WHEN ZIEGFELD RULED THE STAGE
The Long And Influential Life Of The Ziegfeld Follies

by Bill Dobbins
www.billdobbinsphotography.com

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The Ziegfeld Follies was a series of elaborate theatrical revue productions on Broadway in New York City from 1907 to 1931, with renewals in 1934 and 1936. This was a time before movies were in color, mostly before sound films, there was no television and broadway theater was an extremely important aspect of American entertainment.

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And a significant part of broadway for several decades were the Ziegfeld Follies, created and produced by Florenz Edward Ziegfeld Jr. (March 21, 1867 – July 22, 1932), popularly known as Flo Ziegfeld.

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“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.

Ziegfeld Model - Non-Risque - Dancers by Alfred Cheney Johnston

“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” – Wikipedia

 

 

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 BerlinGeorge Gershwin and Jerome Kern.[1] The Ziegfeld Follies featured the famous Ziegfeld Girls,female chorus dancers who wore elaborate costumes and performed in synchronization.

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Fanny Brice, portrayed by Barbra Streisand in the movie Funny Girl, was a singer and comic actress who had great success in the Ziegfeld Follies.

The Follies consisted of a series of lavish revues, something between that fell between later Broadway shows and a more elaborate version of vaudeville shows.   During the course of the Follies, a number of well-know entertainers and future stars appeared on stage in the productions – such as W. C. FieldsEddie CantorJosephine BakerFanny BriceAnn PenningtonBert WilliamsEva TanguayBob HopeWill RogersRuth EttingRay BolgerHelen MorganLouise BrooksMarilyn MillerEd WynnGilda GrayNora Bayes and Sophie Tucker appeared in the shows.[2]

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Actress Barbara Stanwych of Big Valley fame, was originally a Ziegfeld girl.
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Barbara Stanwyck during filming of The Big Valley.
Marion Davies
Marion Davies was a successful actress also known for her relationship to William Randolph Hearst. She had also been a Ziegfeld girl.

Audiences today are most familiar with Fannie Brice as the character played by Barbra Streisand in the movie Funny Girl,  

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Actress and wife of Flo Ziegfeld Billie Burke as a young woman.
Hollywood's Greatest Year: The Best Picture Nominees of 1939
Billie Burke in the Wizard of Oz, 1939, pictured here with Judy Garland.

The Ziegfeld Follies were extremely famous for their display of many beautiful chorus girls, commonly known as Ziegfeld girls, who “paraded up and down flights of stairs as anything from birds to battleships.”[3]  Again, in this age of limited entertainment resources the Ziegfeld girls, dressed in elaborate and often very sexy costumes, became “famous beauties” of the age and the subject of many magazine stories and publicity photos.

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The great comic and political commentator Will Rogers (I’m not a member of any organized political party – I’m a Democrat) did an act in the Follies in which he did rope tricks and told jokes.
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Comedian Bob Hope was also in the Ziegfeld Follies, shown here with fellow cast member Fannie Brice.
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Before his success in the movies, W. C. Fields was a vaudevillian and a cast member of the Ziegfeld Follies.

The “Tableau vivants” were designed by Ben Ali Haggin from 1917 to 1925. Joseph Urban was the scenic designer for the Follies shows starting in 1915.[4]

Ziegfeld was married to actress Billie Burke, most known today for portraying Glenda The Good in the movie The Wizard of Oz.   After his death, she authorized his name for Ziegfeld Follies in 1934 and 1936 to Jake Shubert, who then produced the Follies. There was other attempts to keep the Follies active after that but they were mostly unsuccessful.

But Ziegfeld and his shows were subsequently remembered and celebrated by Hollywood in movies like The Ziegfeld Follies. Ziegfeld Girl and The Great Ziegfeld.

 

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Florence Ziegfeld in 1928, one of the all-time greatest producers of Broadway entertainment.

ZIEGFELD FOLLIES ON FILM 1920

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Bill Dobbins Sarah Lyons dressing room-SMALL-1

Bill Dobbins is a professional photographer, videographer and writer based in Los Angeles.  His work has been exhibited as fine art in two museums, a number of galleries, and he has published eight books, including two fine art photo books:

The Women: Photographs of The Top Female Bodybuilders (Artisan)
Modern Amazons (Taschen)

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EMAIL: billdobbinsphoto@gmail.com

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The Great Ziegfeld, produced just a few years after the death of Flo Ziegfeld, featured many veteran performers from the original Follies.
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The Ziegfeld Follies, a movie from 1945, featured an amazing array of major stars.
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The movie Ziegfeld Girl highlighted the entertainment value and the beauty of the Ziegfeld girls.