July 7 – Today in Hat History
July 7 – Today in Hat History.
First Ziegfeld Follies in 1907.
The Ziegfeld Follies were a series of elaborate theatrical productions on Broadway in New York City from 1907 through 1931, with renewals in 1934 and 1936. They became a radio program in 1932 and 1936 as The Ziegfeld Follies of the Air.
Inspired by the Folies Bergère of Paris, the Ziegfeld Follies were conceived and mounted by Florenz Ziegfeld, reportedly at the suggestion of his then-wife, the entertainer Anna Held.
The Follies were lavish revues, something between later Broadway shows and a more elaborate high class Vaudeville variety show. Many of the top entertainers of the era (including W. C. Fields, Eddie Cantor, Josephine Baker, Fanny Brice, Ann Pennington, Bert Williams, Eva Tanguay, Bob Hope, Will Rogers, Ruth Etting, Ray Bolger, Helen Morgan, Louise Brooks, Marilyn Miller, Ed Wynn,Gilda Gray, Nora Bayes, Sophie Tucker, and others) appeared in the shows. The Ziegfeld Follies also were famous for many, beautiful chorus girls commonly known as Ziegfeld girls, usually wearing elaborate costumes by designers such as Erté, Lady Duff Gordon or Ben Ali Haggin. The first Follies was produced in 1907 at the roof theatre Jardin de Paris.
The Ziegfeld girls “paraded up and down flights of stairs as anything from birds to battleships.” The “Tableau vivants” were designed by Ben Ali Haggin from 1917 to 1925. Joseph Urban was the scenic designer for the Follies shows starting in 1915.
After Ziegfeld’s death his widow, Billie Burke, authorized use of his name for Ziegfeld Follies in 1934 and 1936 to Jake Shubert, who then produced the Follies. The name was later used by other promoters in New York City, Philadelphia, and again on Broadway, with less connection to the original Follies.
The 1936 Best Picture winner was M-G-M’s The Great Ziegfeld, starring William Powell as the master showman and co-starring Myrna Loy (as Ziegfeld’s second wife Billie Burke), Luise Rainer (as Anna Held, which won her an Academy Award for Best Actress), and Frank Morgan. Featuring numbers by Ray Bolger, Dennis Morgan, Virginia Bruce, and Harriet Hoctor. The film gave a glimpse into what the Follies were really like. The MGM blockbuster’s show-stopper was “A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody”, which, by itself, cost more to produce than one of Ziegfeld’s whole shows.