Little Bits of History


Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 7, 2014
Follies of 1907

Follies of 1907

July 7, 1907: Follies of 1907 opens. Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr. was inspired by the Folies Bergère of Paris and brought the elaborate stage productions to New York City, beginning on this day. These extravaganzas were not quite a Broadway musical and not quite a high class Vaudeville show, but somewhere in between. Many of the top performers of the day were part of the Ziefgeld Follies: WC Fields, Eddie Cantor, Fanny Brice, Bob Hope, Will Rogers. Ed Wynn, and Sophie Tucker along with a host of other top names all participated sometime during the shows brought together between 1907 and 1931. Also included and highly regarded were the number of beautiful chorus girls. The first Follies were offered at the roof theater Jardin de Paris.

The Ziegfeld chorus girls “paraded up and down flights of stairs as anything from birds to battleships.” Between 1917 and 1925, Ben Ali Haggin was choreographer responsible for the wonderful Tableau vivants – a way of describing the movement of the entire cast as part of an overall picture created on a stage, usually with elaborate costumes and special lighting effects. Joseph Urban was the scenic designer beginning in 1915. After the Follies stopped appearing live, the show went on the air (rather than on the road) and became a radio program called The Ziegfeld Follies of the Air and broadcast from 1932 to 1936.

Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr. was born in Chicago in 1867. Florenz Ziegfeld, Sr. ran the Chicago Musical College and also opened a nightclub, Trocadero, during the 1893 World’s Fair held in Chicago. It was not entirely successful. Leaving the Windy City for the Big Apple, he began producing his eponymous Follies on a yearly basis. His ability to showcase brought in prominent names as listed above. Composers were happy to have their work included and so Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, and Jerome Kern were also part of the Follies. Ziegfeld had married Anna Held in 1897 and it was at her urging, and to help promote her career, that the Follies were begun. The couple divorced in 1913 while rumors said they had never really officially married, but only lived together long enough to be considered so.

The “marriage” had ended because of Ziegfeld’s infidelity with Lillian Lorraine, a young woman he would love in some fashion until his death. He married again in 1914, but not Lillian. Rather, he married Billie Burke (Glinda from The Wizard of Oz). They had one daughter, Patricia. Ziegfeld Theatre was opened in 1927 and cost about $2.5 million to build (~$34 million today). His theater opened with his own production, Rio Rita, which ran for 500 performances. Next up was his more famous offering, Show Boat. He lost most of his money in the stock market crash of 1929 and when he died in 1932 from a lung infection, his widow was left with substantial debt, forcing her into an acting career to pay them off.

I don’t have a very quick sense of humor.

Half of the great comedians I’ve had in my shows and that I paid a lot of money to and who made my customers shriek were not only not funny to me, but I couldn’t understand why they were funny to anybody.

Beauty, of course, is the most important requirement and the paramount asset of the applicant.

How little the public realizes what a girl must go through before she finally appears before the spotlight that is thrown upon the stage. – all from Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr.

Also on this day: He Never Said “Elementary” – In 1930, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle dies of a heart attack.
Peace Activist – In 1983, Samantha Smith visited Moscow.
Boulder Dam – In 1930, construction began at what is now called Hoover Dam.
All Gone – In 2006, the Western Black Rhino was declared extinct.


One Response

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  1. ucfhistory said, on July 7, 2014 at 9:34 am

    What a colorful character! Thanks for posting

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