Best Picture Winners Part 9 (of 89): The Great Zeigfeld (1936)

the great ziegfeld 1936
the great ziegfeld 1936
Title: The Great Ziegfeld
Year: 1936
Starring: William Powell, Myrna Loy, Luise Rainer
Director: Robert Z. Leonard
Runtime: 2 hrs 56 mins
Is It Any Good?: It’s tedious. While Powell is electric as Ziegfeld even his zippy, charismatic portrayal doesn’t justify the over acting by Rainer (which she later won the Oscar for). Nor the film’s over-reliance on pomp and circumstance. A glittery exterior is no replacement for a solid narrative. In fact, the story-telling moments in this biopic are its strong suit. It’s when we get the musical numbers that I feel the film drags. Let’s not mention the five-minute Overture to start, or the intermission that almost totally kills the film’s momentum. I’m sure those two particular kinds of beef were not really major deals in the time the film originally came out, however, for contemporary audiences, this is nothing more the bothersome.
Memorable Quote: Sandow: This cheese is so strong it could walk over and say hello to your coffee. Ziegfeld: Well, it had better not. This coffee’s too weak to answer it.
Competition: How’d this win? We have two classic pieces of English literature making appearances on the big screen in this year’s nominees in A Tale of Two Cities, and Romeo and Juliet, both significant in their legacy of being the early versions of these stories on the big screen, but certainly not the best adaptations. San Francisco is an absolute stunner of a film, particularly the ten minutes earthquake recreation. Dodsworth is the dud of the bunch while I’m left wondering how Mr. Deeds Goes to Town didn’t take home a little gold man as it’s timeless charm and psychically sharp wit. Still scratching my head as to how this film lost. You can skip Ziegfeld if you want, but don’t skip on Mr. Deeds.
Next up is another biopic this time of a French writer and activist. We hope to see you for that one, and know you’ll chime in in the comment section below! Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and Instagram. But most importantly don’t forget that I Love You!


  1. I totally agree Powell was the only saving grace of this film. I love Mr.Deeds and find it perplexing it did not win. This film and its winning reminds me of the “Crash” of its day, and how everyone is shocked that film won

  2. @Byron it’s a very piece indeed. Powell is magnetic here. I think Rainer is really much better in the Good Earth for which she won her second consecutive Oscar the next year

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