Cast & Crew
Prologue: From his lavish apartment in the heavenly spheres, world-famous showman Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr. recalls the early days of his career and the first performance of his follies show in 1907. While reminiscing about his past shows, Ziegfeld recalls dancer Marilyn Miller, singer Fanny Brice, entertainer Will Rogers and others. He then imagines what it would be like to produce just one more of his follies, which would begin with a special introduction by dancer and singer Fred Astaire: Astaire honors the Ziegfeld tradition in a song about the beautiful showgirls who were always the centerpiece of Ziegfeld's shows. While Fred sings, the showgirls, dressed in pink, dance on a set featuring a carousel. Ziegfeld then considers the rest of his show, noting each successive sequence:
Esther Williams in "A Water Ballet" : Esther Williams displays her swimming talents in an underwater show.
Keenan Wynn in "Number Please," directed by Robert Lewis : A man makes repeated attempts to place a telephone call to Louie Sebastian's Cigar Store but is unable to get help from the operator. When the man sees a southerner succeed in placing a call, he eats the telephone in frustration.
James Melton and Marion Bell sing "Traviata," costumes designed by Sharaff, dance direction by Eugene Loring : Two opera stars sing and dance to "Libiamo" from the Giuseppe Verdi opera Traviata Victor Moore wants Edward Arnold to "Pay the Two Dollars" : When a man riding a subway train with his lawyer is fined two dollars for spitting, the lawyer instructs him to refuse to pay the fine. A police officer arrests the lawyer's client, who is later ordered by a judge to pay the fine or serve a jail sentence. The lawyer instructs his client to accept the sentence, and promises to appeal the judge's decision. Twelve days after the client is imprisoned, the lawyer arrives with news that a judge has agreed to hear his appeal. When the client learns that his lawyer has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to defend him, he begs his lawyer to simply pay the two-dollar fine. Though an appeals court reverses the ruling, the client is sentenced to death for killing two subway passengers who died as a result of an illness spread by his germs. The governor pardons the client, but his life is ruined as a result of his lawyer's actions. Following his release from prison, the client is arrested again on the subway when he spits out his cigar tip.
Fred Astaire and Lucille Bremer in a dance story "This Heart of Mine," Harry Warren's music, Arthur Freed's words : A gentleman jewel thief posing as a dancer dances with a beautiful princess and steals her bracelet as they kiss. The princess realizes that she has been robbed, but she ignores the theft until they finish their dance. The princess then removes her necklace and gives it to the impostor, who, stunned by the noble gesture, embraces her.
Fanny Brice wins "A Sweepstakes Ticket" with the help of Hume Cronyn and William Frawley, written by David Freedman, directed by Roy Del Ruth : Norma Edelman wins the Irish Sweepstakes, but when she tells her husband Monty the good news, he informs her that he gave the winning sweepstakes ticket to their landlord, Mr. Martin, to help pay the rent. In the hope that Martin does not yet know that he possesses the winning ticket, Norma and Monty invite him to their apartment and offer to press his suit. When that strategy fails, Norma tries to get the ticket by flirting with Martin. Norma eventually tells Martin the truth, and when he faints, she takes the ticket.
"Love" with Lena Horne, written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane, directed by Lemuel Ayres : In a West Indian cabaret bar, singer Lena Horne sings a song about the nature of love.
Red Skelton will show you what will happen "When Television Comes," directed by George Sidney : An announcer for the Clumsy Television Broadcast System introduces a program called the Guzzler's Gin Program and nearly chokes on a swallow of gin. The announcer then impersonates "J. Newton Numskull," a doctor of poetry, and reads two short poems. Between poems, Red takes a drink from his gin bottle and grows increasingly drunk. He eventually gets so drunk that he collapses.
