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Florenz Ziegfeld did some first-rate glorifying in his long and spectacular career as producer of musical extravaganzas but never did he attain the dizzy height of opulent glorification which Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer have reached in their three-hour film biography of "The Great Ziegfeld," which is now running at the Colonial Theatre. In comparison with this musical of musicals previous super-productions fade to the class of colossal on a small scale.
From the opening blare of trumpets (8.20) to the final tear-laden fadeout (11.29) the picture maintains a level of fabulous lavishness which bears aureate witness to the accepted rumor that the Goldwyn boys spent $500,000 an hour on this supreme effort. The saga of Ziegfeld commences at the Chicago World's Fair, where the master is offering the muscles of the mighty Sandow. Even at this early stage in his development "Ziggie" realizes that his main theme is a rhapsody on the theatrical potentialities of the female form. He brings Anna Held to America and makes her a national idol by immersing her daily (in private) in milk baths. He then marries the beautiful Anna (magnificently played by Luise Rainer) and moves ahead with the production of more pageania in the grand manner. For three glittering hours the screen is alive with Ziegfeld, his personal life and his productions. At least half an hour is devoted to a Ziegfeldian ballet based on his song hit "A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody" and studded with the most unbelievable number of chorus girls against absolutely indescribable settings.
It would be impossible to recapitulate in detail the composite parts of this amazing movie. Space permits only brief mention of the outstanding performers. As Ziegfeld, William Powell is excellent; he doesn't look like the great man, but he disports himself in convincing and charming fashion. Myrna Loy does well with he small role of Billie Burke; Frank Morgan is superb as Billings, Ziggle's rival and boon companion; Ray Bolger has a small spot which he fills deliciously with his incomparably madcap dancing; Harriet Hoctor does a very charmingly graceful ballet and as we said before Luise Rainer seizes the dramatic honors with a magnificent portrayal of Anna Held.
"The Great Ziegfeld" is unquestionably the most ambitious musical film to date. It's a bit long, but on such a tremendous scale and so well integrated that it commands attention throughout. The thing has to be seen to be believed.
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