It seems like just a few months ago that we were celebrating 10,000 hits. As a matter of fact, it WAS just a few months ago – March in fact. At any rate, breaking the 20,000 bench mark is a cause for celebration so……..
Before there was Hollywood, there was Broadway. And the most influential shows on the Great White Way that would have a profound influence on films were the incredible annual productions of the Ziegfeld Follies that were produced from 1907 through 1931. I’m referring to the original shows from the creative genius of Florenz “Flo” Ziegfeld, Jr., himself.
Film buffs will know that MGM made three impressive films around the Follies: the biopic extravaganza, THE GREAT ZIEGFELD (1936), starring William Powell in the title role; THE ZIEGFELD GIRL (1941) starring Judy Garland, Lana Turner and Hedy Lamarr; and the Technicolor delight, THE ZIEGFELD FOLLIES (1946). Mr. Ziegfeld also got into film production during the early talkie era with GLORIFYING THE AMERICAN GIRL (1929) and co-producing (with Sam Goldwyn) his stage hit WHOOPEE (1930), starring Eddie Cantor.
Ever the showman and entrepreneur, Ziegfeld creatively continued producing the Follies – on radio! In 1932, the entire nation could attend the Ziegfeld Follies on the Air, as the new show was called. Without further ado, let’s celebrate our 20,000 mark by hearing this live half hour broadcast from New York City on April 10, 1932. The talent lined up for this show include the legendary songstress Helen Morgan, dialect comedian Jack Pearl, and Leon Errol re-enacting his role in a scene from SALLY, a Ziegfeld hit of 1920. Of course, you’ll hear Mr. Ziegfeld himself who is on hand to welcome you:
No, he doesn’t look much like William Powell but “Ziggy,” as his friends called him, had a personality to make up for any deficiency in looks. We catch a glimpse of that commanding persona in his radio remarks.
Helen Morgan, the beautiful but ill-fated star of Ziegfeld’s landmark production, SHOW BOAT in 1927. Helen would repeat her role as Julie in the 1936 film version of SHOW BOAT:
Leon Errol was a funny man for all seasons, transitioning very nicely from performing and directing in the theater during the teens and 20s, to starring in movies during the 1930s and 40s. He would never be confused with, say, Chaplin, but he was a master of slapstick and could be relied on to keep audiences rolling in the aisles. In films he worked well with stars such as Ethel Merman and Lupe Velez, and even his old Follies sidekick, W.C. Fields. But Leon seemed to know when to hold back for his co-stars and when he could let loose:
The ZIEGFELD FOLLIES OF THE AIR ran through June 1932 and ended when Ziegfeld died suddenly of a lung infection in July – remember, those were the days before antibiotics. Today, Florenz Ziegfeld is largely remembered for three films bearing his name.
BONUS: listen to the 1936 radio trailer for THE GREAT ZIEGFELD: