on January 28, 2006
This movie is more of an excuse to put all of MGM's stars into one movie. The movie is set up like it was a real Ziegfeld show. It has no plot, it's just a show with some variety acts from singing, to dancing and some comedy acts! William Powell is Ziegfeld and he is watching the show from Heaven. Anyway the acts include:
Here's to the Girls- Fred Astaire sing this number and it is danced by Cyd Charisse and Fred Astaire. This a big production number with a chorus. Lucille Ball is in this number too. Virgina O'Brien appears right after this number and sings.
A Water Ballet- Esther Williams does what she does best, swims!
Number Please- This is a comedy skit with Keenan Wynn.
Traviata- A opera number with James Melton and Marion Bell.
Pay the Two Dollars- Another comedy skit with Victor Moore and Edward Arnold.
This Heart of Mine- Fred Astaire sings this number and dances with Lucille Bremer. A personal favorite.
A Sweepstakes Ticket- Another comedy skit with Fanny Brice, Hume Cronyn and William Frawley (Fred Mertz on I Love Lucy).
Love- The lovely Lena Horne sing this song. Another personal favorite!
When Television Comes- A comedy skit with Red Skelton.
Limehouse Blues- A dance number with Fred Astaire and Lucille Bremer with a chorus. A very strange number in my opinion.
A Great Lady Has "An Interview"- A musical number with the great Judy Garland. Another favorite!
The Babbitt and the Bromide- Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly dance in this number. My favorite number in the whole movie!
Beauty- The lovely Kathryn Grayson sings this number. Also a chorus of girls. Cyd Charisse is the featured dancer in the bubbles.
As for DVD extras,
New featurette Ziegfeld Follies: An Embarrassment of Riches
Vintage MGM Crime Does Not Pay short The Luckiest Guy in the World
2 classic MGM cartoons:
The Hick Chick
Audio-only bonus: outtake songs If Swing Goes, I Go Too, This Heart of Mine and We Will Meet Again in Honolulu
Ziegfeld movies trailer gallery
Both remixed Dolby Surround Stereo and original Mono English Audio
Subtitles: English, Français & Español (feature film only)
Overall this movie is alright but if you love the MGM musicals I say give it a try. It's a very interesting movie.
on August 14, 2000
This film has no plot at all, and it's wonderful. Sounds strange, doesn't it? Well, this is a movie that is just meant as effervescent, entertaining showmanship. The film opens in Heaven, where Florenz Ziegfeld dreams of who would have starred in his 1944 Ziegfeld Follies. The next two hours is Ziegfeld's dream unravelling as MGM's top talents perform wonderful, stagy production numbers and sketches: Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly (in their ONLY film appearance together!) perform a great tap dance number to "The Babbit and the Bromide". In one great comedy sketch, Fanny Brice is hilarious as a frumpy housewife who has just won "A Sweepstakes Ticket"... which she gave to her landlord (a pre- "I Love Lucy" William Frawley). Speaking of Lucy, you'll also find her here, more glamorous than ever, cracking a whip in the film's opening number. Esther Williams performs a water ballet, and Red Skelton shines in a great comedy sketch when he becomes drunk advertising for a product called "Guzzler's Gin". However, my favorite number is called "A Great Lady Gives An Interview", which stars Judy Garland as a suspiciously Greer Garson-accented "star" giving a ridiculous interview to a group of reporters. This witty, hilarious number will delight all fans of Garland, as it showcases her singing, dancing, and comedy abilities. That's what I love most about this film. Everybody is at the top of their form, and if they could do anything, name it: singing, dancing, acting, comedy, drama, they do it here. Although a few numbers are just a tad accentuated, this film is worth seeing and taking delight in any time. Bring on Metro's best: Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Fanny Brice, Lucille Ball, Fanny Brice, Esther Williams, Keenan Wynn, Kathryn Grayson, Red Skelton... a great movie, worth seeing again and again.
The Ziegfeld Follies were legendary stage shows that consisted entirely of musical numbers and comedy routines performed by some of the greatest stars of the day. When sound began to roar in the late 1920s, the movie studios followed the Ziegfeld form and quickly produced a series of films that were variety-show in nature. But the musical review is a form that really works best on stage before a live audience: in short order the movie-going public turned its back on the style in favor of musicals that offered increasingly complex, sophisticated, and sometimes unexpectedly dark stories.
In the 1940s MGM, famous for its musicals, unexpectedly decided to revive the form--and to do so in the style of producer Florenz Ziegfeld. The result was an outrageous budget that would have made Ziegfeld himself blanch, a wave of imaginative visuals that could have never been crammed onto even the biggest Broadway stage, a host of legendary performers, and the occasional comedy routine for relief from the sheer spectacle of it all.
