The Ziegfeld Follies was a series of elaborate theatrical productions inspired by the Folies Bergères of Paris. The Ziegfeld Follies was conceived and mounted by Florenz Ziegfeld, at the suggestion of his then-wife, the entertainer Anna Held. Top entertainers of the period like Eddie Cantor, Fanny Brice, Ann Pennington, Bert Williams, Will Rogers, Ruth Etting, Helen Morgan, Marilyn Miller, W.C. Fields, Ed Wynn and Nora Bayes, appeared in the shows. Fanny Brice was one of the most celebrated Ziegfeld Girls whose life story was made into a movie entitled Funny Girl that starred Barbra Streisand.
Ziegfeld Follies was such a big hit that many future movie stars of the era once enlisted themselves as Ziegfeld Girls. The list includes Marilyn Miller, Marion Davies, Mae Murray, Paulette Goddard, Joan Blondell, Nita Naldi, Dorothy Mackaill, Eve Arden, Billie Dove, Gilda Gray, Barbara Stanwyck and Louise Brooks. Norma Shearer who became a Hollywood superstar was turned down by Ziegfeld for being "not up to standards." Ziegfeld Girls were usually decked in the most elaborate costumes. Ziegfeld hired the best designers like Erte, Lady Duff and Ali Ben Hagan.So popular were the Ziegfeld Follies that several movies were inspired by the revue. The Great Ziegfeld, starring William Powell as the master showman, Myrna Loy as Ziegfeld’s second wife Billie Burke, Luise Rainer as Anna Held, (which won her an Academy Award for Best Actress), and Frank Morgan (as a rival showman) won the 1936 Oscar Best Picture. The 1946 feature motion picture entitled Ziegfeld Follies starred Fred Astaire, Judy Garland, Lena Horne, William Powell, Gene Kelly, Fanny Brice, Red Skelton, Esther Williams, Cyd Charisse, Lucille Ball and Kathryn Grayson.