4 September 2004 | jotix100
Stairway to the stars
This film was shown on TCM recently, in the DVD format, since it has an overture and a few minutes of "exit music". The copy was excellent, as it has been greatly restored as it looks extremely smooth to the eye.
Florenz Ziegfield was one of the most brilliant producers of this country at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. He had an eye for what worked on a stage. He was also the discoverer of a lot of the talent that went to have enormous careers of their own, long after they appeared in one of Mr. Ziegfeld's extravaganzas.
Robert Z. Leonard in directing this film had a lot of contributors, no doubt, but it's probably Adrian, the costume designer par excellence that gave this movie a lot of class by recreating for the screen some of the costumes that were associated with Ziegfeld.
William Powell portrays the great Ziegfeld. Mr. Powell is amazing in his interpretation of the creative man on the screen. He is this man he is playing on the screen; he is totally convincing he was born to play the role.
Actually the film leaves a lot of things unexplained. We know that Anna Held is out of the picture, after her divorce, but nothing is mentioned that she had died at all. Also, the relationship with his second wife, Billie Burke, comes as an afterthought since she only appears in the last part of the movie.
Luise Ranier made a compelling Anna Held, the French actress, who obviously never understood her husband, even though it's clear she loved him. She appears as a complete insecure person, never knowing what to do, or what to decide on. As far as the Oscar she won for playing this role, it eludes my comprehension, or maybe that year her competition must have been poor.
Myrna Loy as Billie Burke gives a radiant performance. She was always a convincing actress and in the film she demonstrates her versatility in playing a musical comedy star. The young Myrna Loy was a gorgeous creature, as proven in this film.
The costumes from some of the musical numbers are incredible. Of course, they were made to suit the theatricality of whatever Mr. Ziegfeld presented. Such extravagant numbers will never be presented on a Broadway stage ever again as the cost would be prohibitive.
Virginia Bruce, Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger, Fanny Brice appear in the film, but of course, the picture is dominated by William Powell from beginning to end.