The big hurdle for modern audiences is the fact that we have become accustomed to variety shows through television; they no longer have a unique appeal and it is difficult for us to sit through two hours of it. Even so, most musical fans will probably find ZIEGFELD FOLLIES worth the effort; although it has a few weak spots, it is easily one of the most visually stunning flights of fancy ever put on the screen.
The weakest links in the chain are the comedy routines, all of which seem insubstantial at best, slightly clunky at worst; still, they are amusing in an old-fashioned sort of way and it is always a pleasure to see the legendary Fannie Brice, no matter how inconsequential the script may be. Fortunately, the film weighs in heavily on the musical side, and while the actual material may be a bit weak at times the look of the thing is absolutely eye-popping.
The opening number is nothing short of stunning: Fred Astaire introduces a riot in pink and black that includes a spinning Cyd Charisse, a turning merry-go-round with real white horses, and a formidable Lucille Ball keeping a host of leopard-like women in check with a whip! Truly, musicals are the most surreal of all performing arts genres, but this seems to stretch the boundaries quite a bit.
The film is filled with notable performers. Virginia O'Brien, the great comic singer, dismisses the ladies in favor of the men--indeed, it seems, almost any man will do. Esther Williams swirls elegantly in front of lavish underwater sets. James Melton and Marion Bell offer memorable performances of the most famous duet from LA TRAVIATA in a memorably designed setting. Katherine Grayson is surrounded by some truly unexpected sets, walls of bubbles, and gold-clad bathing beauties. Certainly no one can complain that there is nothing to see on the screen!
Along the way we also have some truly legendary moments, chief among them two amazingly beautiful dance numbers performed by Fred Astaire and Lucille Bremer. The first, "This Heart of Mine," finds Astaire playing a jewel thief bent upon seducing Bremer at a ball: red and white with elaborate costumes, hidden treadmills, and decoratively turning platforms, it is both clever and very elegant. Even so, "Limehouse Blues" is finer still, introducing a mysterious Chinatown--and then suddenly bursting into a fantasia of white and blue and red as Astaire and Bremer dance out a love story that never was and never could ever be.
The film also offers two of MGM's most celebrated singing stars. During her MGM career Lena Horne was typically saddled with excessive movement and frequently peculiar costumes--but both actually work to her advantage here, and her performance of "Love" has tremendous tropical sizzle, to say the least. It may be a bit more difficult for modern viewers to know how to react to Judy Garland's "The Interview," for its references are lost; not only is it very much an industry insider joke, it is very much a take-off on "serious" actresses of the time who specialized in playing biographical roles, with Greer Garson a very specific target. Still, Garland nails it as only Garland can, and that says a great deal indeed.
The film also contains a true rarity: the only serious pairing of Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, who lightly send up rumors of their rivalry--and then proceed to demonstrate just how truly competitive they could be in some of the finest choreography ever put on the screen. "The Babbit and the Bromide" is truly a remarkable thing to behold; you are constantly torn in your attention between the two men, each with very different styles and yet each truly incomparable.
In spite of its array of stars and remarkable visuals, ZIEGFELD FOLLIES was not among MGM's box-office knockouts of the 1940s and it was rarely seen after its original theatrical release. It is presently available only in VHS, and although the print is good it isn't the best possible--and since the visual spectacle is a prime reason for seeing the show you may want to hold out (and cross your fingers) for a full restoration on DVD. On the other hand, the out-of-print but still available VHS package does include the soundtrack on CD, which is a very strong plus.
Final thought on the film: unless you are a serious fan of MGM musicals you may want to skip this one, but if you are willing to make the act of acceptance the film requires you'll find ZIEGFELD FOLLIES a drop-dead gorgeous show.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer
on January 29, 2003
In this truly delightful MGM production, as others have mentioned, there is no overall plot! The story is held together with the 14 individual numbers. Purely for entertainment, this movie has beautiful dances, great songs, big laughs, lavish costumes, sets, and on top of everything, an all-star cast. What better way to showcase most of the greatest stars of that era than put their numbers into one film. I can honestly say that for lovers of the great musical comedies ranging from the 30's to the 50's will absolutely LOVE this movie!
