Synopsis by Hal Erickson
The presence of William Powell as legendary showman Flo Ziegfeld at the beginning of Ziegfeld Follies might lead an impressionable viewer from thinking that this 1946 film is a Technicolor sequel to the 1936 Oscar-winning The Great Ziegfeld. Not so: this is more in the line of an all-star revue, much like such early talkies as Hollywood Revue of 1929 and Paramount on Parade. We meet a grayed, immaculately garbed Ziegfeld in Paradise (his daily diary entry reads "Another heavenly day"), where he looks down upon the world and muses over the sort of show he'd be putting on were he still alive. Evidently Ziegfeld's shade has something of a celestial conduit to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios, since his "dream" show is populated almost exclusively by MGM stars. Vincente Minnelli is given sole directorial credit at the beginning of the film, though many of the individual "acts" were helmed by other hands. The Bunin puppets offer a tableau depicting anxious theatregoers piling into a Broadway theatre, as well as caricatures of Ziegfeld's greatest stars. The opening number, "Meet the Ladies", spotlights a whip-wielding (!) Lucille Ball, a bevy of chorus girls dressed as panthers, and, briefly, Margaret O'Brien. Kathryn Grayson and "The Ziegfeld Girls" perform "There's Beauty Everywhere." Victor Moore and Edward Arnold show up in an impressionistically staged adaptation of the comedy chestnut "Pay the Two Dollars". Fred Astaire and Lucille Bremer (a teaming which evidently held high hopes for MGM) dance to the tune of "This Heart is Mine." "Number Please" features Keenan Wynn in an appallingly unfunny rendition of an old comedy sketch (performed far better as "Alexander 2222" in Abbott and Costello's Who Done It?) Lena Horne, strategically placed in the film at a juncture that could be edited out in certain racist communities, sings "Love". Red Skelton stars in the film's comedy highlight, "When Television Comes"-which is actually Skelton's classic "Guzzler's Gin" routine (this sequence was filmed late in 1944, just before Red's entry into the armed services). Astaire and Bremer return for a lively rendition of "Limehouse Blues". Judy Garland, lampooning every Hollywood glamour queen known to man, stops the show with "The Interview". Even better is the the historical one-time-only teaming of Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly in "The Babbitt and the Bromide". The excellence of these sequence compensate for the mediocrity of "The Sweepstakes Ticket", wherein Fanny Brice screams her way through a dull comedy sketch with Hume Cronyn (originally removed from the US prints of Ziegfeld Follies, this sequence was restored for television). Excised from the final release print (pared down to 110 minutes, from a monumental 273 minutes!) was Judy Garland's rendition of "Liza", a duet featuring Garland and Mickey Rooney, and a "Baby Snooks" sketch featuring Fanny Brice, Hanley Stafford and B. S. Pully. A troubled and attenuated production, Ziegfeld Follies proved worth the effort when the film rang up a $2 million profit.
music, behind-the-scenes, celebrity, dance [art], entertainer, performer, show, songwriter, stage, stars [celebrities]