Ziegfeld Follies (1945) starring Red Skelton, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Lucille Ball, Lena Horne, Kathryn Grayson, William Powell and many more
Ziegfeld Follies is an attempt at recreating the spectacle of Flo Ziegfeld’s famous Broadway shows. And so the film is a series of unrelated musical and comedy routines. They’re unconnected except by the narration of the ghostly Flo Ziegfeld. The part is played by William Powell. He sits back in Heaven, thinking of the spectacles that he could create with then-current stars.
The various acts include:
- Here’s To The Girls, sung by Fred Astaire with a short solo dance by Cyd Charisse. This is followed by Lucille Ball cracking a whip over chorus-girl panthers (seriously). Finally Virginia O’Brien spoofs the scene by singing Bring on those Wonderful Men
- This Heart of Mine: written especially for Fred Astaire who sings it to Lucille Breme. He then leads her in a romantic dance.
- Love: sung by Lena Horne
- Limehouse Blues. Conceived as a dramatic pantomime with Fred Astaire as a proud but poverty-stricken Chinese laborer. His infatuation with the unattainable Lucille Bremer leads to tragedy. The story serves as bookends for a dream ballet inspired by Chinese dance motifs.
- The Great Lady Has An Interview. Judy Garland spoofs a movie star who can only be cast in Oscar-winning dramas. But she wants to play “sexy” roles giving an interview to dancing reporters about “her next picture”. Which is a biopic of Madame Cremantante (the “inventor of the safety pin”).
- The Babbitt And The Bromide Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly team up in a comedy song and dance challenge in three sections. With music and lyrics by George and Ira Gershwin. All choreography was by Fred Astaire (third section) and Gene Kelly (sections one and two).
- A Water Ballet– Esther Williams does her aquatic swimming
- Number Please– Comedy skit with Keenan Wynn.
- La Traviata– Opera number with James Melton and Marion Bell.
- Pay the Two Dollars– Another comedy skit with Victor Moore and Edward Arnold.
- A Sweepstakes Ticket- Another comedy skit with Fanny Brice, Hume Cronyn, and William Frawley.
- When Television Comes– A comedy skit with Red Skelton doing his classic “Guzzler’s Gin” routine.
- There’s Beauty Everywhere. The lovely Kathryn Grayson sings this number, accompanied by a chorus of girls. With Cyd Charisse as the dancer in the bubbles.
Editorial review of Ziegfeld Follies, courtesy of Amazon.com
This 1946 film celebrates the life, career, and showmanship of the late Florenz Ziegfeld, perhaps themost famous and influential Broadway producer in the early decades of the 20th century. The film, ostensibly directed by Vincente Minnelli, takes an unusual form. We open in Heaven, at the home of the late Ziegfeld (played by William Powell, who also played him in The Great Ziegfeld), who thinks back on his life and wonders what kind of show he would put on with the talent of today (meaning 1946).
What follows is an elaborately staged revue, similar to the blend of cheesecake, music, and comedy that made up the Ziegfeld Follies–but with the stars of that moment (plus actual Ziegfeld veteran Fanny Brice). The most welcome presence is Fred Astaire, who appears in three numbers — including the only dance number ever filmed that paired Astaire with Gene Kelly at the height of their powers. The contrast is fascinating. Otherwise, you get a number of musical scenes, the best of which features Lena Horne (singing “Love”), the worst Judy Garland (in “An Interview”). And there’s plenty of other stuff: everything from an Esther Williams water ballet to an excerpt of La Traviata to a variety of broadly acted vaudeville skits featuring actors Keenan Wynn, Edward Arnold, Fanny Brice, and Hume Cronyn. –Marshall Fine