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Any girl who twists her hat will be fired! – Florenz Ziegfeld And no Ziegfeld girl ever did as she made her way down the gala stairways of the Ziegfeld Follies in some of the most astonishing spectacles the American theatergoing public ever witnessed.  When Florenz Ziegfeld started in theater, it was flea circus, operetta and sideshow all rolled into one.  When he left it, Any girl who twists her hat will be fired! – Florenz Ziegfeld And no Ziegfeld girl ever did as she made her way down the gala stairways of the Ziegfeld Follies in some of the most astonishing spectacles the American theatergoing public ever witnessed.  When Florenz Ziegfeld started in theater, it was flea circus, operetta and sideshow all rolled into one.  When he left it, the glamorous world of "show-biz" had been created.  Though many know him as the man who "glorified the American girl," his first real star attraction was the bodybuilder Eugen Sandow, who flexed his muscles and thrilled the society matrons who came backstage to squeeze his biceps.  His lesson learned with Sandow, Ziegfeld went on to present Anna Held, the naughty French sensation, who became the first Mrs. Ziegfeld.  He was one of the first impresarios to mix headliners of different ethnic backgrounds, and literally the earliest proponent of mixed-race casting.  The stars he showcased and, in some cases, created have become legends: Billie Burke (who also became his wife), elfin Marilyn Miller, cowboy Will Rogers, Bert Williams, W. C. Fields, Eddie Cantor and, last but not least, neighborhood diva Fanny Brice.  A man of voracious sexual appetites when it came to beautiful women, Ziegfeld knew what he wanted and what others would want as well.  From that passion, the Ziegfeld Girl was born. Elaborately bejeweled, they wore little more than a smile as they glided through eye-popping tableaux that were the highlight of the Follies, presented almost every year from 1907 to 1931.  Ziegfeld's reputation and power, however, went beyond the stage of the Follies as he produced a number of other musicals, among them the ground-breaking Show Boat.  In Ziegfeld: The Man Who Created Show Business, Ethan Mordden recreates the lost world of the Follies, a place of long-vanished beauty masterminded by one of the most inventive, ruthless, street-smart and exacting men ever to fill a theatre on the Great White Way : Florenz Ziegfeld.


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Any girl who twists her hat will be fired! – Florenz Ziegfeld And no Ziegfeld girl ever did as she made her way down the gala stairways of the Ziegfeld Follies in some of the most astonishing spectacles the American theatergoing public ever witnessed.  When Florenz Ziegfeld started in theater, it was flea circus, operetta and sideshow all rolled into one.  When he left it, Any girl who twists her hat will be fired! – Florenz Ziegfeld And no Ziegfeld girl ever did as she made her way down the gala stairways of the Ziegfeld Follies in some of the most astonishing spectacles the American theatergoing public ever witnessed.  When Florenz Ziegfeld started in theater, it was flea circus, operetta and sideshow all rolled into one.  When he left it, the glamorous world of "show-biz" had been created.  Though many know him as the man who "glorified the American girl," his first real star attraction was the bodybuilder Eugen Sandow, who flexed his muscles and thrilled the society matrons who came backstage to squeeze his biceps.  His lesson learned with Sandow, Ziegfeld went on to present Anna Held, the naughty French sensation, who became the first Mrs. Ziegfeld.  He was one of the first impresarios to mix headliners of different ethnic backgrounds, and literally the earliest proponent of mixed-race casting.  The stars he showcased and, in some cases, created have become legends: Billie Burke (who also became his wife), elfin Marilyn Miller, cowboy Will Rogers, Bert Williams, W. C. Fields, Eddie Cantor and, last but not least, neighborhood diva Fanny Brice.  A man of voracious sexual appetites when it came to beautiful women, Ziegfeld knew what he wanted and what others would want as well.  From that passion, the Ziegfeld Girl was born. Elaborately bejeweled, they wore little more than a smile as they glided through eye-popping tableaux that were the highlight of the Follies, presented almost every year from 1907 to 1931.  Ziegfeld's reputation and power, however, went beyond the stage of the Follies as he produced a number of other musicals, among them the ground-breaking Show Boat.  In Ziegfeld: The Man Who Created Show Business, Ethan Mordden recreates the lost world of the Follies, a place of long-vanished beauty masterminded by one of the most inventive, ruthless, street-smart and exacting men ever to fill a theatre on the Great White Way : Florenz Ziegfeld.

