Ziegfeld Quotations

Compiled by John Kenrick

1. Ziegfeld Speaks

"I don't have a very quick sense of humor. Half of the great comedians I've had in my shows and that I paid a lot of money to and who made my customers shriek were not only not funny to me, but I couldn't understand why they were funny to anybody. You'd be surprised how many of the expensive comics I've run out on and locked myself in my office when they were on stage."

When asked if the troubled Mam'selle Napoleon had left him bankrupt:
"They all hope I will go broke and I wouldn't like to cause them displeasure. They've had me closing up The Red Feather company a dozen times, and now they are waiting for me to close Mam'selle Napoleon. Well, it won't close and I won't go broke."

When told that Irish linen petticoats for Follies dancers were far more expensive than plain cotton:
"I know. But Irish linen does something to their walk – remember, they are Ziegfeld Girls!"

2. Discussing Ziegfeld

Marjorie Farnsworth
"What was his touch? . . . First, Ziegfeld knew the subtle line between desire and lust, between good taste and vulgarity, and never crossed it. He came close a few times but he never quite crossed it. Second, the exhibitionism which was part of his private life was not contrived. It was an integral part of him, part of the personality mechanism that made him what he was: a gambler who had an almost childish irresponsibility toward the value of money and an equally childish conviction that he could always get some more when he wanted it. Most of the time he was astonishingly right. And finally, he had a sense of showmanship and of female beauty that was the despair of his competitors."

Will Rogers
"There was one badge of honor worn by all these performers. It was the simple but proud statement, "I worked for Ziegfeld."

Billie Burke Ziegfeld (Ziegfeld's wife)
". . . he simply couldn't stop being more and more lavish with every show. In the end they were costing hundreds of thousands of dollars and often it took years to pay off the initial investment. The result was a personal tragedy for their creator, but the world remembers Mr. Ziegfeld as the man who revealed a whole new world of color and light and gaiety in the modern musical revue."

"Ziegfeld has been portrayed as a man who pursued women. I have even come across a word which, in regard to him, is not only vulgar but incredibly inaccurate. The word is "Chaser." By all the pink-toed prophets, Flo Ziegfeld was never that! Flo never pursed any woman. He was cool and aloof and difficult. But there were times, more times than I prefer to recall, when he made a woman eager for his approval by a mere look, or a small expression, or by a slight grasp of her elbow, a low mumbling request to dance. That was all the effort he ever had to make. The story of one noted dancing girl about how Flo Ziegfeld used to batter down her door is a confection of sheer poppycock. I tell you: I know better."  (Editors Note: The "noted dancing girl" was Marilyn Miller.)

Patricia Ziegfeld Stephenson (Ziegfeld's daughter)
"I was not quite sixteen when Daddy died – virtually bankrupt. To make ends meet, Mother went back to acting more frequently, this time as a character actress rather than a leading lady. The years that followed were not easy ones. Even in the most difficult days, though, she spoke of Daddy with pride and affection. Towards the end of her life, she often remarked that she missed my father more in her later years than she did right after his death. Florenz Ziegfeld was envied, praised, censured, even hated, but he was also very much loved"

Richard and Paulette Ziegfeld
"Sooner or later, readers find themselves asking, "Why would he do something so foolish, so expensive, so cruel? The answer is that he was driven by a vision of beauty. He once told his first wife, Anna Held, that he was compelled by a dream of "demolishing all the current methods of staging shows." Nothing less. What made this dream all the more interesting was that he accomplished it in theatrical realms not noted in his day for their artistry – the revue and the musical comedy. His theatrical genius lay in transforming popular but plebeian dramatic forms into art without losing their mass appeal. That was the 'Ziegfeld touch.'"

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