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Oscars Challenge #90: The Great Ziegfeld (1936) Movie Review

The Best Picture winners during the 1930s are a careful mix of several genres. The winners, It Happened One Night, and You Can't Take It With You, brought the audience laughter and joy. All Quiet on the Western Front and Cavalcade brought us tragedy.

The winner of 1936 brought us another biopic. Preceding The Life of Emile Zola, The Great Ziegfeld warrants itself to be a musical drama focused on the life of Florenz Ziegfeld Jr.

Plot Overview

Florenz Ziegfeld Jr., or Flo, is a son of a music professor. He is very ambitious and wants to make a mark in show business. His career begins promoting Eugen Sandow, the proclaimed world's strongest man, to compete against Jack Billings in a Chicago Fair in 1893.

Flo and Sandow's success grants them a performance in San Francisco. However, people think they are frauds because of their lion trick. Flo leaves and goes to England, where he meets Billings, who laughs at them because the newspaper article says they are frauds.

Flo and Billings compete to acquire a talented and beautiful performer named Anna Held. Flo is able to sign her a contract and promises her that he is better than Billings.

Anna's first few performances were unsuccessful, but eventually, she gained popularity, and her nationwide success made Flo happy. The two fell in love with each other and got married. However, other performers did not like her because she always flaunts her diamonds.

Flo's success made him more ambitious than ever. He dreams of organizing more extravagant theater plays and continues his advantage against Billings. However, Flo's success eventually burned out when The Great Depression came. People who used to go to theaters opted to spend time elsewhere. Theater businesses went bankrupt, and so did Flo.


The Great Ziegfeld can be praised for all its glamorous set designs and costumes used to mimic the actual Florence Ziegfeld plays. The intricate design makes you think of the quality of life the great showman once possessed.

The movie, by all means, was just a tad too long to my liking. A film that has a 3-hour runtime with a slow-paced story is arguably worse. There were so many scenes that you either forgot or just dozed off. The film would be fine if they cut off half of it, especially those unnecessary parts.

I don't know if you classify this as a musical since there was not enough music except during performance sequences.

Overall, I don't say that I enjoyed the film. It has a lot of slow-moving pieces that do not work well.

A disappointing 1.5 out of 5 stars for me.

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