"Limehouse Blues" dramatic pantomime with Fred Astaire and Lucille Bremer, lyrics by Douglas Furber, music by Philip Braham, costumes designed by Sharaff : Tai Long, a Chinese man, enters a saloon in London's Limehouse district and falls instantly in love with a beautiful Chinese woman named Moy Ling. Moments after Tai peers into a shop window to look at a fan that he saw Moy admire, thieves shatter the store's window and steal some merchandise. In the ensuing chaos, gunshots are fired and Tai is struck by a bullet. While laying unconscious on the sidewalk, Tai dreams of dancing a fan dance with Moy. Tai is eventually brought inside the shop, where Moy helps him regain consciousness by touching the fan that she admired.
A great lady has "An Interview," played by Judy Garland, words and music by Kay Thompson and Roger Edens, dance direction Charles Walters : A groups of journalists arrive at the home of a movie star known as the "Great Lady." Tribbins, the Great Lady's butler, escorts the men of the press into her living room, where she is interviewed. The Great Lady talks about her next film, in which she will play "Madame Crematon," the inventor of the safety pin.
Fred Astaire meets Gene Kelly in "The Babbitt and the Bromide," by George and Ira Gershwin : Entertainers Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly meet in a park and decide to perform a song and tap dance routine together.
"Beauty," sung by Kathryn Grayson, words and music Harry Warren and Arthur Freed : A singer sings a song about beauty in a varying landscape as ballet dancers pose and dance around her.
Capt. George Hill
William B. Davidson
Charles E. Lunard
Dorothy Van Nuys
Mary Jane French
Silver, A Horse
Roy Del Ruth
A. Arnold Gillespie
M. J. Mclaughlin
John Nickolaus Jr.
Francesco Maria Piave
Jack Martin Smith
John A. Williams
Edwin B. Willis
Thirty writers, five (credited) directors, numerous costumers, designers, choreographers, composers, and arrangers contributed to the production - not to mention more than 20 credited players and a large cast of supporters and extras (Peter Lawford did an uncredited bit as a voice on the telephone). Vaudeville-style comedy skits alternated with such over-the-top musical numbers as Fred Astaire and Lucille Bremer acting out a Chinese tale of intrigue in dance and Lucille Ball (her red hair and pink dress in eye-popping Technicolor) "taming" a bevy of chorus girls in cat costumes. The $3 million production was a popular success and won the Best Musical award at the 1947 Cannes Film Festival.
Ziegfeld Follies was a pet project for producer Arthur Freed, a chance to display all the talent in his renowned musical production unit using some of the 500 sketches, songs and vaudeville routines the studio had collected over a decade. It was planned for 1944, MGM's 20th anniversary but it ended up being in production for half the year and part of the next and wasn't released until 1946. As might be expected from a project this complex and multi-leveled, each individual segment was like a short movie with a behind-the-scenes story of its own.
Red Skelton's sketch about an on-air hawker of gin got funnier and funnier as the comedian drank real booze during the filming. The totally plastered Skelton cracked up assistant camera operator Bobby Bronner so much that the hysterical assistant fell off the camera boom and rolled into a corner. Chief cinematographer George Folsey had to grab the camera and finish the shot.
Even the Lone Ranger's famous horse, Silver, made an appearance in Lucille Ball's camp "Here's to the Girls" number. Life magazine ran a story featuring Ball and the horse (done up in braids, pink bows, and a pink ostrich feather between his ears) on its cover with the tagline, "Silver is a sissy!" The horse's trainer threatened the studio with a defamation of character lawsuit that was settled out of court.
Esther Williams' Honolulu number required six underwater and one above-water sets consisting of coral caves, exotic fans, sea shells, long water grasses and mother of pearl all made of rubber, linen, plastic, cork, and plaster, which disintegrated or faded if left in the water too long. So after each set-up was shot, the circular tank, 20 feet deep and 60 feet in diameter, had to be completely drained before the next set could be lowered into it. The tank held roughly 3,000 gallons of water.