30 review for Ziegfeld: The Man Who Invented Show Business

  1. 5 out of 5

    jules

    Okay, I'm a total nerd when it comes to Old Hollywood. However, for some reason or another, I never found myself as interested in Ziegfeld. I don't know how and I don't know why, but I'm a bit upset at myself that it took me this long to really learn about the man that helped changed Broadway and show business. I loved this biography. The author, Ethan Mordden, did absolutely amazing at telling Ziegfeld's story and legacy. While I'm sure some won't like casual and carefree way Mordden writes some Okay, I'm a total nerd when it comes to Old Hollywood. However, for some reason or another, I never found myself as interested in Ziegfeld. I don't know how and I don't know why, but I'm a bit upset at myself that it took me this long to really learn about the man that helped changed Broadway and show business. I loved this biography. The author, Ethan Mordden, did absolutely amazing at telling Ziegfeld's story and legacy. While I'm sure some won't like casual and carefree way Mordden writes sometimes, I loved it. It's what you need a biography that can get lost in so many facts and so many names from the past. After reading this book, I'm more than tempted to go find more books about Ziegfeld -- and especially Ziegfeld's Girls. The whole atmosphere of show business and Broadway during this time is such an interesting part of history! And to think I didn't really care about it a few months ago! Needless to say, Mordden has now made me a Ziegfeld nerd, which I'm sure will turn into many more interests that I become obsessed with. I'm a fan. This book is good. Read it.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Steven

    When I was in high school, my small town held a benefit to raise money to restore our late nineteenth-century opera house. It was a night of Broadway numbers from a wide range of shows. For part of it, my job was to escort elaborately-garbed women down a staircase while someone sang "A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody." That was my first exposure to the concept of the Ziegfeld girl. Through this book, I finally got to learn a bit more. Mordden's main point is to show how Ziegfeld created the concept When I was in high school, my small town held a benefit to raise money to restore our late nineteenth-century opera house. It was a night of Broadway numbers from a wide range of shows. For part of it, my job was to escort elaborately-garbed women down a staircase while someone sang "A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody." That was my first exposure to the concept of the Ziegfeld girl. Through this book, I finally got to learn a bit more. Mordden's main point is to show how Ziegfeld created the concept of show business with his new approach to entertainment and spectacle. From his invention of the Broadway review through his Follies series to producing the first musically integrated (in more than one way) book musical, Show Boat, Ziegfeld was at the forefront. And this book does a good job of describing this era of Broadway and its major players. But although Ziegfeld is the main topic, much of the book centers on how others saw and interacted with him. Nothing against Mordden as an author -- he certainly knows his stuff -- but his breezy style threw me off. His tendency to change tenses in the middle of a paragraph and to refer to obscure bits of Broadway-ana and in-jokes without explanation was distracting. However, his "Sources and Further Reading" section at the end of the book was exemplary -- a great mix of sources he used to write the book and detailed descriptions of definitive histories of a wide range of Broadway and theater topics. I'd like to refer back to it in the future.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jack Saltzberg

    If you are interested in the history of modern Show Business, everything starts with Florenz Ziegfeld. This book not only gives you his story, but the history of the theater in the era he lived in. Just fascinating. I would also recommend his series of decade by decade books about musicals. or pretty much any book he has written about film and theater. He is incredibly knowledgeable, and a very entertaining writer.

  4. 5 out of 5

    John

    I really enjoy Ethan Mordden’s theater books even if they are at times snarky (I assume his award-winning gay books are even snarkier and gayer though I find that hard to believe). His books covering each decade of the musical theater are a treat and a great resource when you suddenly feel compelled to read about the staging of Bloomer Girl or want to know just exactly what the Princess Theatre shows were like. His Ziegfeld book is a great companion and in some ways really starts his that story I really enjoy Ethan Mordden’s theater books even if they are at times snarky (I assume his award-winning gay books are even snarkier and gayer though I find that hard to believe). His books covering each decade of the musical theater are a treat and a great resource when you suddenly feel compelled to read about the staging of Bloomer Girl or want to know just exactly what the Princess Theatre shows were like. His Ziegfeld book is a great companion and in some ways really starts his that story of the creation of Musical Comedy in America. It’s a biography of a man as he creates a genre of theatre. Fascinating and much more than just showgirls walking down staircases. A man who took many chances, had many successes, one phenomenal creation (Showboat) and was married to among others, Billie Burke. Thank you, Mr. Ziegeld for the legacy you have left behind. Can you really start down a grand staircase without picturing yourself in a feathered headdress and skimpy beaded number with “A Pretty Girl Is Like A Melody” playing?

