Florenz Ziegfeld

Definition

Theater

  • (1867 - 1932) US impresario and theater manager, who becamea US institution with his Ziegfeld Follies, which ran continuouslyfrom 1907 until his death in 1932, and then periodically until 1957.The Follies were an expensive revue (modelled on Paris'sFolies Bergères), which featured seminude girls, glamorouscostumes, and spectacular sets. As an impresario, Ziegfeld developedthe careers of several stars, including W. C. Fields, Will Rogers,Eddie Cantor, Paulette Goddard, and Fanny Brice and imported suchinternational talent as Maurice Chevalier. He also workedwith a number of America's top composers, including Irving Berlin,and George Gershwin.

    Ziegfeld began his career in entertainment at the World'sColumbian Exposition in 1893, when he acted as publicist for Sandowthe strongman. From 1896 he promoted the musical comedy performerAnna Held (1873 - 1918), whom he married the following year. Theywere divorced in 1913 and Ziegfeld subsequently married the lightcomedian Billie Burke (who later appeared as Glinda, the Good Witchof the North, in the film of The Wizard of Oz).

    In 1927 he opened his own Ziegfeld Theatre on Sixth Avenueand 54th Street with the musical Rio Rita. That same year heproduced the musical Show Boat, which was an enormous successin London the following year. When Ziegfeld died (leaving debts ofaround $500,000), his theater became a cinema. It was reopened byBilly Rose under its old name in 1944 with the revue Seven DeadlyArts, starring Beatrice Lillie. From 1953 onwards itwas used for television broadcasts but in 1963 returned to live entertainment,with Maurice Chevalier presenting an evening of songs and sketches.The Ziegfeld Theatre was demolished in 1967.

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