Made in 1946, "Ziegfeld Follies" starts off with William Powell as Florenz Ziegfeld going over his memories while in heaven. He decides to make another play. Here is a list of the different musical numbers and short skits:
*BEAUTIFUL GIRLS* - Fred Astaire introduces us to many beautiful girls, including Lucille Ball as a fiery wildcat tamer. Technicolor certainly does a lot of good for her, it's strange not seeing her 'I love Lucy' smile! 5/5 stars
*WONDERFUL MEN* - Virginia O'Brien gives a funny parody song, remember her as Kitty in the Marx Brothers movie 'The Big Store'? 5/5 stars
*A WATER BALLET* - Called America's Mermaid, Esther Williams dons on her swimsuit as she performs a beautiful water ballet. 4/5 stars
*NUMBER PLEASE* - A simply hilarious skit, Keenan Wynn plays a man on the verge of a breakdown as he tries to call 'Plaza 5-5597'. 5/5 stars
*TRAVIATA* - I'm not much of a fan of opera music but James Melton and Marion Bell can certainly sing. I love the costumes! 2/5 stars
*PAY THE TWO DOLLARS* - Victor Moore wants to pay the two dollars, but his lawyer Edward Arnold won't let him! Unfortunately, though meant to be funny, watching this was a bit frustrating for me. 3/5 stars
*THIS HEART OF MINE* - Fred Astaire gets to woo a princess (Lucille Bremer) while having ulteriar motives. Of course, love is unexpected! Nice choreography, it is again proved that Astaire can have a woman fall in love with him just by waltzing together! 5/5 stars
*THE SWEEPSTAKE TICKET* - Funny Fanny Brice is priceless in this skit! Hume Cronyn and William Farley (from the "I Love Lucy" show) also star but Fanny Brice steals the whole number. 5/5 stars
*LOVE* - Latin love song steamily sung by Lena Horne, don't fast forward! 4/5 stars
*WHEN TELEVISION COMES* - Could easily be the best skit in the whole movie, Red Skeleton is one of the greatest comedians out there. SMOOOOOTH! 5/5 stars
*LIMEHOUSE BLUES* - Another Fred Astaire and Lucille Bremer dance number. Both might have done heavy make-up to have almond eyes, but their dance style is unmistakable. 4/5 stars
*AN INTERVIEW* - Judy Garland is given a bit of a corny interview. Listen to her liven up towards the end, her voice is just so powerful and purely divine! 5/5 stars
*THE BABBIT AND THE BROMIDE* - Easily the best dance number in the whole movie and the best tap-dancing you'll ever see. I mean, that's what you'll get when you put together the best of the best, Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire. This number alone will make buying this tape worthwhile. 5/5 stars
*BEAUTY* - In one word, beautiful. Kathryn Grayson stuns me every time I hear her voice. Cyd Charisse also gets to do some ballet, though short. 5/5 stars
Here's some trivia:
*8 numbers were cut from the film before released and the movie was supposed to be 3 hours long.
*The horse ridden by Lucille Ball is the Lone Ranger's Silver.
*One of only two films in which Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire danced together. The other was "That's Entertainment, Part II (1974)".
*William Powell had played Florenz Ziegfeld already in the 1936 movie, "The Great Ziegfeld".
on June 21, 1999
This exquisite jewel in MGM's crown was conceived as a prestige production for the studio over a period of 3 years. The bulk being directed by Minnelli, the whole being a total experience for the senses.
The musical sequences run the gamut of divine - Astaire/Bremer x 2 , Astaire/Kelly, Garland, Lena Horne & "Love",and gorgeous Esther Williams to the fascinating Fanny Brice comedy sequence, Lucy taking a whip to the cat-women; to the downright unfunny Red Skelton. All ending up with Kathryn Graysons' rendition of "There's Beauty Everywhere" with Dali-esqe overtones and mountains of bubbles which even Minnelli couldn't master.
The color, beautifully restored in this print,reminds you what a complete fantasy Technicolor was supposed to be and takes you back to an age when studio big-bucks could blind you with magic and send you out singing into the streets. Don't pass this one by!
on June 13, 2000
This deliciously opulent extravaganza was a concept piece, conjured-up by the dream masters at MGM to feature their stable of top stars in outlandish musical production numbers or comedy skits. The original idea was to continuously update this film with fresh new numbers and rotate out the old ones.
Don't sit down and expect to see a story about the Zeigfeld Follies because there is no script or storyline here. The idea is that this movie picks-up where "The Great Zeigfeld" left off with Ziggy in heaven, imagining what kind of fabulous follies he could produce with the stars of the time. From this point the film is basically presented as a vaudeville show with segments separated by individual stage cards announcing the next act.
