Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Ziegfeld and His Follies: A Biography of Broadway's Greatest Producer

Just out from the University Press of Kentucky is Ziegfeld and His Follies: A Biography of Broadway's Greatest Producer by Cynthia and Sara Brideson. Its a graceful read, full of information and well researched. (I am more than 100 pages into the book.) My only complaint is that there is not more Louise Brooks in it. Admittedly, Brooks was with the Follies for only a short time (less than a year, really), but she was a favorite of the subject of this new book, impresario Florenz Ziegfeld. In fact, Ziegfeld long kept a picture of Brooks in his office. Brooks is only referenced in passing on page 293, and her picture is included in one of the two photo sections. Nevertheless, I am looking forward to finishing the book, and would recommend it to anyone one interested in the silent film era.


A description of the book from the publisher: "The name Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. (1867–1932) is synonymous with the decadent revues that the legendary impresario produced at the turn of the twentieth century. These extravagant performances were filled with catchy tunes, high-kicking chorus girls, striking costumes, and talented stars such as Eddie Cantor, Fanny Brice, Marilyn Miller, W. C. Fields, and Will Rogers. After the success of his Follies, Ziegfeld revolutionized theater performance with the musical Show Boat (1927) and continued making Broadway hits―including Sally (1920), Rio Rita (1927), and The Three Musketeers (1928)―several of which were adapted for the silver screen.

In this definitive biography, authors Cynthia Brideson and Sara Brideson offer a comprehensive look at both the life and legacy of the famous producer. Drawing on a wide range of sources―including Ziegfield's previously unpublished letters to his second wife, Billie Burke (who later played Glinda the Good Witch in The Wizard of Oz), and to his daughter Patricia―the Bridesons shed new light on this enigmatic man. They provide a lively and well-rounded account of Ziegfeld as a father, a husband, a son, a friend, a lover, and an alternately ruthless and benevolent employer. Lavishly illustrated with over seventy-five images, this meticulously researched book presents an intimate and in-depth portrait of a figure who profoundly changed American entertainment."

And three well deserved bits of praise....

"Ziegfeld was one of the most important theatrical producers of the early twentieth century, and the Follies (and its Girls) are still remembered today. He had a long-lasting effect not only on Broadway, but on social mores, and this book does a great job over covering that, in a fascinating way. The Bridesons know their stuff." ― Eve Golden, author of Anna Held and the Birth of Ziegfeld's Broadway

"For years I had hoped a book on Ziegfeld would come out, and now the wait is over! Expertly written, well researched, this is truly the definitive book on perhaps the greatest showman of the early Twentieth Century. This highly-recommended biography earns a perfectly wonderful place alongside my editions of Mrs. Ziegfeld: The Public and Private Lives of Billie Burke and With a Feather on my Nose. ― James Zeruk, author of Peg Entwistle and the Hollywood Sign Suicide: A Biography

"The authors have created a detailed, sweeping narrative of Broadway showman and entrepreneur Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr., both as to his professional rise and fall and the full details of his complex, busy personal life. While there have been books devoted to him before, this new account is quite compelling both in scope and detail, and will certainly be the new definitive biography of the opulent life and times of the great Ziegfeld." ― James Robert Parish, author of The Hollywood Book of Extravagance: The Totally Infamous, Mostly Disastrous, and Always Compelling Excesses of America's Film and TV Idols

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