I love the Academy Awards and last year I realized how few of the “Best Picture” winners I’d actually seen. So I made it a goal to see all 83 winners and blog my thoughts about them along the way.

Why did it win? Should another movie have won instead? Has it become a beloved classic or do many of you not even recognize the title? I invite you, my friends and guests, to comment along with me. Do you agree/disagree? I should be fair and place a SPOLIER ALERT on this blog since I’ll be writing about various parts of the movie. So read at your own risk…

I have often told people that I have movie amnesia… I can see a movie and forget all about it years later. So for that reason, I am re-watching the 27 I’ve seen before. That said, if no one visits or reads my blog and I basically perform the online equivalent of talking to a brick wall, that’s fine; if for nothing else, it’ll be my own reminder. Enjoy!

And the Oscar goes to…

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Great Ziegfeld, 1936

Not Rated

I’ll admit I was thrilled to see this film as soon as I heard what it was about… This biopic is about Florenz  Ziegfeld, or “Ziggy”, who became one of the most famous names in showbiz. The film reveals to us how he came from lowly beginnings to create what he’s known for:  his “Follies” and their elaborate costumes and productions. He basically created the American chorus girl and put on the most extravagant creations on stage. At his death, a friend said to him, “You’ll leave them with the memories of the finest things ever done on the stage”; I only wish more people recognized his name. I “know” him as the man who hired Jewish comedienne Fanny Brice (played brilliantly by Barbra Streisand) in one of my favorite movies of all time, “Funny Girl”. I was eager to see his story (especially when I read the real Fanny Brice starred in it) and even more excited to see it with my mom who was visiting, since she was with me when I first saw “Funny Girl”.

This was MGM’s most expensive film to date costing them $2 million. Rightly so, this movie needed a big budget to correctly mimic Ziegfeld’s life and career on the stage. It is a three hour “musical extravaganza” with seven production numbers and twenty-three songs, but interestingly, I wouldn’t categorize this film as a musical. The musical numbers merely show us what Ziegfeld accomplished rather than being a part of the storyline. Ziegfeld was known to seesaw from extreme debt to extreme riches a few times in his life. His fast-talking showmanship definitely helped his business, but at his death, he was in debt yet again, and left that debt to his second wife, Broadway maven, Billie Burke. (A little Hollywood trivia: in order to work off his debt, she had to star in a few minor roles, including Glinda the Good Witch in “Wizard of Oz”. J If you’re a fan of that film that came out three years later, you’ll recognize both the Scarecrow and the Wizard in this film.)

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised with this film and definitely want to see it again. If you enjoy the life of the musical stage, big showmen, complicated love stories, and/or have seen “Funny Girl,” I recommend you see it too.

This film was up against “Anthony Adverse”, “Dodsworth”, “Libeled Lady”, “Mr. Deed Goes to Town”, “Romeo and Juliet”, “San Francisco”, “The Story of Louis Pasteur”, “A Tale of Two Cities”, and “Three Smart Girls”, and won three of its seven nominations that evening. I haven’t seen any of the other competitors, so I can’t rightly compare, but I’m sure glad this one won so I got to see it for this challenge! Although, I am interested in seeing “San Francisco” now that I’ve read it stars my new old-movie crush, Clark Gable, at the time of the great ‘quake. This was the first year that the categories of Best Supporting Actor and Actress were added to the Academy’s ballot.


In one particularly extravagant production, Ziegfeld designed a rotating stage in which silk curtains slowly moved to reveal singing actors on higher levels designed a bit like a wedding cake. My mom and I sat amazed at the scene wondering when the rotating and climbing was going to stop and how on Earth they filmed that. It had to be the biggest stage I’ve ever seen. (Turns out, cameras back then couldn’t hold that much film, so the cameraman would zoom in on a character, change the reel, zoom back out, and continue panning.)

Although Fanny’s name was quite high in the billing, she had such a bit part in the film. But, being the comedienne she is, she owned that scene. Here is “Flo” presenting Fanny with a mink coat as his way of inviting her to the Follies. She, naturally, thinks he’s an imposter and the banter between the three of them is fantastic. (Fanny is on the right.)

A very broke Ziegfeld and his new star, Billie Burke, declare their love for each other and Burke utters the most beautiful line ever (which ends up being their proposal to each other)…

FZ: There’s little I can offer you, nothing I can give you except my love.

BB: That isn’t good enough. I’d expect part of your ambition, half of your trouble, two thirds of your worries, and all of your respect.


I vow to look at my marriage through the same lens that Billie Burke did. I appreciate the way she looked at the special relationship.

If you have enough ambition, passion, and confidence, go for broke! You may actually wind up there, but then those qualities should put you right again.

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