Discovery by Flo Ziegfeld changes a girl's life but not necessarily for the better, as three beautiful women find out when they join the spectacle on Broadway: Susan, the singer who must leave behind her ageing vaudevillian father; vulnerable Sheila, the working girl pursued both by a millionaire and by her loyal boyfriend from Flatbush; and the mysterious European beauty Sandra, whose concert violinist husband cannot endure the thought of their escaping from poverty by promenading her glamor in skimpy costumes.
James Stewart ... Gilbert Young
Judy Garland ... Susan Gallagher
Hedy Lamarr ... Sandra Kolter
Lana Turner ... Sheila Regan
Tony Martin ... Frank Merton
Jackie Cooper ... Jerry Regan
Ian Hunter ... Geoffrey Collis
Charles Winninger ... 'Pop' Gallagher
Edward Everett Horton ... Noble Sage
Philip Dorn ... Franz Kolter
Paul Kelly ... John Slayton
Eve Arden ... Patsy Dixon
first saw this film at the old Ziegfeld Theater in Manhattan back in the Sixties. The theater was showing a triple Ziegfeld feature: The Great Ziegfeld, Ziegfeld Follies and Ziegfeld Girl. It ran over 8 hours and I was blinded by the sun as I emerged from the darkened theater.
It was all worth it because as the cliché goes, they really don't make them like that any more.
Seeing it today or even in 1967 one probably wonders why one doesn't see Mr. Ziegfeld in this film. He's a shadowy genius and his two aides Paul Kelly and Edward Everett Horton are in operational charge of his shows in Ziegfeld Girl.
My answer is that William Powell who made such an impression as the great Broadway producer in The Great Ziegfeld five years earlier was probably not available for this film, that Louis B. Mayer had him committed to other projects. And Mayer probably decided that no other player would stand comparison.
Anyway this film is the story of three women who are picked for the Ziegfeld Follies. Three beauties as it were; Lana Turner, Judy Garland, and Hedy Lamarr.
Lamarr has her fling with success and a fling with married singer in the show, Tony Martin. After that she decides to work on her own marriage to violinist Philip Dorn.
Garland of course has real talent and she has the success similar to what she normally has in her 'let's put on a show' movies with Mickey Rooney. Like in her own life, her character is a child vaudeville trooper and her dad is played by Charles Winninger. The family name for Garland and Winninger is Gallagher. And this plot device allows Al Shean to revive his old vaudeville act with Winninger. Shean himself was a Follies veteran with his late partner Ed Gallagher and the two of them had a great patter number, Mr. Gallagher and Mr. Shean and it was revived very nicely here with Winninger pinch hitting.
Turner is the quintessential girl from Brooklyn who's discovered while operating an elevator for the Follies. She's a girl with a taste for the material things that her truck driver boyfriend James Stewart can't provide. She gets them though, fame, wealth, expensive grown up toys for girls; but at a big price.
Except for the Gallagher and Shean number the musical chores here are carried out by Garland and Martin. Judy's numbers are nice, especially Minnie from Trinidad. But the hit of the film was sung by Tony Martin with You Stepped Out of a Dream. That song was the last lyric written by Gus Kahn who was one of the great Tin Pan Alley lyricists back in the day. Kahn died after this film was completed.
Fans of Judy Garland who are still legion will love this film. Fans of musicals in general will find it very entertaining.
There are actually three girls who get into the Ziegfeld Follies in this b/w MGM feature. Judy Garland of course has a fabulous voice (especially when singing 'I'm Always Chasing Rainbows' so quietly); Lana Turner has false poise; and Hedy Lamarr looks stunning.
As the men in their lives, we have James Stewart, Jackie Cooper (all grown up!), Ian Hunter, Dan Dailey, Tony Martin … plus Charles Winninger as Garland's father and vaudeville partner of Al Shean (playing himself).
The Follies numbers look good, but the film cries out for colour. Imagine how overblown, preposterous, and perfect it would have been then. As it is, it is a pleasant distraction, nothing more, and I found it quite distracting when towards the end some sequences were obviously taken from 1936's 'The Great Ziegfeld'!
Lana Turner, Heddy Lamar, and Judy Garland get into the Ziegfeld Follies and promptly go to pot in this backstage soaper about the pitfalls of celebrity.
Lana is a saucy elevator operator who aspires to marry Jimmy Stewart--until a Ziegfeld talent scout sweeps her up. She soon turns into a fast-living, mean-tempered lush. Heddy accompanies violinist husband Philip Dorn to an audition; he doesn't get the job, but she gets snatched up to become a beauty queen. Offended by her admirers, Heddy's husband believes she is unfaithful and leaves her. Judy has worked her way up through the ranks of show business and is hired for her way with a song--but Ziegfeld doesn't want to the hire other half of her act, Judy's father Charles Winninger. How can she desert her father?
To say the actors are typecast is a gross understatement, and in truth Heddy is merely there for decoration and Judy tucked into the film for the occasional musical number. The film really belongs to Lana Turner, who--although somewhat wooden--has the most interesting role of the three, and to James Stewart, who like Lana is a good boy gone bad. Will Lana and Jimmy reform and get back together? Will Heddy be able to convince Philip that her love is true? Will Judy's father ever forgive her? Even though the movie is hokey and a bit overlong, it is still rather fun to watch--and such numbers as "Minnie From Trinidad" are lots of fun. But this is not one of MGM's great musicals by any stretch of the imagination, and it is pretty much for die-hard musical fans only.
# Planned in 1938 to be made with Eleanor Powell, Joan Crawford, Virginia Bruce and Walter Pidgeon.
# The final shot of the "You Never Looked So Beautiful Before" number is recycled from "A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody" from The Great Ziegfeld (1936). For the sake of continuity, Judy Garland is costumed and made up to resemble Virginia Bruce, who crowned the "Wedding Cake" set in the earlier film.
# While Judy Garland rerecorded for Decca the wistful standard, "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows" (music by Joseph McCarthy, lyrics by Harry Carroll), the star made no commercial version of the lively rumba written for her by Roger Edens, a ditty turned into a mammoth Busby Berkeley production number, "Minnie From Trinidad." Instead, Decca assigned the song to Jimmy Dorsey and His Orchestra featuring vocalist Helen O'Connell.
SPOILER: TCM recently commented that the original script and first preview screening had the Lana Turner character actually die at the end of the picture. But preview audiences fell in love with the ascending star and apparently hated this scenario for her, so the actual moment of expiration was cut from the film before its official release. As a result, Turner's final scene with Hedy Lamarr’looks' like a death scene, but the film cuts away from it before it actually ends, and instead focuses on the Judy Garland finale. It has been the subject of fan commentary ever since.