Ziegfeld Follies
Theatrical release poster
Directed byLemuel Ayers
Roy Del Ruth
Robert Lewis
Vincente Minnelli
George Sidney
Written byCharles Walters
Produced byArthur Freed
CinematographyGeorge Folsey
Charles Rosher
Ray June (uncredited)
Edited byAlbert Akst
Music byRoger Edens
Lennie Hayton
Conrad Salinger
Harry Warren
Distributed byLoew's, Inc.
Release dates
  • August 13, 1945 (1945-08-13) (Boston)
  • July 15, 1946 (1946-07-15) (United States)
Running time
110 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$5,344,000[1]

Ziegfeld Follies is a 1945 American musical comedy film released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, primarily directed by Vincente Minnelli, with segments directed by Lemuel Ayers, Roy Del Ruth, Robert Lewis, and George Sidney, the film's original director before Minnelli took over.[3] Other directors that are claimed to have made uncredited contributions to the film are Merrill Pye, Norman Taurog, and Charles Walters.[4][5] It stars many MGM leading talents, including Fred Astaire, Lucille Ball, Lucille Bremer, Fanny Brice (the only member of the ensemble who was a star of the original Follies), Judy Garland, Kathryn Grayson, Lena Horne, Gene Kelly, James Melton, Victor Moore, William Powell, Red Skelton, and Esther Williams.

Producer Arthur Freed wanted to create a film along the lines of the Ziegfeld Follies Broadway shows, and so, the film is composed of a sequence of unrelated lavish musical numbers and comedy sketches. Some of them, such as Pay the Two Dollars, originated in George White's Scandals.[6] Filmed in 1944 and 1945,[7] it was released in 1946 to considerable critical and box-office success.

The film was entered into the 1947 Cannes Film Festival.[8]

Plot summary

The movie opens with the camera panning over a Heaven somewhere beyond the sky. The residences of great showmen gone to their eternal reward are shown: Shakespeare, whose home looks like the Globe Theater; P.T.Barnum, whose residence in the afterlife resembles a circus Big Top; and Florenz Ziegfeld, whose home's entrance is reminiscent of the theater where he staged the Ziegfeld Follies on Broadway.

Talking to the audience, Ziegfeld guides the viewers along a wall with three-dimensional paintings or shadow boxes containing dolls that look like the stars he cast in his Follies over the years. The film dissolves into a stop-motion puppet sequence as Ziegfeld provides a voice-over of the opening of one of his shows.

Following this, he steps out onto a balcony, musing how he wishes he could stage just one more Follies, with current and past stars in the cast. A Higher Power causes a cigar-sized crayon and a sheet of parchment to appear, and Ziegfeld begins to write. As he does so, the skits and performance numbers appear on the screen.


Key songs/dance routines

Dance director was Robert Alton, Astaire's second-most-frequent choreographic collaborator after Hermes Pan. All of Astaire's numbers were directed by Vincente Minnelli. The movie's opening featured William Powell as Ziegfeld, who does the prologue.

Surviving outtake of introduction

An early concept was to have the film introduced by a stop motion animated puppet of Leo the Lion. Although cut before release, this outtake footage survives today.[10]


The New York Times: "The film's best numbers are a couple of comedy skits, especially one done by Red Skelton. Fanny Brice plays a Bronx hausfrau quite funnily. Judy Garland is also amusing as a movie queen giving an interview. Ziegfeld Follies is entertaining – and that's what it's meant to be!" (Bosley Crowther).

Newsweek: "At least three of the numbers would highlight any review on stage and screen. In A Great Lady has an Interview, Judy Garland, with six leading men, displays an unexpected flair for occupational satire. With Numbers Please Keenan Wynn demonstrates, once again, that he is one of Hollywood's foremost comedians. But the dance act for the archives is The Babbitt and the Bromide Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly trade taps and double-takes to a photo finish."[11]

Box office

According to MGM records, the film earned $3,569,000 in the US and Canada, and $1,775,000 elsewhere - but because of its large cost, it incurred a loss to the studio of $269,000.[1][12]


1947 Cannes Film Festival Best Musical Comedy (Prix de la meilleure comédie musicale) Won[13]

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:


  1. ^ a b c "The Eddie Mannix Ledger". Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study. ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help).
  3. ^ Levy, Emanuel (2009-04-14). Vincente Minnelli: Hollywood's Dark Dreamer. St. Martin's Publishing Group. ISBN 978-1-4668-0005-2.
  4. ^ Naremore, James; Naremore, Chancellors' Professor of English and Communication and Culture James (1993-05-28). The Films of Vincente Minnelli. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-38770-5.
  5. ^ "Ziegfeld Follies". Park Circus. Retrieved 2021-08-18.
  6. ^ Stein, Jacob A. (1986). "Comes the Revolution You'll Pay the Two Dollars". The American Scholar. 55 (4): 510–519. ISSN 0003-0937. JSTOR 41211359.
  7. ^ The Films of Judy Garland, Joe Morella and Edward Epstein, p. 132
  8. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Ziegfeld Follies". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-01-06.
  9. ^ "Love" sung by Lena Horne (video)
  10. ^ Original stop motion puppet Leo the Lion introduction to "Ziegfeld Follies" (1946) on YouTube
  11. ^ The Films of Judy Garland, Joe Morella and Edward Epstein, p.134
  12. ^ See also "60 Top Grossers of 1946", Variety 8 January 1947 p8
  13. ^ Staff. "Ziegfeld Follies – Awards". IMDb. Retrieved 8 October 2013.
  14. ^ "AFI's Greatest Movie Musicals Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-13.

Further reading