Ziegfeld 101

Follies Chronology - Part II

by John Kenrick

The photos below are thumbnails – click on them to see full size versions.

Follies chorus (16687 bytes)Ziegfeld jammed the New Amsterdam stage with seventy eight chorus girls for this unidentified Follies production number.


Opened: The New Amsterdam, June 21 (104 performances)
Book and lyrics: Gene Buck, Channing Pollack & Rennold Wolf
Score: Louis A. Hirsch, David Stamper and others
Scenery: Joseph Urban
Staged by: Julian Mitchell and Leon Errol
Featuring: Leon Errol, W.C. Fields, Ann Pennington, Ed Wynn, Bert Williams, George White, Ina Claire, Olive Thomas, Justine Johnstone and Mae Murray
Notes: The first edition with sets by Urban, this was the most visually stunning Follies to date. In fact, Urban's unique art deco designs gave the series a visual sense of style no other revues could match. The opening sequence had showgirls "swimming" in waves of blue light, and massive golden elephants spouting real water through their upturned trunks. W.C. Fields became a star with a hilarious billiards act, and Pennington danced with future Ziegfeld competitor George White. For "Hello Frisco, Hello," chorines appeared as various cities.


Opened: The New Amsterdam on June 12 (112 performances)
Book and lyrics: Gene Buck, George V. Hobart and others
Score: Louis A. Hirsch, Jerome D. Kern, Irving Berlin, David Stamper and others
Scenery by: Joseph Urban
Staged by: Ned Wayburn
Featuring: Bert Williams, Fanny Brice, W.C. Fields, Ina Claire, Will Rogers, Marion Davies and Ann Pennington
Notes: The 10th Follies had a cast of 118, but it belonged to the comics. Newcomer Will Rogers triumphed with his lariat and witty monologue, and W.C. Fields offered several political impersonations (imagine him as Teddy Roosevelt?). Fanny Brice spoofed silent film vamp Theda Bara, appeared in a tutu as a flatfooted dying swan, and sang a tribute to the ballet legend "Nijinski." Bert Williams starred in a travesty of Othello and sang several specialties. Other skits had Henry VIII singing about his wives and Julius Caesar and his "Toga Girls" singing "Ragtime in the Air." Ziegfeld's chorines danced on an electric mat that shot sparks from their shoes, and paraded as various roses. Newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst sat in the same orchestra seat every night for eight weeks – marking the beginning of his long romance with Marion Davies.


Opened: The New Amsterdam, June 12 (111 performances)
Book and lyrics: Gene Buck, George V. Hobart and others
Score: Irving Berlin, David Stamper and others, with ballets by Victor Herbert
Scenery by: Joseph Urban
Staged by: Ned Wayburn
Featuring: Bert Williams, Fanny Brice, Eddie Cantor, Dolores, Will Rogers and The Fairbanks Twins
Notes: Eddie Cantor (in blackface) was such a smash in his Follies debut that he had to encore "That's the Kind of Baby for Me" at almost every performance. Will Rogers held the coveted next-to-closing star spot, where the program warned, "He is liable to talk about anything or anybody." The illustrious Victor Herbert made his first contributions to the Follies -- some ballet music, and a patriotic wartime song called "Can't You Hear Your Country Calling?" Society painter Ben Ali Haggin staged several patriotic tableaux populated with underdressed chorus girls, including tributes to Paul Revere and President Woodrow Wilson. The famous beauty Dolores appeared as "The Empress of Fashion," and the chorus introduced the parade step that came to be known as the "Ziegfeld walk." It involved alternating shifts in the pelvis and shoulders, and as a girl thus undulated towards the audience, her blank expression eased into a stellar smile. Despite critical acclaim, this edition was almost forced to close early due to the deadly flu epidemic of 1918.