Kay Thompson and Roger Edens wrote a number for one of the studio's biggest dramatic stars, Greer Garson, spoofing her image as the lead in serious biographical pictures about great, noble ladies of history (notably physicist Marie Curie, whose life story Garson filmed in 1943). Thompson and Edens performed the piece for Garson and her husband, actor-author Richard Ney, who sat staring blankly at them until Ney finally announced the number was not for his wife. Judy Garland, known to be an excellent mimic, stepped in and filmed it in perfect imitation of the older, sophisticated Thompson (who was herself doing an imitation of Garson's grand style). Caricaturing a self-absorbed Serious Actress announcing her new role as "the inventor of the safety pin" was an image change for Garland, who had become a star playing sweet, innocent teenagers.
The longest and most elaborate sequence in Ziegfeld Follies was Astaire and Bremer's Chinese red-light district number "Limehouse Blues." Directed by Vincente Minnelli and based on a song performed by Gertrude Lawrence in her 1924 Broadway debut, it took 18 days to rehearse and cost more than $200,000. In the fantasy dream sequence conceived by costumer-set designer Irene Sharaf, Astaire switched from his familiar dancing style to a more balletic approach. Choreographer Robert Alton came up with a routine using fans that gave Astaire interesting props to work with.
Another musical segment, "The Babbitt and the Bromide," marked the first time Astaire and Gene Kelly appeared together in a film. Their only other performance together was as hosts of That's Entertainment, Part II (1976), in which they danced together briefly.
Directors: Vincente Minnelli, Lemuel Ayers, Roy Del Ruth, Robert Lewis, George Sidney
Producer: Arthur Freed
Screenplay: Roger Edens, Kay Thompson, Charles Walters, Samson Raphaelson, and 26 others
Cinematography: George Folsey, Charles Rosher
Editing: Albert Akst
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Merrill Pye, Jack Martin Smith
Original Music: Roger Edens, Hugh Martin & Harry Warren
Cast: William Powell (Florenz Ziegfeld), Fred Astaire, Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, Lena Horne, Esther Williams, Cyd Charisse, Lucille Ball, Fannie Brice, Red Skelton.
by Rob Nixon
Children play with the dreams of tomorrow. Old men play with the dreams of yesterday.- Florenz Ziegfeld Jr.
Head director George Sidney (II) quit after one month of filming and was replaced by Vincente Minnelli.
The initial version shown to preview audiences in 1944 was almost 3 hours long.
Cut from film: - Musical number "If Swing Goes, I Go Too", directed by Sidney, danced and sung byFred Astaire. - Musical/comedy number "Start Off Each Day with a Song", directed by Charles Walters, performed by Jimmy Durante. - Musical number "A Cowboy's Life", directed by Merrill Pye, sung by James Melton (I). - Musical number "Liza", directed by Minnelli, sung by Avon Long. - Cut from film: Comedy sketch "Baby Snooks and the Burglar", directed by Roy Del Ruth, performed by Fanny Brice. - Comedy sketch "Death and Taxes", directed by Minnelli, performed by Durante andEdward Arnold. - Musical number "We Will Meet Again in Honolulu", directed by Pye, sung by Melton. The 'Williams, Esther' water ballet from this number was retained in the film. - Finale musical number "There's Beauty Everywhere", directed by Minnelli, sung by Melton, danced by Astaire, Lucille Bremer and Cyd Charisse. A fragment with Charisse was retained in the re-shot finale.
The horse ridden by Lucille Ball is the Lone Ranger's Silver.
The "Great Lady" sketch was written as a self-parody intended for Greer Garson, but she refused the role.
