Ziegfeld Follies Review
By Christopher Null
Who knew they made clip shows into movies? Ziegfeld Follies is two hours of skits, songs, dances, and jokes from the dying days of vaudeville, brought to us by a who's-who of yesteryear performers. The film opens, believe it or not, with a deceased Florenz Ziegfeld, looking down from heaven, dreaming about his perfect variety show. What follows is that dream, put to film.
With a tagline like "The Greatest Production Since The Birth Of Motion Pictures," you get a little something like the unmanageable monstrosity that Follies ultimately becomes. Structured as a series of unrelated vignettes, directed by different people (not to mention that screenwriting credit list), it's ultimately just a jumble of parts that add up to less than a whole movie.
Red Skelton does a "Guzzler's Gin" number. Esther Williams swims. Fred Astaire dances several times. You get the idea. But the veering between a slapstick comedy skit and a selection from an opera soon wear you down. What are we watching, exactly? It's a greatest hits parade from a bunch of stars with marquee names: Some at their prime, some fading, some still on the way up. Yet none of them probably counted Ziegfeld Follies among their favorite movies.
Some of the performances -- anything involving Astaire, typically -- are standouts, but just as many are utter duds. Fortunately, there's an easy way to deal with the kitschy comedy that hasn't aged well: Hitting skip on your remote control will zip you right to the next vignette.
The DVD features audio of two songs deleted from the film, vintage MGM shorts and cartoons, and a new retrospective featurette about the film.
Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Monday 8th April 1946
Distributed by: MGM Home Entertainment
Production compaines: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)
Rotten Tomatoes: 75%
Fresh: 6 Rotten: 2
Cast & Crew
Screenwriter: John Murray Anderson, Guy Bolton, Allen Boretz, Irving Brecher, Eddie Cantor, Erik Charell, Harry Crane, Roger Edens, Joseph Erens, David Freedman, Devery Freeman, Everett Freeman, E.Y. Harburg, Lou Holtz, Cal Howard, Al Lewis, Max Liebman, Eugene Loring, Wilkie C. Mahoney, Jack McGowan, William Noble, James O'Hanlon, Samson Raphaelson, Philip Rapp, William Schorr, Joseph Schrank, Frank Sullivan, Kay Thompson, Charles Walters, Edgar Allan Woolf
Starring: William Powell as Flo Ziegfeld, Judy Garland as The Star in 'A Great Lady Has An Interview', Lucille Ball as Herself, Fred Astaire as Himself, Lucille Bremer as Princess, Fanny Brice as Norma, Kathryn Grayson as Herself, Lena Horne as Herself, Gene Kelly as Gentleman in 'The Babbit and the Bromide', James Melton as Alfredo in scene from 'La Traviata', Victor Moore as Lawyer's Client in 'Pay the Two Dollars', Red Skelton as J. Newton Numbskull in 'When Television Comes', Esther Williams as Herself, Edward Arnold as Lawyer in 'Pay the Two Dollars', Marion Bell as Violetta in scene from 'La Traviata'
Also starring: Cyd Charisse, Hume Cronyn, Keenan Wynn, Arthur Freed, Guy Bolton, Allen Boretz, Irving Brecher, Everett Freeman, Al Lewis, Samson Raphaelson, Charles Walters, Edgar Allan Woolf