Ziegfeld Follies, A Salute to Florenz Ziegfeld. Jr. & MGM


On June 17th The Art Directors Guild Film Society and The American Cinematheque will have a tribute to Florenz Ziegfeld. Jr. and MGM.

Bob Mackie, Emmy winner and Oscar nominated Costume Designer, Michael Lonzo, Cinematographer, Historian and Film Collector and Roy Christopher, Awards-winning Production Designer and ADG Lifetime Achievement Honoree are the featured panelists, who with moderator Thomas A. Walsh, Production Designer and President of the Art Directors Guild, will explore the legacy of Impresario Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr. vs. the myth that he became as a result of MGM’s fanciful interpretations. Mr. Mackie will discuss the design legacy of Florenz Ziegfeld’s Follies as well as the creative work of the film’s many costume designers and artisans. Mr. Lonzo (“MGM: When the Lion Roars”) will spotlight the financial, technical, production and photographic challenges of MGM’s “Ziegfield Follies”. Mr. Christopher is best known for his work on TV’s “Murphy Brown”, “Frasier” and numerous awards shows including The Academy Awards, The Emmy Awards® and The Peoples Choice Awards®. He will share his insight, as a master of the Variety Show genre.

This musical extravaganza features the work of all the top artisans and contract performers working at MGM at that time, and stars Fred Astaire, William Powell, Judy Garland, Lucille Ball, Gene Kelly, and Esther Williams.

Note: “Ziegfield Follies”, with its gorgeous Technicolor numbers, is one of the best reviews ever put on film and one of the most opulent Technicolor films ever made. The pink and black “Beautiful Girls” features a lion taming Lucille Ball and her leopard women, Cyd Charisse and a merry-go-round with real horses. Astaire does two numbers with Lucille Bremer. He plays Raffles, the jewel thief in “This Heart of Mine,” romances Bremer Chinatown style in an outrageously baroque “Limehouse Blues” and plays the comical one-upsmanship game with Gene Kelly in ‘The Babbitt and the Bromide’.

Judy Garland’s patter song satire of diva Greer Garson in “A Great Lady Has An Interview” or “Madame Cremantante” (directed by Vincent Minelli) is my favorite number. Fanny Brice wins the Irish Sweepstakes in a scene she made famous in the Follies. Virginia O’Brien’s deadpan “Bring on the Wonderful Men” and Lena Horne’s “Love” are two more stand-outs.

Minelli directed five numbers. He’s the most cinematically gifted musical director, using the camera as a choreographic tool. The geometric black and white costumes (by Irene Sharaff) in Traviata create swirling patterns on the screen. Minelli uses another variant for the street performers in “Limehouse Blues.” The op art Checkerboard floor in “This Heart of Mine’ is an amazing effect as the moving sidewalk and sculptured screens move around the dancers.

His close-ups in the two Astaire numbers bring an emotional depth to the ballets, and his gliding camera in the “Beauty” finale glamorizes the Ziegfield Girls in true Ziegfield style. And don’t miss the 45-second claymation opener of Eddie Cantor (in blackface) singing “If You Knew Suzie”. Oh yes, watch for Leo Bunin’s puppets. Bunin directed the suppressed 1948 “Alice And Wonderland” that Bernardo Rondeau recently programmed at LACMA.

Among the eye popping list of credits, vocal arranger Kay Thompson (she’s responsible for Lena Horne and Judy Garland’s stage moves), the fabulous dress designer Irene (who replaced Adrian at MGM) as uncredited costumer and credited costume supervisor and Irene Sharaff as the uncredited art director of the sumptuous “Limehouse Blues” sequence. The list of uncredited writers is staggering.

The film, with its vaudevilie blend of high and low brow bits and its panoply of visual styles is a celebratory apogee of the MGM Arthur Freed Unit’s work in musicals.

“As 2012 heralds the Guild’s 75th anniversary year, and in keeping with the great MGM tradition of “Make it Big! Make it Great! And Give it Class!” we have chosen this visually amazing film as our way of honoring the memory of some of our industry’s finest artisans and performers,” says President Walsh. “Ziegfeld was the great innovator of mammoth Broadway extravaganzas. With the advent of sound he was brought to Hollywood to create even more spectacular cinematic versions of his legendary stage shows.”

A Salute to the Legacies of Florenz Ziegfeld. Jr. and MGM.
Sunday, June 17, 2012, 5:30 p.m.
Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Blvd. Hollywood

General admission: $11
American Cinematheque members: $7
Students/Seniors with valid ID: $9
24-hour information is available at 323-466 FILM (3456)


About Author

Robin Menken

Robin Menken Robin Menken lives in Los Angeles. She was the Artistic Director of the Second City Workshops, taught at UC Berkeley, USC, Barcelona\'s Ateneu and the Esalin Institute. She was Roberto Rossellini\'s assistant, and worked with Yevgeny Vevteshenku, Glauber Rocha and Eugene Ionesco. She sold numerous screenplays and wrote the OBIE winning The FTA SHow (touring with Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland and Ben Vereen.) She was a programming consultant and Special Events co-ordinator for numerous film festivals, including the SF, Rio, Havana and N.Y Film Festivals. Her first news outlet was the historic East Village Other.

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