  5. 4 out of 5

    Debra Pawlak

    If you want a good history of American theater--especially Broadway--this is a fine book for you. But if you are looking for a biography on Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr.--look elsewhere. There were few stories about the man himself and what made him tick--which is what I was looking for. Don't know much more about him personally than I did before I read the book. Lots of interesting people threaded throughout the pages (i.e., Anne Held, Eddie Cantor, Fanny Brice, etc.), but most of the focus was on thei If you want a good history of American theater--especially Broadway--this is a fine book for you. But if you are looking for a biography on Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr.--look elsewhere. There were few stories about the man himself and what made him tick--which is what I was looking for. Don't know much more about him personally than I did before I read the book. Lots of interesting people threaded throughout the pages (i.e., Anne Held, Eddie Cantor, Fanny Brice, etc.), but most of the focus was on their careers.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    Very limited bio - heavy on the history of Broadway, relatively light on Ziegfiled's personal life other than sharing who his newest favorite was. Also didn't give a sense of the tableau and "beautiful girls" who are such an important part of the legend. I would have loved to learn simple facts: how many girls tended to be in the show, how were they staged. Did he start out with just a few, and by the end have hundreds? (As the movies tend to make you believe?). It's ok Very limited bio - heavy on the history of Broadway, relatively light on Ziegfiled's personal life other than sharing who his newest favorite was. Also didn't give a sense of the tableau and "beautiful girls" who are such an important part of the legend. I would have loved to learn simple facts: how many girls tended to be in the show, how were they staged. Did he start out with just a few, and by the end have hundreds? (As the movies tend to make you believe?). It's ok

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kent Monken

    Mordden does his usual great job of highlighting the important salient facts about Flo's life and giving the history of show business 1900 to 1930 in vivid specific descriptions. Interesting facts about careers long gone and seldom discussed or widely known besides fantasy portrayals in Hollywood biopics. Marilynn (Flo got her to drop the second n) Miller, Anna Held, Billie Burke (long before Oz) all jump off the page. Joseph Urban (did you know he designed Mar a Lago) is Ziegfeld's stage design Mordden does his usual great job of highlighting the important salient facts about Flo's life and giving the history of show business 1900 to 1930 in vivid specific descriptions. Interesting facts about careers long gone and seldom discussed or widely known besides fantasy portrayals in Hollywood biopics. Marilynn (Flo got her to drop the second n) Miller, Anna Held, Billie Burke (long before Oz) all jump off the page. Joseph Urban (did you know he designed Mar a Lago) is Ziegfeld's stage designer. This books sails along giving insight into a lesser known part of Show biz and Broadway history. A must for any lover of Broadway and Show business history. He lives on because of the many innovations that are now considered de rigeur. Read all Mordden; you many not agree with his assessments but you'll never be bored.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Walter Rabon

    Excellent history but not very compelling story telling.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Peter Melancon

    Very good book, if you know anything about New York, Broadway or even early radio and film I think you'll enjoy the book. If not, it may be a little harder to get into. Very good book, if you know anything about New York, Broadway or even early radio and film I think you'll enjoy the book. If not, it may be a little harder to get into.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Russell J. Sanders

