The Great Ziegfeld is the last gasp in filmusical entertainment. On its running time (10 minutes short of three hours), it is the record holder to date for length of a picture in the US. After two years, and a reported $1.5 million, Metro emerges with a picture whose sole shortcoming is its footage.
The production high mark of the numbers is ‘Pretty Girl’ as the first half finale. This nifty Irving Berlin tune becomes the fulcrum for one of Frank Skinner’s best arrangements as Arthur Lange batons the crescendos into a mad, glittering pot-pourri of Saint-Saens and Gershwin, Strauss and Verdi, beautifully blended against the Berlinesque background.
Among riot of song and dance, Seymour Felix’s dances and ensembles stand out for imagination and comprehensive execution.
William Powell’s Zieggy is excellent. He endows the impersonation with all the qualities of a great entrepreneur and sentimentalist. Luise Rainer is tops of the femmes with her vivacious Anna Held. Myrna Loy’s Billie Burke, perhaps with constant regard for a contemporaneous artiste, seems a bit under wraps. Frank Morgan almost pars Powell as the friendly enemy.
Fanny Brice is Fanny Brice; ditto Ray Bolger and Harriet Hoctor playing themselves. Character of Sampson is obviously the late Sam Kingston, long Zieggy’s general manager who worried and fretted over the glorifyer’s extravagances. Reginald Owen’s personation here is capital.
1936: Best Picture, Actress (Luise Rainer), Dance Direction (‘A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody’).
Nominations: Best Director, Original Story, Art Direction, Editing