The talent displayed here is immense however some fare better than others. Lucille Ball looks beautiful as a sequined animal trainer holding six cat women at bay with a bejeweled whip. Wonderful Fred Astaire and Lucille Bremer are spectacular in two beautifully produced musical numbers, "This Heart Of Mine" and "Limehouse Blues". Other standouts are Judy Garland in a campy "Interview" number, where she actually starts rapping, and a very sultry Lena Horne in a hot latin version of the song "Love"
The comedy skits unfortunately suffer from age, and don't fare as well, with, the Fanny Brice "Sweepstakes" skit with Humme Cronyn and Bill Frawley being the best of the lot. I read somewhere that there are other numbers that where produced and included in the original film release but because of the long running time they were ultimately cut. I think it be wonderful to see a fully restored version of this uniquely original film.
MGM's Ziegfeld Follies of 1946 gives us a terrific look at the best of the best at MGMas of the mid 1940s. This movie, replete with Hollywood talent, represents a grand spectacle that no classic movie lover should ever be without. Every number is a showstopper; and the movie as a whole holds your attention as it glides effortlessly through a cavalcade of stars putting on their best performances.
The movie begins with William Powell plays the late Flo Ziegfeld up in heaven; as he yearns to be back on Earth he dreams of what beautiful numbers he could put on if he could have just one more chance to produce yet another of his famous Ziegfeld Follies. The rest of the movie shows us Ziegfeld's dream numbers which just coincidentally star MGM's brightest stars working their tails off to perform their best.
Numerous song and dance numbers follow. The first number features Fred Astaire who introduces an astonishing array of beautiful young ladies in a style reminiscent of the much earlier classic number "A Pretty Girl Is Like A Melody" from another movie. Look also for Lucille Ball who rather unexpectedly takes out a whip to control another smaller group of young ladies dressed in black who don't seem quite as pure as the first group of ladies! This first number, entitled "Here's To The Girls," stuns you and your attention remains focused from here on in. Virginia O'Brien also sings a great song about her love for men--and she even cracks a smile if you look carefully! hehehe
Esther Williams performs an opulent "water ballet" unlike any other; just how did they keep her makeup so perfect as she swam underwater like the most beautiful lady swimmer in the world? Keenan Wynn performs a comedy skit about a man who just can't get the telephone operator to give him the right number; and Victor Moore and Edward Arnold are very good in their comedy sketch entitled "Pay The Two Dollars."
Fred Astaire and Lucille Bremer dance to perfection in two great numbers entitled "This Heart Of Mine" and "Limehouse Blues." In "This Heart Of Mine" Fred and Lucille dance to a background of a fancy ball which provides an elegant backdrop for a most elegant dance scene. "Limehouse Blues" takes place in a Chinatown district of a large city as Fred and Lucille dance with a chorus in the background. The sets for both of these two numbers are extremely elaborate; I was fascinated by the excellent quality of the design that you can only see in an MGM musical.
Another highlight is the pairing of Gene Kelly with Fred Astaire who together dance up a storm. They make some mildly amusing references to their rivalry, too. There's also a rather young Lena Horne singing "Love" so well you'll want to watch this segment over and over again!
Judy Garland spoofs movie megastar arrogance in her segment which is entitled "A Great Lady Has `An Interview.'" Judy infuses her character, an actress who is about to film yet another blockbuster picture, with the highest of camp as she sings about the upcoming movie during a press interview; and she won't hesitate to act "with (her) torso," either!
Red Skelton also performs his Guzzler's Gin skit as he pretends to be a TV announcer making a commercial for what was then the brand new medium of television. Excellent!
The finale could have been a little better; Kathryn Grayson sings way too high for my personal tastes as she performs "There's Beauty Everywhere." Like the opening number, "There's Beauty Everywhere" is an ode to the beautiful young women of the world. The MGM powers that were decided to use soap bubbles to create a light and airy atmosphere for the finale. This caused numerous problems according to the film historians who are interviewed on this DVD; so I know that the performers deserve lots of credit for managing to dance through all those soap bubbles even if I didn't quite like this number as much I did the others!
The DVD has for it's extras a collection of bonuses. Some extras are relevant to Ziegfeld Follies and others could easily have been cut for better extras. You get some great commentary from historians in the short documentary entitled Ziegfeld Follies: An Embarrassment of Riches; and you get the audio outtakes of "If Swing Goes, I Go Too;" "This Heart of Mine" and "We Will Meet Again in Honolulu." Great! Unfortunately, these extras are paired with two or three MGM cartoons that should have been exchanged for better material; and the MGM vintage short film entitled Crime Does Not Pay The Luckiest Guy in the World doesn't fit in well with the rest of the DVD package. Oh, well.
