Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Great Ziegfeld (1936)

The ups and downs of Florenz Ziegfeld Jr., famed producer of extravagant stage revues. [imdb]

Nominated for 7 Oscars:

Best Picture (WINNER)
Best Director: Robert Z. Leonard
Best Actress: Luise Rainer (WINNER)
Best Writing, Original Story
Best Editing
Best Art Direction
Best Dance Direction (WINNER)

The 9th Best Picture winner is a big production, Ziegfeld style. I didn't understand at first why THIS was named the best film of the year, but once the impressive musical moments started, I got an idea. The beginning of the film is boring and mostly a cliche; it goes like this for an hour or so (the film has almost 3 hours). But when A Pretty Girl is like a Melody explodes (yes, this is the word) onto the screen, magic happens. What a fascinating musical moment, and the art direction, cinematography, costume design - all goes right! fabulous!
Other than the music & dance numbers, there isn't much left to care about. To make it clear: this biopic is so far from the facts, one should be ashamed to call it that. Ziegfeld was a womanizer and not this nice guy. Anna Held was previously married and had a child and no mentioning here; it wasn't she who left Ziegfeld and so on and on and on... So the dialogue and action part is rather boring and untrue, especially in the first half. Luise Rainer won the Oscar for playing Anna Held, a star that Ziegfeld brings to America. I wasn't impressed by her acting and I think the win is just silly. William Powell is mediocre at first, but in the last half an hour his performance turns more dramatic & touching. It was nice to see the beautiful Myrna Loy, but she appears 2 hours and 15 minutes into the film, which is way too late.
My rating for the film: 7/10. Tough to rate, because I was bewitched by the musical numbers and this film probably has some of the best costumes I have ever seen on film (and that says a lot).


  1. Hey,

    Everyone says Rainer won for her "big" telephone'scene, a classic today.
    It's not a very interesting character and she has a lot of "sensitives" manierismes very dated today. But she is really amazing, for me, in her second oscar winning performance in The Good Earth, very restrained and delicate, both poetic and human.

  2. yup, I wasn't impressed by her agitated way of being. That telephone scene didn't bring anything new to what the performance offered already and it was a shorter scene than I expected.

    Yes, I agree on The Good Earth (which I've seen on TCM when I was just a teenager); much much better