Promotional artwork for 1912 Ziegfeld Follies

The Ziegfeld Follies were a series of elaborate theatrical revue productions on Broadway in New York City from 1907 to 1931, with renewals in 1934, 1936, 1943, and 1957. They became a radio program in 1932 and 1936 as The Ziegfeld Follies of the Air.

Founding and history

Sheet music for a song from the 1919 Ziegfeld Follies

Inspired by the Folies Bergère of Paris, the Ziegfeld Follies were conceived and mounted by Florenz Ziegfeld Jr., reportedly at the suggestion of his then-wife, the actress and singer Anna Held. The shows' producers were turn-of-the-twentieth-century producing titans Klaw and Erlanger.

The Follies were a series of lavish revues, something between later Broadway shows and the more elaborate high class vaudeville and variety show. The first follies, The Follies of 1907, was produced that year at the Jardin de Paris roof theatre.[1]

During the Follies era, many of the top entertainers, including W. C. Fields, Eddie Cantor, Josephine Baker, Fanny Brice, Ann Pennington, Bert Williams, Eva Tanguay, Bob Hope, Will Rogers, Ruth Etting, Ray Bolger, Helen Morgan, Louise Brooks, Marilyn Miller, Ed Wynn, Gilda Gray, Nora Bayes and Sophie Tucker appeared in the shows.[2]

The Ziegfeld Follies were known for displaying beautiful chorus girls, commonly called Ziegfeld Girls, who "paraded up and down flights of stairs as anything from birds to battleships."[3] They usually wore elaborate costumes by designers such as Erté, Lady Duff-Gordon and Ben Ali Haggin. The "tableaux vivants" used in the revues were designed by Ben Ali Haggin from 1917 to 1925. Joseph Urban was the scenic designer for the Follies shows, starting in 1915,[4] and Edward Royce directed the Follies in 1920 and 1921, in addition to several other Ziegfeld productions.[5]

After Ziegfeld's death his widow, actress Billie Burke, authorized use of his name for Ziegfeld Follies in 1934 and 1936 to Jake Shubert, who then produced the Follies.[6] The name was later used by other promoters in New York City, Philadelphia, and again on Broadway, with less connection to the original Follies. These later efforts failed miserably. When the show toured, the 1934 edition was recorded in its entirety, from the overture to play-out music, on a series of 78 rpm discs, which were edited by the record producer David Cunard to form an album of the highlights of the production and which was released as a CD in 1997.

Productions based on the Ziegfeld Follies

See also: The Great Ziegfeld, Ziegfeld Girl (film), Ziegfeld Follies (film), and Funny Girl (musical)

New Amsterdam Theatre, New York

In 1937, at the 9th Academy Awards, the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film, The Great Ziegfeld produced the previous year won the Best Picture (called "Outstanding Production"),[7][8] starring William Powell as Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr. and co-starring Myrna Loy (as Ziegfeld's second wife Billie Burke), Luise Rainer (as Anna Held, which won her an Academy Award for Best Actress),[7] and Frank Morgan as Jack Billings.[9] Featuring numbers by Ray Bolger, Dennis Morgan, Virginia Bruce, and Harriet Hoctor, the film gave a glimpse into what the Follies were really like.[citation needed] The show-stopper was the Irving Berlin-composed "A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody", which, by itself, cost more to produce than one of Ziegfeld's entire stage shows.[8]

In 1941 MGM released Ziegfeld Girl, starring Judy Garland, Lana Turner, Hedy Lamarr, James Stewart and Tony Martin. The film was set in the 1920s.[10] Celebrated numbers from Ziegfeld Revues were recreated, including the famed "Wedding Cake" set which had been used for Metro's earlier film, The Great Ziegfeld. Judy Garland was filmed on the top of the cake.[11] Charles Winninger, who had performed in the Follies of 1920, appeared as "Ed Gallagher" [10] with Gallagher's real-life partner, Al Shean to recreate the duo's famous song "Mister Gallagher and Mister Shean".[12] According to modern sources, Turner's character was modeled after Ziegfeld Girl Lillian Lorraine, who suffered a drunken fall into the orchestra pit during an extravagant number.[13]

