The Great Ziegfeld: A Magnificent Portrayal of Show Business

The Great Ziegfeld is a 1936 American musical film directed by Robert Z. Leonard and produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM). The film is a biographical musical that tells the story of the life and career of Florenz Ziegfeld Jr., the renowned producer of lavish theatrical productions in the early 20th century. The film stars William Powell as Ziegfeld, Luise Rainer as Anna Held, and Myrna Loy as Billie Burke. The Great Ziegfeld is a classic example of the golden age of Hollywood musicals, featuring unforgettable musical numbers, stunning costumes, and an epic story of ambition, love, and tragedy.

The Story

The Great Ziegfeld follows the life and career of Florenz Ziegfeld Jr., who started his career in show business as a carnival barker and went on to become one of the most successful Broadway producers of his time. The film covers Ziegfeld’s personal life, including his marriages to Anna Held and Billie Burke, as well as his professional achievements, including the creation of the Ziegfeld Follies, a series of lavish and highly popular musical revues.

The film opens with Ziegfeld meeting Anna Held, a popular performer in Europe, and falling in love with her. The two eventually marry and become the toast of Broadway with their elaborate and groundbreaking musical productions. However, their marriage begins to suffer due to Ziegfeld’s infidelity, and the two eventually separate. Ziegfeld then meets and marries Billie Burke, an actress who becomes his lifelong companion and partner.

Throughout the film, we see Ziegfeld’s ambition and determination to create the most spectacular productions, despite financial setbacks and the changing times in the entertainment industry. The film ends with Ziegfeld’s decline in health and eventual death, leaving behind a legacy of grandeur and innovation in show business.

The Cast

The Great Ziegfeld boasts an impressive cast of Hollywood legends, including William Powell, Luise Rainer, and Myrna Loy. Powell gives a compelling performance as Ziegfeld, capturing the character’s charisma, ambition, and vulnerability. Rainer is equally impressive as Anna Held, bringing a sense of humor and warmth to the role. Loy shines as Billie Burke, portraying the character’s loyalty and grace.

The Musical Numbers

The Great Ziegfeld is known for its extravagant musical numbers, which are some of the most iconic in Hollywood history. The film features over 20 musical sequences, including the famous “A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody,” which features a revolving stage and a chorus of 180 performers. Other notable musical numbers include “You Never Looked So Beautiful Before,” “Scheherazade,” and “Ave Maria.”

The film’s musical numbers are a tribute to Ziegfeld’s vision for grand and elaborate productions, featuring stunning costumes, elaborate sets, and show-stopping choreography. The musical numbers are expertly filmed, capturing the grandeur and spectacle of Ziegfeld’s productions.

The Legacy

The Great Ziegfeld was a critical and commercial success upon its release, winning three Academy Awards, including Best Picture. The film has since become a classic of the Hollywood musical genre, known for its iconic musical numbers and impressive production values.

The film’s legacy extends beyond its entertainment value, as it serves as a historical record of the entertainment industry in the early 20th century. The film captures the spirit of the time, showcasing the cultural trends and attitudes of the era.


The Great Ziegfeld is a masterpiece of the Hollywood musical genre, featuring unforgettable musical numbers, impressive production values, and a compelling story of ambition, love, and tragedy.

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