Directed By Robert Z. Leonard
Nominated for 7 Oscars, Won 3
Wins Include: Best Picture, Best Actress in a Leading Role, Best Dance Direction
The Great Ziegfeld tells the story of Florien Ziegfeld, a man who aspired to be a showman. Starting in the 1893 World Fair, Flo is conniving and often uses his friend Billings to get the money he needs or steal the talent Billings is after. Flo is determined and using his wit and resources becomes one of the biggest showman ever.
Admittedly, I had extremely low expectations for this film going in. 3 hours, black and white, biopic, semi-musical. And while the film wasn't all that good, it was less terrible than I imagined it would be. However, the script and story was all over the place, never doing really anything consistent. The musical numbers were extravagant (both visually, but also in length). And besides the musical numbers, everything else was quite dull and not nearly as interesting.
The first hour or a little less of the story was Flo's rise to fame, and seeking out his stars and new talent, including Anna Helm, a French singer whom he ends up marrying. The second hour or so is mainly stage show numbers. As mentioned, many of them are quite long, and the film liked to do one after another, so that you're essentially watching Ziegfeld's actual show. The musical numbers are what makes the film interesting, for the most part. While the music itself is alright, it's the costumes and the set pieces that are so extraordinary. Flo is a go big or go home guy and this is shown by his stage shows. We have enormous stages and rotating floors and a huge winding multi-tier cake like structure, with stairs wrapping around, and stage floors divided into 5 parts, each of which can slide in and out one at a time. This was the most interesting part, and was expertly done. However, the rest of the film flounders around it and it's not enough to save this section of the film. There are also way too many numbers shown in a row that you really start not to care, and it loses some of it's wonder.
The third part of the film shows marital troubles between Flo and Anna, especially with Ziegfeld becoming increasing obsessed with doing more and more shows, and with finding younger and prettier talent. At one point, Flo promises men in a barber shop that he will put on 4 shows on Broadway at once, and all 4 will be hits.
Besides some fantastic set pieces during the musical numbers, there is nothing really extraordinary about this film. It's extremely overlong and could've easily been reduced by 45 minutes or an hour. It's length and lack of focus is what hurts the film so much. There's just nothing all that interesting about the film, and only sometimes seems to have a plot or really any point.
Emotional Connection- 5.5/10
Overall Enjoyment- 5/10
Overall Package- 6/10