Sunday, April 24, 2011

Movie Project: 1936

The Great Ziegfeld

My movie project was stalled yet again by reluctance to watch the film in question. Again, I'm not sure where the reluctance came from; perhaps I was just daunted by the 3 hour, 5 minute running time. Or maybe I had a psychic premonition.

However, with a 2-week trip imminent, I had by husband upload the movie onto my iPad. Airplanes and airports are always boring enough to drive one to watch things one might not have otherwise gotten around to watching. ;)

When the movie started with a 5-minute long musical overture, during which there was nothing more than a card with the word "Overture" on the screen, I have to admit that my heart sank. It didn't seem to bode well. Sadly, it never got much better from there. I had a really hard time watching this movie. I almost gave up, but settled for watching it in tolerable half-hour segments every few days (although I finally made it through the last hour of the movie in one shot).

The Great Ziegfeld is the mostly true (from what I gather from wikipedia) biography of Florenz Ziegfeld, one of America's most famous Broadway producers - best remembered today for his long-running Ziegfeld Follies.

I spent most of the movie a little confused as to what made Ziegfeld so great. If the movie is to be believed, while Ziegfeld was great at making money off of popular shows, he was just as great at losing it. He seems to have relied on the kindness of friends and his connections to continue producing shows, which didn't seem particularly impressive to me. Additionally, I found the portrayal of his first wife, the French singer Anna Held, both shrill and irritating. I can only hope that she and their relationship were not like that in real life ("I hate you, leave me alone, no come back, I love you," ad nauseum. Ugh. Man, the way they portrayed romantic relationships on the big screen in the 1930s grates on my modern-day sensibilities).

Honestly, I found the first hour and a half of this movie completely insufferable. It wasn't until they finally got the Ziegfeld Follies on-screen that I understood why this movie was so popular back in its day. Basically, if you never got to see the Follies in its 24-year run on-stage, you got to see it in this movie. The production costs must have been astronomical! Personally, I was so irritated by this point that I wasn't transported, but I could see why someone would be.

There's some extra drama thrown in at the end that, best as I can tell, wasn't necessarily true to life. I won't spoil it in case you want to watch this movie. But I recommend that you find something better to do with 3 hours of your life.

Stars: William Powell, Myrna Loy, Louise Rainer