One of only two films in which Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire danced together. The other was _That's Entertainment, Part II (1974)_
The working title of this film was Ziegfeld Follies of 1946. Some contemporary news items refer to the film as The Ziegfeld Follies. The individual production numbers in the film are preceded by intertitles featuring screen credits that do not appear in the opening or closing credits. The intertitles, as they appear onscreen, are reproduced in the above synopsis. David Freedman is the only writer listed in the onscreen credits. Material contained in the Arthur Freed Collection at the USC Cinema/Television Library indicates that official preparations for the film began as early as July 1939, when writers E. Y. Yarburg and Jack McGowan submitted outlines for the film. Their outlines were followed by several outlines, sketches and notes submitted by dozens of writers between March 1943 and January 1945. Most of the submitted material was not used in the final film.
In April 1943, a news item in Hollywood Reporter announced that producer and songwriter Arthur Freed had begun preparations on an all-star Technicolor tribute to the world-famous showman Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr. (1869-1932). The film rights to the Ziegfeld name were first secured by M-G-M in 1935, when the studio purchased them from Universal Pictures for its 1936 film The Great Ziegfeld (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films; 1931-40; F3.1728). The rights negotiated by M-G-M in 1935 May have applied to this film and the 1941 M-G-M film Ziegfeld Girl (see below). For more information on the history of the rights acquisition, please consult the entry above for The Great Ziegfeld.
Unless otherwise noted, the following information was taken from material contained in the Arthur Freed Collection at the USC Cinema/Television Library. An August 1943 Hollywood Reporter news item indicates that production on the film was initially set to begin on January 1, 1944. According to a January 1944 New York Times article, the film was originally budgeted at $3,000,000 and conceived as the first of a series of "Ziegfeld Follies" pictures, with subsequent ones to be filmed every two years or so. According to Hollywood Reporter, the budget had grown to $4,000,000 by May 1944, at which time M-G-M boasted that the film had the longest scheduled shoot and biggest planned budget of any film in motion picture history. (The final cost of the film was just over $3,240,000).
Production began on April 10, 1944 under the direction of George Sidney, who was replaced by Vincente Minnelli on May 11, 1944. Producer Arthur Freed's biography indicates that Sidney asked to be removed from the picture because he was unhappy with the first month's filming. In addition to the "When Television Comes" number, for which he received an onscreen credit, Sidney directed the Bunin's Puppets segment of the film, the production number in which Astaire sings "Here's to the Girls," and the "Pay the Two Dollars" sequence. A biography of Minnelli notes that Minnelli directed about fifty percent of the material used in the final film. Prior to this film, Minnelli directed a number of successful Broadway musicals, including Ziegfeld's Follies of 1936. In his autobiography, Minnelli stated that the film served as a "distraction" from his broken romance with Judy Garland, whom he married in 1945 and divorced in 1951. William Powell first portrayed Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr. in the 1936 film The Great Ziegfeld. Hollywood Reporter production charts and various contemporary news items indicate that the following actors were either considered or signed for roles at various times: James Craig, John Hodiak, Van Johnson, June Allyson, Ginny Simms, Mickey Rooney, Ann Sothern, Marilyn Maxwell, Kate Smith, Sophie Tucker and Lou Holtz. Actors and performers mentioned in contemporary news items and Hollywood Reporter production charts but whose participation in the completed film has not been confirmed include "Ziegfeld Girls" Elizabeth Dailey and Joan Lawrence, dancer and singer Madeleine LeBeau, Javanese dancers The Kraft Sisters, vocalist Dennis Day, comedian Kenny Bowers and actress Bunny Waters. A April 25, 1944 Hollywood Reporter news item noted that Leo the Lion, M-G-M's trademark mascot, was filmed for the opening shots of the first sequence, but he did not appear in the released film.
