Florenz Ziegfeld

Ziegfeld was the original impresario and showman. He is most famous for the Ziegfeld Follies which were famous theatrical productions on Broadway with the best stars of its day. Famous performers such as Eddie Cantor, Fanny Brice and Barbara Stanwyck appeared in the shows. Costumes were designed by famous names such as Lucille and Erte. The first revue took place in what is now the Winter Garden theater in Broadway, mid-town Manhattan in 1907.

He was a showman from the beginning. In 1893, when his father opened a nightclub called the Trocadero. it was rescued by his son. Young Ziegfeld shifted the main focus of the show from music and variety acts to a strongman, Eugene Sandow. Ziegfeld organized a huge publicity campaign to broadcast his star, and the show was a spectacular success. Ziegfeld toured the United States with his star and it was then that he decided to turn his attention to Broadway. He wanted to find a new star and he did. It was Anna Held, a singer and all-round entertainer. She was working for the Folies Bergeres in Europe but Ziegfeld offered her an unheard of sum of money to become his new star. Held arrived in the United States in a blaze of publicity and over the next twelve year, Ziegfeld produced many Broadway musicals designed to showcase his new protegee.

Ziegfeld married Held but they later separated. However it was Held who gave Ziegfeld the idea of the ‘Ziegfeld Follies’ of which FLorenz Ziegfeld is most famous. Ziegfeld was the producer of these shows which ran from 1907 through 1931.

The first show opened in 1907 at a rundown theater called “The Jardin de Paris” in New York. The Folies were a mix of burlesque and pure entertainment. They were lavish and spectacular revues, a mix between Broadway shows and the elaborate Vaudeville shows. Ziegfeld aimed to hire the best entertainers of the day. The top entertainers of the day including Ann Pennington, Will Rogers, W.C. Fields appeared in the shows. For the 1910 Follies, Ziegfeld brought in two comic stars who became key figures in the series. They were Bert Williams, the first black man to co-star on Broadway with white performers and Fanny Brice, who would star in more Folie shows than any other. The shows too were famous for their elaborate costumes designed by famous names such as Erte, Lucille and Ali Ben Hagan.

As the 1920’s roared on, Ziegfeld Folies roared on too. The shows moved to a new theater but they still kept to the successful formula of stunning and spectacular visuals, topical comedy and beautiful girls. Ziegfeld produced other shows and musicals. Another important production was the musical, Show Boat. The show, with its dramatic storyline, was another success.

The Wall Street Crash came in 1932 and Ziegfeld lost much of his money. However he produced a revival of Show Boat which was another a financial success. However, later that year 1932, Ziegfeld died from a lung infection related to   pleurisy .