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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Great Ziegfeld (1936)

The life and times of Florenz Ziegfeld (William Powell), the great American showman, and the women in his life and the stars he made. Its Oscar win as the best picture of 1936 is a real head-scratcher today. At an over 3 hour running time (including an overture and intermission), the film is quite bloated and I suppose the Academy and audiences of the the day were intimidated by all the spectacle. It's an art director's and costume designer's movie. But man, is it ever a slog to get through. This movie just drags! Like most biopics of the era, there's very little truth in the telling. The production numbers are lavish but does anyone want to see a ballet featuring trained dogs and horses with the dancers hopping over the dutiful pooches? There are some compensations. We get to see the great Fanny Brice sing My Man, there's Luise Rainer in a lovely Oscar winning performance as the first Mrs. Ziegfeld and there's a clever production number with chorus girls dancing on moving beds. But for the most part, it's a lumbering movie that eventually topples over under the weight of all that spectacle. Directed by Robert Z. Leonard. With Myrna Loy as the actress Billie Burke, the second Mrs. Ziegfeld, although she doesn't come in until the movie's last 45 minutes. Also with Ray Bolger, Frank Morgan, Virginia Bruce, Nat Pendleton and A.A. Trimble doing a spot on Will Rogers. 

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