Opened: The New Amsterdam, June 18 (151 performances)
Book and lyrics: Gene Buck, Rennold Wolf and others
Score: Louis A. Hirsch, David Stamper, Irving Berlin and others
Scenery by: Joseph Urban
Staged by: Ned Wayburn
Featuring: Eddie Cantor, W. C. Fields, Marilynn Miller, Ann Pennington, Lillian Lorraine, Frank Carter, Joe Frisco, Bert Savoy and Jay Brennan, The Fairbanks Twins
Notes: Marilynn Miller (who later dropped an "n" from her first name) sang and danced her way to stardom in this edition's silver ballet, overshadowing Lillian Lorraine's final appearance in the series. The rehearsal pianist was the then-unknown George Gershwin. Various wartime bits included the song "Would You Rather Be a Colonel With an Eagle On Your Shoulder Or a Private With a Chicken On Your Knee?," and Irving Berlin's "I'm Gonna Pin a Medal on the Girl I Leave Behind." Will Rogers kidded the headlines, lassoed dancer Ann Pennington, and made an unusual appearance as Satan ruling in hell. Fields introduced a new routine involving a misshaped golf club.

You'd Be Surprised sheet music (32892 bytes)The original sheet music cover to Irving Berlin's "You'd Be Surprised." This comic song about a seemingly shy man who is actually a sexual dynamo in private was a showstopper for Eddie Canter in the 1919 Follies. It was still hilarious when Madeline Kahn performed it at Berlin's 100th birthday celebration in 1988.


Opened: The New Amsterdam, June 23 (171 performances)
Book and lyrics: Gene Buck, Eddie Cantor, Rennold Wolf and others
Score: Irving Berlin, David Stamper and others, with a ballet by Victor Herbert
Scenery by: Joseph Urban
Staged by: Ned Wayburn
Featuring: Marilyn Miller, Eddie Cantor, Bert Williams, Eddie Dowling, John Steel, Johnny and Ray Dooley, Gus Van and Joe Schenck, and The Fairbanks Twins
Notes: With star salaries and lavish production values, this edition cost over $100,000 to stage. This was the first Follies to have a top quality score, with most of the songs provided by hit-master Irving Berlin. Cantor sang the showstopping "You'd Be Surprised," tenor John Steel introduced the unofficial Ziegfeld anthem, "A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody," and Bert Williams knocked Prohibition with "You Cannot Make Your Shimmy Shake On Tea." Marilyn Miller (having dropped the extra "n" from her name) danced to Berlin's minstrel-style hit "Mandy," and starred in a ballet by Herbert. A harem scene showcased the chorus, and gave comic Johnny Dooley the chance to sing "I'm the Guy Who Guards the Harem." In an osteopath sketch, Cantor clowned as a hapless hypochondriac -- a character he would recycle in many future stage and screen projects. Critics and fans often cited this as the best Follies ever. The run was interrupted by the Actor's Equity strike in August – an event that soured Ziegfeld's relationships with several performers. Bert Williams never returned to the Follies, and Cantor stayed away for several years.


Opened: The New Amsterdam, June 22 (123 performances)
Book and lyrics: Gene Buck and others
Score: Irving Berlin, Victor Herbert, Joseph McCarthy, Frank Tierney and others
Dances by: Jack Donahue, Ray Dooley
Scenery by: Joseph Urban
Staged by: Edward Royce
Featuring: Fanny Brice, W.C. Fields, Mary Eaton, Jack Donahue, Bernard Granville, Charles Winninger, Van and Shenck, Ray Dooley, Moran and Mack, and Art Hickman's Orchestra
Notes: British director Edward Royce drew much of the critical credit for this successful edition. Berlin was credited as the primary songwriter, but the score was not as strong as the year before. Brice shared a funny automobile sketch with Fields and portrayed yet another nice Jewish girl in "I'm a Vamp From East Broadway." The chorus paraded their charms in a number entitled "The Leg of Nations," and wore bell-covered costumes that tinkled along to the melody of "Bells." The finale was a shameless plug for Ziegfeld's Midnight Frolic.


Opened: The Globe Theater, June 21 (119 performances)
Book and lyrics: Gene Buck, Channing Polack, Buddy DeSylva and others
Score: Rudolph Friml, Victor Herbert and others
Scenery by: Joseph Urban
Costumes: James Reynolds and others
Staged by: Edward Royce
Featuring: Fanny Brice, W.C. Fields, Raymond Hitchcock and Van and Shenck
Notes: With Sally selling out at The New Amsterdam, this Follies played at the theatre now known as The Lunt-Fontanne. The most lavish edition yet, it cost more than $270,000 to produce. It was the first Follies to feature costumes by the brilliant James Reynolds. Brice introduced "Second Hand Rose," and another song which became the stuff of legend. During rehearsals, Brice was costumed for the French ballad "My Man" in a soign'e evening ensemble – Ziegfeld leapt on stage, tore the outfit to tatters, and smeared stage dust on Brice's face. A shaken Brice sang the song with a broken hearted edge, and Ziegfeld ordered her to never do it any other way. The public, aware of Brice's tragic marriage to professional criminal Nick Arnstein, was overwhelmed.


