year-old performer in a Shubert production. Ziegfeld spent years promoting her career, transforming her into one of the most popular attractions in his Follies[15]:18–19 and establishing her in an apartment two floors above the residence he shared with Held. He remained in love with Lorraine for the rest of his life.[15]:63

However, Ziegfeld and actress Billie Burke were married April 11, 1914, after meeting at a party on New Year's Eve.[1] They had one child, Patricia Ziegfeld Stephenson (1916–2008). The family lived on his estate in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, and in Palm Beach, Florida.[16]

At a cost of $2.5 million, Ziegfeld built the 1600-seat Ziegfeld Theatre on the west side of Sixth Avenue between 54th and 55th Streets. Designed by Joseph Urban and Thomas W. Lamb, the auditorium was egg-shaped, with the stage at the narrow end. A huge medieval-style mural, The Joy of Life, covered the walls and ceiling.[17] To finance the construction, Ziegfeld borrowed from William Randolph Hearst,[18] who took control of the theater after Ziegfeld's death.

The Ziegfeld Theatre opened in February 1927 with Ziegfeld's production of Rio Rita, which ran for nearly 500 performances. This was followed by Show Boat,[11] a great hit with a run of 572 performances.[6][19] This musical, which concerned racial discrimination in the south during the late nineteenth century, was a collaboration between Ziegfeld, composer Jerome Kern and designer Joseph Urban. The musical has been revived four times on Broadway, winning multiple Tony awards. The score features several classics such as "Ol' Man River" and "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man".[20]

Ziegfeld lost much of his money in the stock market crash. In May 1932 he staged a revival of Show Boat that ran for six months—a hit, by Depression standards.[21] That same year, he brought his Follies stars to CBS Radio with The Ziegfeld Follies of the Air.[22]

Ziegfeld died in Hollywood, California on July 22, 1932, from pleurisy, related to a previous lung infection.[1] He had been in Los Angeles only a few days after moving from a New Mexico sanitarium.[1] His death left Burke with substantial debts, driving her toward film acting to settle them.[18] He and Burke are interred in Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, New York.

AccoladesEdit

Ziegfeld was elected to the American Theatre Hall of Fame.[23]

Broadway theatre productionsEdit

Poster promoting theatre performer Anna Held (c. 1898)
Poster for The Turtle (1898), featuring Sadie Martinot
Poster for Mam'selle Napoleon (1903)
Follies of 1907 sheet music cover
Joseph Urban set design drawing for Ziegfeld Follies of 1919
Broadway theatre productions
Date Title Notes
1896 A Parlor Match Herald Square Theatre[9][24]
1898 The French Maid Herald Square Theatre[25]
1898 Way Down East Manhattan Theatre[26]
1898 The Turtle Manhattan Theatre[27]
1899 Mlle. Fifi Manhattan Theatre[28]
1899 The Manicure Manhattan Theatre[29]
1899–1900 Papa's Wife Manhattan Theatre[30]
1901–1902 The Little Duchess Casino Theatre, Grand Opera House[31]
1903–1904 Red Feather Lyric Theatre, Grand Opera House[32]
1903–1904 Mam'selle Napoleon Knickerbocker Theatre[33]
1904–1905 Higgledy-Piggledy Weber and Fields' Broadway Music Hall[34]
1905 Higgledy-Piggledy Weber and Fields' Broadway Music Hall[35]
1906–1907 The Parisian Model Broadway Theatre[36]
1907 Follies of 1907 Jardin de Paris, Liberty Theatre, Grand Opera House[37]
1908 The Parisian Model Broadway Theatre[38]
1908 The Soul Kiss New York Theatre[39]
1908 Follies of 1908 Jardin de Paris, New York Theatre[40]
1908–1909 Miss Innocence New York Theatre[41]
1909 Follies of 1909 Jardin de Paris[42]
1909 Miss Innocence New York Theatre[43]
1910 Follies of 1910 Jardin de Paris[44]
1911 Ziegfeld Follies of 1911 Jardin de Paris[45]
1912 Over the River Globe Theatre[46]
1912 A Winsome Widow Moulin Rouge[47]
1912–1913 Ziegfeld Follies of 1912 Moulin Rouge[48]
1913 Ziegfeld Follies of 1913 Moulin Rouge[49]
1914 Ziegfeld Follies of 1914 New Amsterdam Theatre[50]
1915 Ziegfeld Follies of 1915 New Amsterdam Theatre[51]
1916 Ziegfeld Follies of 1916 New Amsterdam Theatre[52]
1916–1917 The Century Girl Century Theatre[53]
1917 Dance and Grow Thin Cocoanut Grove Theatre[53]
1917 Ziegfeld Follies of 1917 New Amsterdam Theatre[54]
1917 The Rescuing Angel Hudson Theatre[55]
1917–1918 Miss 1917 Century Theatre[56]
1917–1918 A Night in Spain Cocoanut Grove Theatre[57]
1918 Ziegfeld Follies of 1918 New Amsterdam Theatre, Globe Theatre[58]
1918 Ziegfeld Midnight Frolic Ziegfeld Roof[59]
1918 By Pigeon Post George M. Cohan's Theatre[60]
1919 Ziegfeld Follies of 1919 New Amsterdam Theatre[61]
1919 Ziegfeld Nine O'Clock Review New Amsterdam Theatre Roof[62]
1919 Ziegfeld Midnight Frolic Danse de Follies[63]
1919 Caesar's Wife Liberty Theatre[64]
1919–1920 Elsie Janis and Her Gang George M. Cohan's Theatre[65]
1920 Ziegfeld Girls of 1920 Danse de Follies[66]
1920 Ziegfeld Follies of 1920 New Amsterdam Theatre[67]
1920–1922 Sally New Amsterdam Theatre[68]
1921 Ziegfeld Midnight Frolic Ziegfeld Roof[69]
1921 Ziegfeld 9 O'Clock Frolic Danse de Follies[70]
1921 Ziegfeld Follies of 1921 Globe Theatre[71]
1921–1922 The Intimate Strangers Henry Miller's Theatre[72]
1921–1922 Ziegfeld Midnight Frolic Danse de Follies[73]
1922 Ziegfeld Follies of 1922 New Amsterdam Theatre[74]
1922–1923 Rose Briar Empire Theatre[75]
1923 Ziegfeld Follies of 1923 New Amsterdam Theatre[76]
1923 Sally New Amsterdam Theatre[77]
1923–1924 Ziegfeld Follies of 1923 New Amsterdam Theatre[78]
1923–1925 Kid Boots Earl Carroll Theatre, Selwyn Theatre[79]
1924–1925 Ziegfeld Follies of 1924 New Amsterdam Theatre[80]
1924–1925 Annie Dear Times Square Theatre[81]
1925 Louis the 14th Cosmopolitan Theatre[82]
1925 Ziegfeld Follies of 1925 New Amsterdam Theatre[83]
1926 No Foolin' Globe Theatre[84]
1926–1927 Betsy New Amsterdam Theatre[85]
1927–1928 Rio Rita Ziegfeld Theatre, Lyric Theatre, Majestic Theatre[86]
1927–1928 Ziegfeld Follies of 1927 New Amsterdam Theatre[87]
1927–1929 Show Boat Ziegfeld Theatre[88]
1928 Rosalie Ziegfeld Theatre[89]
1928 The Three Musketeers Lyric Theatre[90]
1928–1929 Whoopee! New Amsterdam Theatre[91]
1929 Ziegfeld Midnight Frolic Frolic Theatre[92]
1929 Show Girl Ziegfeld Theatre[93]
1929–1930 Bitter Sweet Ziegfeld Theatre, Shubert Theatre[94]
1930 Simple Simon Ziegfeld Theatre[95]
1930–1931 Smiles Ziegfeld Theatre[96]
1931 Ziegfeld Follies of 1931 Ziegfeld Theatre[97]
1932 Hot-Cha! Ziegfeld Theatre[98]
1932 Show Boat Casino Theatre[99]