    As a musical theater buff, I think one of the reasons I chose Ziegfeld, the Man Who Invented Show Business is that I was certain I’d read other books by Ethan Mordden and enjoyed them. After all, a quick perusal of the titles he’s written includes several books on the American musical theater. But that perusal revealed none I’d read before. So that reason for choosing the book was out. That leaves another reason for selecting it for my library: I have long been familiar with Florenz Ziegfeld and As a musical theater buff, I think one of the reasons I chose Ziegfeld, the Man Who Invented Show Business is that I was certain I’d read other books by Ethan Mordden and enjoyed them. After all, a quick perusal of the titles he’s written includes several books on the American musical theater. But that perusal revealed none I’d read before. So that reason for choosing the book was out. That leaves another reason for selecting it for my library: I have long been familiar with Florenz Ziegfeld and wanted to know more about him. This book seemed to be the perfect venue for that desire. I decided I was in for a joyful few days reading. Then I started reading. I found that the writing style, to me, was stilted. I chalked that up to the author trying to imitate the period he was describing, the early 1900s. I figured if I delved deeper into the book, it would start to flow. Not so. Mordden not only continued his arch storytelling style, but from time to time, he would throw in phrases that a casual reader would be baffled by. Of a song in the musical Rio Rita, he says, “It does have the distinction of launching its verse (in c minor!) on the dominant ninth chord.” I have a music degree and only vaguely know what he is talking about. And this sort of phrasing and detail is what bogs the book down. He describes each edition of the famous Ziegfeld Follies, and while each had different music, costumes, and sets, Mordden makes the case that they were pretty much all alike. If that’s true, why go to such detail on each? Meanwhile there is very little about Ziegfeld’s actual life. Yes, he was dedicated to the theater and virtually had no personal life, but with two wives and a few love affairs, could there not have been more detail? The author ends one chapter with an announcement of the birth of Ziegfeld’s daughter as if it were something that totally changed his life. After that, very little is said of the child throughout the rest of the book. Finally, aside from the Follies, Ziegfeld’s signature accomplishment is that he produced the premiere of one of the greatest of all American musicals, Show Boat, in 1927. Morrden explains how and why Ziegfeld gave very little input to the authors of the musical (he was busily producing other shows and opening a theater that bore his name.) And there is cultural insight as to why the authors, Kern and Hammerstein, chose Ziegfeld as their producer (he had a history of mixing races onstage, and Show Boat, of course, is a play featuring both African-American and white characters.) But with the last fifty pages of the book looming, I thought, “Okay, the next chapter will be about Show Boat in detail; its first night, its reception, its legacy.” But that next chapter was three or four years later! Mordden reserves most of his comments about Show Boat for his “Sources and Further Reading” section. So, yes, I was supremely disappointed in this book. I never felt like I was getting to know Florenz Ziegfeld, and I certainly felt like I never got to know his famous innovations, his Follies or his Show Boat.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Rory

    I appreciated Mordden's super-familiar, prosey-insidery-magaziney style at first. It was surprising and helped weave Ziegfeld's early days into a promising American Tale. And then...it lost me. I realized this book is really for Broadway die-hards, and that Mordden really doesn't care if you can keep up with all the allusions, name-dropping and fabulousness. Oh, well. I appreciated Mordden's super-familiar, prosey-insidery-magaziney style at first. It was surprising and helped weave Ziegfeld's early days into a promising American Tale. And then...it lost me. I realized this book is really for Broadway die-hards, and that Mordden really doesn't care if you can keep up with all the allusions, name-dropping and fabulousness. Oh, well.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sharon

    Fun book! It's more about Broadway during Ziegfeld's lifetime in it; than his life in particular. But it's really quite a fascinating look at the beginnings of Broadway and how it was shaped by Ziegfeld and his Follies (which contained more than the girls which I didn't realize). Fun book! It's more about Broadway during Ziegfeld's lifetime in it; than his life in particular. But it's really quite a fascinating look at the beginnings of Broadway and how it was shaped by Ziegfeld and his Follies (which contained more than the girls which I didn't realize).

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jim Bartruff

    Lots of useful background to the man, his theatre, his times and the nature of show business at the beginning of the 20th century.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    Interesting, but only because I was interested in the time period. The writing was a little dry in places.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    Mostly about his shows, not alot about the man.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    Lots of fun -- enchanting, even, if this is a subject that appeals to you. Plus the most amusing bibliography I've ever read. Lots of fun -- enchanting, even, if this is a subject that appeals to you. Plus the most amusing bibliography I've ever read.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Malcolm Frawley

    A fascinating life in 'theatre' suffers a little from pedestrian story-telling. A fascinating life in 'theatre' suffers a little from pedestrian story-telling.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

    much info about famous former stars of theater and times i knew little about, interesting details and well written by a man who has a vast knowledge about the subject.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Marcie

  20. 5 out of 5

    O'Neill Louchard

  21. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Caggiano

  22. 4 out of 5

    Carrie Haugarth

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kathie Wilson

  24. 4 out of 5

    Michael

  25. 4 out of 5

    Maranda

  26. 5 out of 5

    Laurentara

  27. 5 out of 5

    Edsopinion.com

  28. 5 out of 5

    Freshpencil

  29. 4 out of 5

    margaret walchak

  30. 5 out of 5

    Karl

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