Opened: The New Amsterdam, June 5 (541 performances)
Book and lyrics: Gene Buck, Ring Lardner, David Stamper and others
Score: Louis A. Hirsch, David Stamper, Victor Herbert and others
Scenery by: Joseph Urban and others
Ballets by: Fokine
Director: Ned Wayburn
Featuring: Gallagher & Sean, Jack Whiting, Will Rogers, Mary Eaton, Olsen & Johnson, Gilda Gray
Notes: "Mr. Gallager & Mr. Sean" was the hit song (and hit act) of this edition, with the two vaudeville comics exchanging repartee and a stream of topical verses. A lavish opening number set in Blunderland featured Miss Trial, Miss Chief and Miss Fortune. Another number spoofed the new interest in black revues, "It's Getting Awful Dark On Old Broadway" – a mean-spirited gesture from a series that had featured Bert Williams! Dancer Evelyn Law stopped the show crossing the stage on one leg while wagging a disapproving finger at the other -- which was raised above her head. This was the longest running Follies Ziegfeld ever produced, and the first to proclaim his now-famous motto, "Glorifying the American Girl."


Opened: The New Amsterdam, October 20 (233 performances)
Book and lyrics: Gene Buck, Eddie Cantor and others
Music: Victor Herbert, Rudolph Friml, David Stamper and others
Staged by: Ned Wayburn
Dances by: Gertrude Hoffman
"Scenic Investiture" by: Joseph Urban
Featuring: Fanny Brice, Bert and Betty Wheeler, James J. Corbett, Ann Pennington, Paul Whiteman and his orchestra.
Notes: Ziegfeld featured popular boxer Jim Corbett in a comedy sketch. A lavish "Maid of Gold" sequence featured costumes by Erte. Recognizing that this edition was short on inspiration, Ziegfeld ended his feud with Eddie Cantor and persuaded him to make an uncredited appearance during the opening weeks. Songwriter David Stamper performed with his wife, but the show was stolen by Muriel Stryker, who painted her body with gilt paint to dance "The Maid of Gold." When a doctor ordered her to stop because the metallic paint would damage her skin, Ziegfeld ordered an expensive skintight body suit -- making sure the press gave full coverage to every twist of the story. Because this edition sort of segued from its predecessor and into its successor, some sources differ as to the number of performances. 


Opened: The New Amsterdam, June 24 (520 performances)
Book: William Anthony McGuire and Will Rogers
Lyrics: Gene Buck, Joseph M. McCarthy and others
Score: Victor Herbert, Raymond Hubbell, David Stamper, Harry Tierney and others
Scenery by: Ludwig Kainer, John Wenger and others
Staged by: Julian Mitchell
Featuring: Will Rogers, Ann Pennington, Frank Tinney, Lupino Lane, Ethel Shutta, Vivienne Segal, The John Tiller Girls and The London Empire Girls. In 1925, Ray Dooley and W.C. Fields joined the cast.
Notes: Although critics felt this edition was substandard, it ran for almost two full seasons. The highlight was an appearance by The Tiller Girls, a popular synchronized dance troupe from Britain. It seems that audiences of the Roaring '20s were willing to take the "Ziegfeld touch" however they could get it. During the run, Ziegfeld beauty Imogene Wilson had an affair with comic Frank Tinney – then poisoned herself when she learned the two-timer was already married. The ensuing scandal filled the newspapers and embarrassed Ziegfeld, but he knew even this kind of publicity sold tickets. This marked the final Follies for series veterans Will Rogers and Ann Pennington.

Some sources suggest there was a 1925 Follies, but the 1924 edition never really closed. It simply kept running as new performers and numbers were interpolated. W.C. Fields and comedienne Ray Dooley joined the cast, and the Ziegfeld girls were featured in "I'd Like to Be a Gardener in the Garden of Girls."

On to: Follies Chronology - Conclusion

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