FilmsEdit

Ziegfeld appears in a sound prologue to the 1929 film, Show Boat—a part-talkie based on Edna Ferber's 1926 novel, not the popular stage adaptation that was still playing on Broadway when the film was released. Universal Pictures originally made Show Boat as a silent, and obtained the rights to the popular Broadway score after the film was shot. The 18-minute prologue is introduced by Ziegfeld and producer Carl Laemmle, and features excerpts from the stage production performed by cast members Jules Bledsoe, Tess Gardella, Helen Morgan and the Broadway chorus.[100][101]:61 Two subsequent adaptations of Show Boat, in 1936 and 1951, were based on the stage musical.[102][103]

Technicolor screen versions of three of Ziegfeld's stage musicals were produced in the early sound film era. RKO Pictures had its first hit with its lavish presentation of Rio Rita (1929), starring Bebe Daniels and John Boles.[104]:22[105]

Marilyn Miller reprised one of her greatest stage successes in Sally (1929).[106] Eddie Cantor reprised his popular Broadway role in Whoopee! (1930), which Ziegfeld himself produced with Samuel Goldwyn.[107]

Cultural referencesEdit

 
Poster for The Great Ziegfeld (1936)

In 1936 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer released a semi-biographical film extravaganza, The Great Ziegfeld, starring William Powell. He was personally chosen for the role by Billie Burke, who felt that while Powell did not physically resemble her late husband, he possessed the right manner. "What I tried to do primarily was to get across the essential spirit of the man", Powell later said, "his love for show business, his exquisite taste, his admiration for the beauty of women. He was financially impractical but aesthetically impeccable—a genius in his chosen field."[108]:184 Nominated for seven Academy Awards, The Great Ziegfeld received Oscars for Best Picture, Best Actress (Luise Rainer as Anna Held), and Best Dance Direction (Seymour Felix), for the astonishingly opulent production number, "A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody"—one of the most famous musical sequences ever filmed.[109][110] It was MGM's most expensive production since Ben-Hur (1925), and it made back twice its cost.[111]:120–121

Released by MGM ten years later, Ziegfeld Follies (1946) was an all-star revue that includes Powell in a cameo role as Ziegfeld.[108]:228–229[111]:201 A 1978 NBC-television film, Ziegfeld: The Man and His Women, stars Paul Shenar as Ziegfeld. Directed by Buzz Kulik, the three-hour biopic[112][113] was nominated for seven Emmy Awards and received the award for Outstanding Cinematography (Gerald Finnerman).[114]

Ziegfeld appears as a character in a number of films:

ArchiveEdit

The Academy Film Archive houses the Florenz Ziegfeld-Billie Burke Collection. The collection consists primarily of home movies.[122]

Further readingEdit

  • Carter, Randolph, Ziegfeld, the Time of His Life, New and rev. ed., London, Bernard Press, 1988; ISBN 0-9513557-0-8
  • Redniss, Lauren, Century Girl: 100 Years in the Life of Doris Eaton Travis, Last Living Star of the Ziegfeld Follies, New York, Harper Collins, 2006; ISBN 978-0-06-085333-4.

ReferencesEdit

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External linksEdit