Ziegfeld Follies (1945) starring William Powell, Red Skelton, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Lucille Ball, Lena Horne, Kathryn Grayson and many more
Ziegfeld Follies is an attempt at recreating the spectacle of Flo Ziegfeld’s famous Broadway shows … And so the film is a series of unrelated musical and comedy routines. They’re unconnected except by the narration of the ghostly Flo Ziegfeld (played by William Powell) as he sits back in Heaven, thinking of the spectacles that he could create with then-current stars. The various acts include:
Singing and Dancing acts
- Here’s To The Girls, sung by Fred Astaire with a short solo dance by Cyd Charisse. Followed by Lucille Ball cracking a whip over chorus-girl panthers (seriously). And finally Virginia O’Brien spoofs the scene by singing Bring on those Wonderful Men
- This Heart of Mine: written especially for Fred Astaire. He sings it to Lucille Bremer and then leads her in a romantic dance.
- Love: sung by Lena Horne
- Limehouse Blues: Conceived as a dramatic pantomime with Fred Astaire as a proud but poverty-stricken Chinese laborer. His infatuation with the unattainable Lucille Bremer leads to tragedy. The story serves as bookends for a dream ballet inspired by Chinese dance motifs.
- The Great Lady Has An Interview: Judy Garland spoofs a movie star who can only be cast in Oscar-winning dramas. But she wants to play “sexy” roles. She gives an interview to dancing reporters about “her next picture” … A bio-pic of Madame Cremantante (the “inventor of the safety pin”).
- The Babbitt And The Bromide: Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly team up in a comedy song and dance challenge in three sections. Set to music and lyrics by George and Ira Gershwin. All choreography was by Fred Astaire (third section) and Gene Kelly (sections one and two).
- A Water Ballet- Esther Williams does her aquatic swimming
- Number Please– Comedy skit with Keenan Wynn.
- La Traviata– Opera number with James Melton and Marion Bell.
- Pay the Two Dollars– Another comedy skit with Victor Moore and Edward Arnold.
- A Sweepstakes Ticket – a funny comedy sketch, where poverty-stricket Fanny Brice (“I mailed you a check!”) has won the Irish sweepstakes! But, her husband (Hume Cronyn) has given it to their landlord (William Frawley) as part of their rent! How to get it back?
- A comedy skit with Red Skelton doing his classic “Guzzler’s Gin” routine.
More singing & dancing
- There’s Beauty Everywhere: The lovely Kathryn Grayson sings this number, accompanied by a chorus of girls. With Cyd Charisse as the dancer in the bubbles.
Editorial review of Ziegfeld Follies, courtesy of Amazon.com
This 1946 film celebrates the life, career, and showmanship of the late Florenz Ziegfeld, perhaps the most famous and influential Broadway producer in the early decades of the 20th century. The film, ostensibly directed by Vincente Minnelli, takes an unusual form. We open in Heaven, at the home of the late Ziegfeld (played by William Powell, who also played him in The Great Ziegfeld), who thinks back on his life and wonders what kind of show he would put on with the talent of today (meaning 1946).
What follows is an elaborately staged revue, similar to the blend of cheesecake, music, and comedy that made up the Ziegfeld Follies–but with the stars of that moment (plus actual Ziegfeld veteran Fanny Brice). The most welcome presence is Fred Astaire, who appears in three numbers — including the only dance number ever filmed that paired Astaire with Gene Kelly at the height of their powers. The contrast is fascinating. Otherwise, you get a number of musical scenes, the best of which features Lena Horne (singing “Love”), the worst Judy Garland (in “An Interview”). And there’s plenty of other stuff: everything from an Esther Williams water ballet to an excerpt of La Traviata to a variety of broadly acted vaudeville skits featuring actors Keenan Wynn, Edward Arnold, Fanny Brice, and Hume Cronyn. –Marshall Fine