DVD Movie Guide @ dvdmg.com Awards & Recommendations at Amazon.com.
Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main


Robert Z. Leonard
William Powell, Myrna Loy, Luise Rainer
Writing Credits:
William Anthony McGuire

Theatrical producer Flo Ziegfeld becomes rich and famous but still struggles with his love life.

Rated NR.

Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
English DTS-HD MA Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 186 min.
Price: $21.99
Release Date: 12/12/2023

• “Ziegfeld on Film” Featurette
• Premiere Newsreel
• Vintage Cartoon
• “Leo Is On the Air” Promotional Radio Program
• Trailer


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Panasonic DMP-BDT220P Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


The Great Ziegfeld [Blu-Ray] (1936)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 21, 2023)

The career of stage impresario Flo Ziegfeld becomes fodder for 1936’s The Great Ziegfeld. A hit, it became one of the early Oscar Best Picture winners.

At the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, we meet Flo Ziegfeld (William Powell) as he touts a show that features the strongman Sandow (Nat Pendleton). They don’t do well, as Ziegfeld’s rival Jack Billings (Frank Morgan) rakes in the bucks with his belly dancer Little Egypt.

Flo eventually hits on new ways to attract public attention. We follow his path to fame/fortune as well as his many romantic travails.

An inconsistent film, Ziegfeld nonetheless seems pretty entertaining. I must admit I think its first half works substantially better than the second part, however.

For one, the initial 90 minutes or so enjoys a much broader and livelier comedic tone. These parts come across almost as farce and parody.

The movie doesn’t take itself serious and feels like it just wants to have fun. It succeeds, as it presents much amusing and creative material in that portion.

Unfortunately, the second half of the movie turns more serious and becomes less satisfying. Actually, the light tone of the first half undercuts the subsequent attempts at drama.

Since the similar Yankee Doodle Dandy interspersed pathos with humor from start to finish, its emotional moments work fine. We’ve been set up for sentiment, so it doesn’t come out of the blue.

In Ziegfeld, these bits seem forced. It feels as though the movie doesn’t want to go down those paths but thinks it must.

In addition, the first half of Ziegfeld includes very few musical production numbers, whereas the second portion pours on these elements, which makes sense. That part of the flick sees Flo enjoy success as the producer of stage extravaganzas, so it seems appropriate that we check out some of these.

Indeed, the movie depicts them quite well. They come across as extremely elaborate and lavish.

Nonetheless, these slow down the story and make the film drag. We get too many of these pieces, and they last too long.

In addition, they do nothing to further the plot. Like Dandy, Ziegfeld isn’t a traditional musical.

This means all of its performances exist as nothing more than stage pieces, and the film doesn’t incorporate them into the story at all. This makes the production numbers moderately irrelevant, and they detract from the story as a whole.

Despite those missteps, Ziegfeld offers a lot to like, especially due to the stellar lead performance from Powell. He really carries the show, as he makes the movie work through the sheer force of his personality.

We totally buy the charming snake oil salesman elements of Flo’s character, and even when the movie turns sappy at the end, he lends the piece a sense of dignity. It’s a great piece of work that helps the movie immeasurably.

The Great Ziegfeld seems somewhat too insubstantial and awkwardly constructed to qualify as a really great film. Nonetheless, the picture comes long on spectacle and comedy, and it moves more quickly than one might expect of such a long piece. Generally light and clever, it offers a surprisingly entertaining affair that mostly works swimmingly.

The Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio C+/ Bonus C-

The Great Ziegfeld appears in an aspect ratio of 1.37:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This turned into a largely solid presentation.

Sharpness mostly came across well. A few shots seemed a little ill defined, especially when they featured leading ladies, as those utilized mild examples of soft focus. Nonetheless, the majority of the flick appeared reasonably distinctive and detailed.

I noticed no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, and edge haloes failed to agree. With a slight layer of grain, I suspect the presentation used some noise management but it did so in a modest manner, and I witnessed no print flaws.

Blacks looked tight and deep, and contrast seemed solid. The movie exhibited a nicely silver sheen that depicted the black and white photography well. Despite a bit more softness than expected, Ziegfeld offered a satisfying image.

In addition, The Great Ziegfeld presented a more-than-adequate DTS-HD MA monaural soundtrack. Nothing about the audio excelled, but it seemed solid for its age.

Speech demonstrated pretty positive clarity and appeared surprisingly natural. Some lines were slightly edgy, but the dialogue didn’t seem as thin and shrill as I expected.

Effects were acceptably clean and accurate; they didn’t demonstrate much range, but they lacked distortion and were fairly concise. Music seemed similarly restricted but sounded fine for its age.

The songs were reasonably full and replicated the source material acceptably. Ultimately, Ziegfeld provided a relatively fine piece for a flick from 1936.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the DVD from 2003? The lossless audio seemed a bit stronger than its lossy counterpart, but there’s not a lot that can be done with 87-year-old material.

As for visuals, the BD seemed cleaner and richer than the DVD. It offered a nice step up in quality.

The Blu-ray combines old and new extras. In the “old” domain, we get a featurette called Ziegfeld on Film. In this 13-minute, 24-second program, we see film clips, home movies and other archival materials, and interviews with daughter Patricia Ziegfeld-Stephenson, actor Luise Rainer, and author Richard Ziegfeld. They discuss his career and life.

Parts of this echo what we see in the flick, but we learn some other elements as well, and we learn how the fiction differs from the reality. We also get notes about the creation of The Great Ziegfeld and reactions to the piece. It’s a short but tight and informative piece.

Another piece from the DVD, we locate New York Hails The Great Ziegfeld. This footage lasts four minutes, four seconds and shows the flick’s Broadway premiere.

We also hear some soundbites from largely unidentified – but apparently prominent – moviegoers. Though it’s a rough piece – it compiles bits without clean editing, and we see awkward starts and finishes to the comments – it offers an interesting glimpse of history.

If nothing else, it merits a look to watch Harpo Marx actually say “Honk honk” into the microphone!

As we head to features added to the Blu-ray, we find a vintage cartoon from 1936 called Toy Town Hall. It goes for six minutes, 32 seconds.

Hall focuses on a toddler who dreams that his toys come to life and put on a show. Like most cartoons of the era, it seems more cute than funny, but it offers an interesting time capsule.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we get an audio-only promo program called Leo Is On the Air. It spans 14 minutes, 25 seconds.

“Air” focuses on songs featured in the movie along with sound bites. It seems tedious but I guess it adds value for archival reasons.

Though it drags at times and could lose an hour of its running time, The Great Ziegfeld mostly presents a fun experience. Generally a light and plucky little romp, it boasts solid production values, fine acting, and enough clever moments to make it a winner. The Blu-ray features good picture and audio given the age of the movie, but the collection of bonus materials seems mediocre. Nonetheless, Ziegfeld comes as a likable little surprise that I recommend.

To rate this film, visit the prior review of THE GREAT ZIEGFELD

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main