In heaven, showman Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. fondly recalls his first Broadway revue, the Ziegfeld Follies of 1907. Even from heaven, he is hoping that he can, for one last time, create that same magic by mounting one last follies. As he thinks about who he would like to appear in these follies, he is assisted in realizing his fantasy, at least in his own mind, by such luminaries as Fred Astaire, Edward Arnold, ‘Lucille Ball’, Marion Bell, Lucille Bremer, Fanny Brice, Cyd Charisse, Judy Garland, Kathryn Grayson, Lena Horne, Gene Kelly, James Melton, Victor Moore, Virginia O’Brien, Red Skelton, Esther Williams, Keenan Wynn, and, of course, a bevy of beautiful girls. Flashing…smashing SCREEN ENTERTAINMENT! DAZZLING IN ITS BEAUTY…PACKED WITH GLORIOUS Melodies!
This film is just what it says on the tin, a collection of pieces and sketches similar to those you would have seen in a real Ziegfeld show.
Introduced from Heaven by Ziegfeld himself (William Powell reprising his role of ten years earlier), the acts are rolled out one by one for our appreciation and enjoyment.
High points which spring to mind are Fred Astaire as a jewel thief, charming Lucille Bremer; and as a Chinese n’er do well wishing he could get Bremer the fan she wants. Cyd Charisse and others dancing through bubbles as Kathryn Grayson warbles ‘Beauty’. Judy Garland as ‘the great lady’ mocking Greer Garson. And of course ‘The Babbitt and the Bromide’ which teams Astaire and Gene Kelly for the first time.
The comedy segments sit less well today and all are too long, however, they’re not bad. Keenan Wynn struggles with a dumb telephone operator; Victor Moore has a tightwad lawyer who gets him into jail; Fanny Brice wins the Irish sweepstake; and Red Skelton advertises Guzzler’s Gin.
Add Lucille Ball and her cat girls, a touch of La Traviata, and a bevy of lovelies to open and close the show, and you can see why this film was a hit on its first release.
Good for historical interest and the frequent highs, but you might find your attention wandering now and then.