In 1946 MGM released a third feature film based on Ziegfeld's shows titled Ziegfeld Follies with Fred Astaire, Judy Garland, Lena Horne, William Powell (as Ziegfeld), Gene Kelly, Fanny Brice, Red Skelton, Esther Williams, Cyd Charisse, Lucille Ball, Kathryn Grayson, and others performing songs and sketches similar to those from the original Follies. Ziegfeld Follies was awarded the "Grand Prix de la Comedie Musicale" at the Cannes Film Festival in 1947, and received an Academy Award nomination for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (black and white).[14]

The stage musical Funny Girl[15] depicts Fanny Brice's success with the Follies. The musical debuted on Broadway in 1964 with Barbra Streisand playing Brice, Roger DeKoven as Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. and Brice's son-in-law Ray Stark producing. The 1968 Columbia Pictures film adaptation featuring Streisand reprising her role as Brice and Walter Pidgeon as Ziegfeld was the year's top-grossing movie.[16] A subsequent Broadway revival in 2022 and 2023 featured Beanie Feldstein and later Lea Michele as Brice and Peter Francis James as Ziegfeld.[17][18]

The Follies

List of notable performers by year

Ziegfeld girls and other Ziegfeld performers


The 1971 Stephen Sondheim musical Follies takes place at a reunion of showgirls from the Weissman Follies, a fictional revue inspired by the Ziegfeld Follies. In addition to featuring "ghosts" of statuesque showgirls from the heyday of the revues, the musical includes many songs and production numbers that are intended to evoke the types of entertainment typically featured in the Ziegfeld Follies and other revues of the period. Examples include parade of showgirls ("Beautiful Girls"); a torch song ("Losing My Mind"); a baggy pants comic song ("The God-Why-Don't-You-Love-Me Blues"); and a novelty song ("Rain on the Roof").[citation needed] In The Drowsy Chaperone, the character Victor Feldzieg is the producer of Feldzieg's Follies, a parody of Ziegfeld Follies.[citation needed]

The TV show Boardwalk Empire, about crime and corruption in 1920s Atlantic City, New Jersey, features a character that is a former Follies dancer, Lucy Danzige, portrayed by Paz de la Huerta.[citation needed]

The 1912 version of the Ziegfeld Follies included a song titled '"Row, Row, Row"', the tune of which has been adapted by football clubs[30] in Brazil[31][32] and Australia,[33] where Melbourne's Herald Sun ranked one of these adaptations, We're from Tigerland, as the best Australian Football League club song.[34]