M-G-M originally planned to include twenty-three production numbers in the film, and although a mid-August 1944 Hollywood Reporter news item announced that Minnelli had completed direction of all twenty-three numbers, many of them were later dropped from the final film. Among the production numbers featured in the film, only one, Fanny Brice's "A Sweepstakes Ticket," actually originated in a Ziegfeld show. Brice first played the role in Ziegfeld's Follies of 1936. The "Pay the Two Dollars" sequence was taken from the 1931 show George White's Scandals. The "Limehouse Blues" number was first performed by Gertrude Lawrence in Andre Charlot's Revue of 1924, and the "Babbitt and the Bromide" sequence was first performed by Fred Astaire and his sister Adele in the 1927 Broadway musical Funny Face. The "Number Please" sequence was based on a sketch written by Fred Allen and was first performed by Willie and Eugene Howard in the 1930 Broadway revue Three's a Crowd.
Contemporary sources note that the film was to feature songs by Johnny Mercer, Jerome Kern, Rudolf Friml and Victor Herbert. Songwriter Dave Stamper was signed to work on the film, but the extent of his contribution to the final film has not been determined. According to information contained in the file on the film in MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, a planned sequence built around the Jerry Livingston and Mack David song "Frankie and Johnnie" was rejected by the Breen Office because of its "flavor of prostitution and excessive sex suggestiveness."
The CBCS and various contemporary news items confirm that the following sequences were filmed but later discarded: Ira Gershwin's "Liza," a musical number starring Lena Horne and Avon Long; "Death and Taxes," a comedy sketch written by David Freedman, featuring Jimmy Durante, Edward Arnold, Kay Williams, Horace McNally, Douglas Cowan and Russ Clark; "If Swing Goes, I Go Too," a musical number that Fred Astaire wrote for himself; "Baby Snooks and the Burglar," a comedy routine written by Everett and Devery Freeman, directed by Roy Del Ruth and starring Fanny Brice, Hanley Stafford, B. S. Pully and Harry Shannon; "We Will Meet Again (in Honolulu)," a water ballet directed by Merrill Pye and starring Esther Williams, with vocals by James Melton; "The Pied Piper," a musical comedy routine directed by Charles Walters, starring Durante (singing "You Gotta Start Off Each Day with a Song"), and also featuring Alex Pollard, Jack Perrin, Eddie Kane and Jack Chefe; "The Cowboy" (also known as "A Bit of the West"), a solo number performed by James Melton, directed by Merrill Pye; and "Will You Love Me More in Technicolor? (As You Do in Black and White)," a musical number written by Chuck Walters for Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland.
Among the production numbers and songs that were mentioned in various contemporary news items but not included in the final film were: "In My Cutaway," set for Jimmy Durante and the Wilde Twins (Lee and Lyn); "Coca Bola Tree," a song written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane; "Glorifying the American Girl," set to star Lucille Ball; "Goodbye World," a song written by Sammy Fain and Ralph Freed; an untitled comedy sketch to feature Durante and Fanny Brice; "I Ain't Got Nobody," a song made famous by Bert Williams; Irving Berlin's "Always" and "Blue Skies," which were to be sung by Belle Baker; "Cavalcade of Rhumba," a dance number to be staged by Jack Cole; "Pipe of Peace" (also known as "Pass That Peace Pipe"), an American Indian routine set for Nancy Walker; and "Shine on Harvest Moon," a song written by Nora Bayes.
Modern sources note the following information regarding sequences that did not appear in the final film: Garland and Frank Morgan were to appear in a sketch entitled "Reading of the Play," from Minnelli's 1936 revue The Show Is On. Garland and Rooney were to star in sequence entitled "As Long As I Have My Art." Freed considered teaming Katharine Hepburn with Gene Kelly in a sequence called "Shakespeare in Tap Time." June Allyson and Gene Kelly were set to star in the "Pipe of Peace" sequence. Judy Garland, Ann Sothern and Lucille Ball were to appear in sequence entitled "Fireside Chat" while Ball, Jimmy Durante and Marilyn Maxwell were to star in a sequence entitled "A Trip to Hollywood."