Overall, I highly recommend Ziegfeld Follies for classic movie buffs and fans of the greatest musicals ever made during the golden age of Hollywood. People and historians who are familiar with the work of Flo Ziegfeld will also appreciate this salute to his fine work.
on January 13, 2007
While others have fairly evaluated this patchy but ESSENTIAL addition to any musical collection (if only because it contains Vincent Minelli's two best numbers after the American in Paris Ballet - "This Heart of Mine" and "Limehouse Blues" - see them and be amazed!) noone has mentioned the COLOR. I am a film maker and teacher and old enough to have seen original Technicolor before the prints started to deteriorate. And until Blue Ray and/or High Def is really here (and I pray they are mastering classics like this in HD), this is THE BEST EXAMPLE OF TECHNICOLOR in all its unfaded glory I have seen. So sumptuous was the process (and so superior to the Eastman process which superceded it for economic reasons) its look needs to be remembered and constantly compared in order that the advent of HD not be marred by trying to emulate the look of an inferior process (35mm Eastmancolor). AND to avoid agregious attempts to modernise classics like 'THE SEARCHERS' available on DVD in two versions, but the latest so called "Ultimate Collector's Edition" of which attempts to contemporize its color with washed out flesh tones and green skies (whereas the earlier mastering available originally on laser disc remains sumptuous and pretty true to the original).
Put on 'ZIEGFELD FOLLIES', take "This Heart of Mine" and rack the chroma (color) on your television all the way up - Technicolor can not only take it, but revels in it (I have a Hi-Def Sony Bravia, but if you have an older set, stop if the colors start to "bleed"). Now pull the chroma back ever so slightly until flesh tones become acceptable, then BE TRULY AMAZED not just at the decor, but Technicolor's capacity to render reds and yellows (it is also superior to our modern color in the blue green spectrum). On my set this film is best viewed with the chroma at 90/100 (while 'AN AMERICAN IN PARIS' can take 100/100).
on December 30, 2014
The Freed Unit at MGM produced some first-rate, classic musicals -- Singin' in the Rain, Gigi, Meet Me In St. Louis. Ziegfeld Follies isn't really a musical (no plot) and as filmed vaudeville, it's only works occasionally. The opening extravaganza, "Bring on the Beautiful Girls", is very pink. Lucille Ball is an unusual choice for top girl/circus mistress; when she cracks her whip at ladies dressed as cats, the movie quickly descends into kitschy camp. Comedy sketches with Fanny Brice and Victor Moore go on too long. The celebrated Kelly-Astaire duet is fun, but over too soon. Judy Garland's turn as a "Great Lady" giving a press interview (reportedly a parody of Greer Garson, who refused the part) is over the top. The ballet "Limehouse Blues" is ambitious and different, at least. The only time the movie turns really magical is in "This Heart of Mine", the pantomime romance with Astaire and Lucille Bremer. After that, it's more up-and-down quality. Concluding the movie by flooding the screen with pink bubbles is just strange. Who at MGM could possibly have thought that was a good idea?
Obviously from the ratings, some people love this movie. To each his own.
on April 5, 2001
"Ziegfled Follies", produced to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Hollywood's greatest dream factory, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, certainly lives up to the MGM Motto: "Do It Big, Do It Right, and Give It Class". Although the comedy sketches leave something to be desired, the musical sequences are fabulous! "Ziegfeld Follies" features an elegant Lucille Ball cracking a whip (!) in the colorful "Bring on the Beautiful Girls" opening production number, the wonderful Esther Williams performing a stunning water ballet, the two breathtaking Fred Astaire-Lucille Bremer dance spectaculars: "This Heart of Mine" and "Limehouse Blues", the muli-talented Gene Kelly & Fred Astaire in "The Babbit and the Bromide", and the sensational finale, "There's Beauty Everywhere" with Kathryn Grayson, Cyd Charisse and lots and lots of bubbles! Wow! This film, directed by the keen-eyed Vincente Minnelli, took 2 years to complete and is one of the crowning achievements of the Arthur Freed Unit at MGM. The orchestrations, lighting, costumes, set design and art direction plus Minnelli's careful use of Technicolor all combine to showcase Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer at the pinnacle of what did best. This motion picture was also one of the first musicals recorded with multiple microphones, an early version of stereo. This video version has been digitally remastered to enhance the original recording. "Ziegfeld Follies" is a definite "must-have" for your video library. BUY IT!