See also


  1. ^ "Follies of 1907"The New York Times, July 9, 1907
  2. ^ "Flo Ziegfeld-Billie Burke Papers", accessed December 3, 2011
  3. ^ "Ziegfeld Biography", accessed December 3, 2011
  4. ^ Green, Stanley."Ziegfeld"Encyclopedia of the Musical Theatre (1980), Da Capo Press, ISBN 0-306-80113-2, pp. 462–465
  5. ^ Kenrick, John. "Who's Who in Musicals: Ro – Ru". Retrieved 27 September 2023.
  6. ^ Bloom, Ken."Winter Garden Theatre" The Routledge Guide to Broadway (2007), CRC Press, ISBN 0-415-97380-5, p. 273
  7. ^ a b "Ceremonies 1937", retrieved June 16, 2019
  8. ^ a b "Notes", retrieved June 16, 2019
  9. ^ "'The Great Ziegfeld' Overview, Cast and Synopsis", retrieved June 16, 2019
  10. ^ a b " 'Ziegfeld Girl' Overview and Cast", retrieved June 16, 2019
  11. ^ " 'Ziegfeld Girl' Notes", retrieved June 16, 2019
  12. ^ "Ziegfeld Girl" Library of Congress, retrieved June 17, 2019
  13. ^ The Ziegfeld Girl entry, AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941–1950; accessed October 2, 2016.
  14. ^ " 'Ziegfeld Follies' Overview and Cast", retrieved June 16, 2019
  15. ^ The Broadway League. "Funny Girl". IBDB. Retrieved 2016-04-21.
  16. ^ " Funny Girl Credits", retrieved June 16, 2019
  17. ^ "Funny Girl – Broadway Musical – 2022 Reviva". Retrieved 2024-02-07.
  18. ^ "Funny Girl – Broadway Musical – 2022 Revival". Retrieved 2024-02-07.
  19. ^ a b "Ziegfeld Follies of 1943 – Broadway Musical – Original". IBDB. Retrieved 30 August 2023.
  20. ^ "'ZIEGFELD FOLLIES' WILL OPEN TONIGHT; Milton Berle, Ilona Massey and Arthur Treacher Starred in Revue at Winter Garden". The New York Times. 1 April 1943. Retrieved 30 August 2023.
  21. ^ "Ziegfeld Follies of 1943 (Broadway, Winter Garden Theatre, 1943)". Playbill. Retrieved 30 August 2023.
  22. ^ "Ziegfeld Follies of 1957". Playbill. 1957. Retrieved 30 August 2023. Winter Garden Theatre
  23. ^ "Ziegfeld Follies of 1957". ibdb. Retrieved 30 August 2023. Ziegfeld Follies of 1957 (Original, Musical, Revue, Broadway) opened in New York City March 1, 1957 and played through June 15, 1957.
  24. ^ a b c "Granville, Actor, Dies In Hollywood". The New York Times. October 7, 1936. Retrieved 2015-01-28. Film Comedian Well Known on New York Stage for Many Years Victim of Pneumonia. Long Career Included Roles in Minstrel Shows, Circuses and Outstanding Plays
  25. ^ Massa, Steve (2013). Lame Brains & Lunatics: The Good, the Bad, and the Forgotten of Silent Comedy. Albany, Georgia: BearManor Media. pp. 88–91. ISBN 978-1-59393-268-8.
  26. ^ Motion Pictures Studio Directory and Trade Annual (1921), p. 209 ("stage career, "Follies," 1917–18; "The Frolic," 1919")
  27. ^ "The 'Follies of 1917' Are Coming to Town" New York Times (June 10, 1917): 79. via ProQuest
  28. ^ "William E. Ritchie, Trick Bicyclist, 70?. Vaudeville and Revue Artist Dies Here. Had Played With Will Rogers, W. C. Fields. In Stage Team with Wife. He and May Villion on Tour for Many Years. Were in 'The Follies' of 1917–1918". The New York Times. May 13, 1943.
  29. ^ a b c "Person List". Playbill. Retrieved 2021-04-23.
  30. ^ "The song behind the Richmond Tigers theme song". ABC News. 27 September 2017. Retrieved 30 August 2023.
  31. ^ Teixeira, Chandy (18 September 2014). "Famoso hino do America é um plágio, conclui professor de música da UFRJ". globo esporte (in Brazilian Portuguese). Rio de Janeiro. Retrieved 30 August 2023.
  32. ^ "Hino do America Football Club". Quiabo Doido (in Brazilian Portuguese). Retrieved 30 August 2023.; "Paixão Nacional: conheça a história por trás das músicas inesquecíveis em homenagem ao futebol". Folha Vitória (in Brazilian Portuguese). 19 September 2017. Retrieved 30 August 2023.; Soares, Olavo (January 29, 2009). "O hino mais célebre do Brasil é um plágio?". Futepoca. Archived from the original on 5 March 2009. Retrieved 30 August 2023.; and Pessoa, Daniela (June 26, 2012). "Dez curiosidades sobre os hinos do futebol carioca". Veja Rio (in Brazilian Portuguese). Editora Abril. Retrieved 30 August 2023.
  33. ^ "The song behind the Richmond Tigers theme song". ABC News. 27 September 2017. Retrieved 30 August 2023.
  34. ^ "Every AFL song ranked from best to worst". Retrieved 2017-09-30.