Hepburn, Margaret O'Brien and Jackie "Butch" Jenkins were to appear in a sequence entitled "Fairy Tale Ballet." In addition to Ball, the deleted sequence "Glorifying the American Girl" was set to star Maxwell, Bremer, Horne and Elaine Sheppard. Contemporary news items in Hollywood Reporter indicate that the original, unused finale featured James Melton, Lucille Bremer and Fred Astaire. Modern sources note that Lena Horne also appeared in the unused finale. A biography of Lucille Ball indicates that producer Arthur Freed initially considered having Ball perform material written by British comedienne Beatrice Lillie, and for a role opposite Red Skelton in a sequence entitled "Life With Junior." Freed also considered Ball for a part in a sketch called "If Men Did the Shopping," in which she was set to co-star with Ann Sothern, Nancy Walker and Greer Garson.
According to modern sources, Garson turned down the role of the "Great Lady" in "The Interview" sequence, which was conceived as a mild parody of Garson's film roles and celebrity. (The "Madame Crematon" portion of the sequence spoofs Greer's title role in the 1943 film Madame Curie ). A biography of Fanny Brice notes that the comedienne was paid $50,000 for her appearance in the film. According to a biography of Red Skelton, an authorship dispute arose between Skelton's gag writer Harry Tugend and Skelton's wife Edna over the origins of the "When Television Comes" sketch (also known as the "Gulper's Gin" or "Guzzler's Gin" sketch). Tugend won the case after proving that the material was stolen from him. In an interview cited in a modern source, writer Dorothy Kingsley asserted that she also worked on the Skelton sketch.
Modern sources add the following credits: "Pay the Two Dollars": Writer William K. Wells; Cinematographer Ray June; Puppet cost des Florence Bunin; Art Director Lemuel Ayres; Set Decoration Tony Du Quette; Stand-in for Astaire Joe Niemeyer; "This Heart of Mine": Shirlee Howard (Showgirl); "Limehouse Blues": Dante Dipaolo, Richard D'Arcy, Ricky Riccardi, Patricia Lynn, Ruth Merman, Wanda Stevenson and Sean Francis (Ensemble); Ellen Ray and Billy Shead (Couple with parasols); Eleanor Bailey and Ronald Stanton (Couple with branches); Mary Jo Ellis and James Barron (Couple with banners); Sidney Gordon, Charles Lunard, Robert Ames, Jack Regas (Four men with masks); Cyd Charisse (Chicken); James King (Rooster); Eugene Loring (Costermonger).
The first preview of the film was held at the Westwood Village Theatre on November 1, 1944, and the running time of the previewed picture was 273 minutes. Following the preview screening, M-G-M cut most of the comedy sequences from the picture, added a scene for Virginia O'Brien and Keenan Wynn, and added Grayson's finale. After the film's roadshow premiere in Boston on August 20, 1945 (under the title Ziegfeld Follies of 1946), a Hollywood Reporter news item noted that M-G-M held up the release of the film for seven months, during which time the studio experimented with vast revisions. No further changes were made, however, and the film was released in its roadshow premiere form in April 1946. The film marked the screen debut of opera star Marion Bell, and was the only film in which Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire danced together. (Astaire and Kelly were paired briefly in the 1976 film That's Entertainment II). A biography of Lena Horne notes that in 1946, exhibitors in Knoxville and Memphis, TN, deleted Horne's scenes from the film and blackened out her name on the film's posters. According to Freed's biography, Horne disliked the "Love" sequence and objected to the slum setting of the black ghetto.
Ziegfeld Follies received the "Grand Prix de la Comedie Musicale" at the Cannes Film Festival in September 1947, and an Academy Award nomination for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (black and white). Funny Face, a 1968 picture about Ziegfeld star Fanny Brice, was directed by William Wyler and featured Walter Pidgeon as Ziegfeld (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70; F6.1727). Paul Shenar portrayed Ziegfeld in the 1978 television movie Ziegfeld: The Man and His Women, directed by Buzz Kulik and co-starring Samantha Eggar.