Today in History

Today in History: March 21

Florenz Ziegfeld Jr.

Detail from Ziegfeld Follies program
Ziegfeld Follies, in Two Acts [detail]
image 2,
New National Theatre, Washington, D.C., February 26, 1912.
American Variety Stage: Vaudeville and Popular Entertainment, 1870-1920

Legendary showman Florenz Ziegfeld Jr., impresario behind what became known as the Ziegfeld Follies, was born on March 21, 1869 (possibly 1867), in Chicago, Illinois.

Ziegfeld 's first entertainment triumph centered on the Great Sandow. Eugen Sandow was a strongman and early weight lifter who had developed a reputation in Europe with demonstrations of his impressive strength.  After becoming Sandow's manager in 1893, Ziegfeld whisked him off to the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, where his physical prowess and imposing physique captured the imagination of the public to such a degree that he and Ziegfeld toured the country for several years afterwards. Sandow became an influential bodybuilder and proponent of physical training.

sandow
Sandow,
American Mutoscope Company, circa 1896.
Variety Stage Motion Pictures, 1870-1920

Ziegfeld met Anna Held, a well-known European actress in London in 1896. Ziegfeld and Held worked together as partners in life and business and produced a string of popular shows such as Mam'selle Napoleon (1903) and Miss Innocence (1908), which showcased Held's talents. Drawing on Ziegfeld's gift for publicity and her own charisma, Anna Held became one of the first stars of modern musical theater. Held and Ziegfeld parted ways bitterly and publicly in 1913; it was revealed in court that they had never officially married.

 Ziegfeld’s Follies of 1907 was a lavish production in the tradition of the famous Parisian musical revue, the Folies-Bergère. The show opened in July 1907 at the New York Theatre and featured a scantily clad chorus line of beautiful women. Beginning in 1911, the show became known as the Ziegfeld Follies; the revue was updated almost yearly until the Depression. As time went on, the format evolved into a mixture of comedy, dance, and musical performances, interspersed with large, expensive production numbers.

Ziegfeld married actress Billie Burke in 1914; their daughter, Patricia, was born in 1916. Ziegfeld died in Hollywood in 1932.

"Mister Gallagher and Mister Shean,"
words and music by Ed. Gallagher and Al. Shean,
performed by Gallagher and Shean, 1922.
Inventing Entertainment: The Motion Pictures and Sound Recordings of the Edison Companies
This song was featured in Ziegfeld Follies of 1922.

"At the Ball That's All,"
words and music by J. Leubrie Hill,
performed by Mayo and Tally, 1915.
Inventing Entertainment: The Motion Pictures and Sound Recordings of the Edison Companies
This song was featured in Ziegfeld Follies of 1913.