The Great Ziegfeld (1936)
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It's hard to get too mad at The Great Ziegfeld's problems because they're thematically consistent with the biopic subject's life. It's too long at nearly 3 hours? Yes, but all of Florenz Ziegfeld's shows were enormous white elephants (note the leitmotif, in fact) that, like this film, were big and costly. It lacks structure? Yes, but Ziegfeld was best known for his Follies, which had no plot at all. Myrna Loy is second-billed but doesn't show up into the third hour and has little screen time? Yes, but Ziggy was Broadway's P.T. Barnum and had that con man mentality. Loy's name got me watching, didn't it? She's not in it much, but her presence is still notable. It's essentially short-hand for "William Powell's true match", and you spend much of the film waiting for her to show up. Indeed, if there's a loose structure here, it's basically this: Ziegfeld finds a leading lady, is inspired to create a show around her, we see some of that show (usually great spectacle; warning: a bit of blackface too), and we move on to the next. And while the musical acts are good, none of the ladies hold a candle to Loy and we know it. So in a sense, the movie is about his journey to find that perfect someone (one should definitely contrast his visit home in the first reel with the Christmas scene in the last). When the Depression hits, we might also come to think of his career as a metaphor for the extravagance of the early 20th Century. Unfortunately, while the movie tries to do a lot, these different themes don't really support one another. So it coasts on Powell's charm (which is considerable), acting as a showcase for impressive show stoppers that nevertheless never seem to stop the show.
Many filmmakers refuse to work with kids and animals. The dogs really stole the show in this one, almost overshadow the use of blackface. Some of the set pieces were really nice. Playing some of the songs in their entirety contributed greatly to the overlong runtime.
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In 3 official lists
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This movie ranks #10 in Academy Award - Best Picture
This movie ranks #66 in Academy Award - Best Picture Nominees
This movie ranks #172 in David Thomson's Have You Seen?