Ziegfeld Who's Who: M to Z
by John Kenrick
Below you'll find more of the individuals who figured prominently in Ziegfeld's career. In many cases, you'll find links to more detailed bios in Musicals101.com's "Who's Who in Musicals" section.
Miller, Marilyn (1898-1936) - In the 1920s, she was Broadway's reigning musical star. Featured in several Follies and in the title role of Ziegfeld's hit musical Sally, Miller spent years evading the producer's amorous attentions. A series of ill-fated marriages and improperly treated sinus problems contributed to her death at age 36. Detailed biography.
Mitchell, Julian (1854-1926) - Although deaf, this New Jersey native became one of the Broadway musical's first important directors, staging over eighty musicals during his long career. In particular, he staged several editions of the Follies. Mitchell placed his head on the piano to feel the rhythm of a number, then staged it. He died on the opening night of his last Ziegfeld production, No Foolin'. Detailed biography.
Morgan, Helen (1900-1941) - One of the first great torch singers got her start in Chicago nightclubs and made her legit debut in the road tour ensemble of Sally. As a 1920s speakeasy hostess, the diminutive Morgan sang sitting atop a piano in order to be seen over the crowd. This gimmick became her trademark, and she used it when she sang the showstopping "Bill" as the original Julie in Show Boat. She repeated the role in the 1932 revival and the 1936 film version. Heavy drinking led to her death at age 41. Detailed biography.
Pennington, Ann (1894-1971) This attractive dancer won attention in several editions of the Follies. She attained her greatest fame when she starred in five editions of George White's Scandals, where she popularized "The Black Bottom" dance craze. Pennington was 4 feet 11 inches high, weighed a mere 100 pounds and wore a size 1 1/2 shoe -- hence her nickname "Tiny." After appearing in an assortment of minor films, road tours and vaudeville acts, she retired from show business in 1946. Never married, she died in a NY City hospital in a NY hospital after a prolonged illness.
Reynolds, James (1892-1957) - A gifted set and costume designer, Reynolds built his reputation working on several editions of the Greenwich Village Follies. He worked on three of Ziegfeld's Follies (1921-1923), then a long list of other revues and musical comedies. Reynolds was also a noted interior decorator, and spent his later years lecturing and writing several books.
Robeson, Paul (1898-1976) - This popular singer, actor and social activist is best remembered for singing "Old Man River" in Show Boat. Although he did not appear in the original Broadway production, he played Joe in the London cast, the 1932 New York revival and the 1936 film version.
Rogers, Will (1879-1935) - This popular humorist went from vaudeville to several appearances in Ziegfeld's Frolics and Follies. His lariat tricks and off the cuff comic banter made him very popular, and he enjoyed super star status on radio and the big screen. When he died in a flying accident at age 56, this poor rancher's son was worth millions.
Smith, Harry B. (1860-1936) - The first important lyricist and librettist in the American musical theater, Smith contributed to more than 120 Broadway musicals during a long and distinguished career, including many early editions of the Follies. He and his wife were frequent traveling companions of Ziegfeld and Anna Held. Detailed biography.
The Shubert Brothers - Lee and Jacob Shubert were Ziegfeld's longtime enemies. After his death, the Shuberts bought the rights to the Follies and produced several successful editions. Detailed biographies.
Stamper, David (1883-1963) - Stamper became Ziegfeld's staff composer, creating melodies for fourteen editions of the Follies and an equal number of Ziegfeld's Midnight Frolics. He worked with numerous lyricists, including fellow Ziegfeld regular Gene Buck. None of Stamper's songs became lasting hits, and his career pretty much came to an end when Ziegfeld died.
Terris, Norma (1904-199) - This blonde beauty made her Broadway debut as a chorus girl in the 1920 Midnight Frolic. She starred in several musicals before Ziegfeld cast her as the original Magnolia in Show Boat. She repeated the role in the 1932 revival. In later years, she became a patron of the Goodspeed Opera in Connecticut, where one of the auditoriums bears her name. Detailed biography.
Thomas, Olive (1894-1920) - One of the most strikingly beautiful Ziegfeld girls, Thomas was also one of the Great Glorifier's mistresses. Realizing she would never supplant Ziegfeld's wife and child, she infuriated him by marrying silent film actor Jack Pickford. Soon afterward, her suspicious death led to the suicide of close friend and fellow Ziegfeld mistress Anna Daly, unleashing a major scandal in the press.
Tucker, Sophie (1884-1966) - "The Last of the Red Hot Mommas" was all set to steal the 1909 Follies when a jealous Nora Bayes forced Ziegfeld to cut all of Tucker's numbers. Sophie refused to appear in any further Ziegfeld production. Detailed biography.
Urban, Joseph (1872-1933) - His brilliant set designs gave the Follies their distinctive look, and remain defining works of the art deco era. Urban also designed the sets for Show Boat and was the principal architect for The Ziegfeld Theater. Detailed biography.
Wayburn, Ned (1874-1942) One of Broadway's first dance-conscious directors, Wayburn directed 10 shows (including six Follies) for Ziegfeld. Inventor of the first form of dance notation, Wayburn concentrated on stage pictures and pacing. He worked for many producers, and staged many vaudeville routines as well as movie house revues. Wayburn retired at about the time of Ziegfeld's death in 1932. For more, see Barbara Stratyner's Ned Wayburn and the Dance Routine: From Vaudeville to the Ziegfeld Follies. Studies in Dance History No. 13, Madison WI, 1996. Detailed biography.
White, George (1890-1968)- A one-time Follies dancer, White's revue series (The Scandals) made him one of Ziegfeld's most successful competitors in the 1920s. Detailed biography.
Williams, Bert (1874-1922) - The star of several Follies, Williams was (thanks to Ziegfeld's insistence) the first black man to co-star with whites in a major Broadway production. Detailed biography.
Winninger, Charles (1884-1969) - This gifted comic actor specialized in character roles, but his nimble dancing made him a popular musical star as well. He appeared in the 1920 Follies and originated the role of Captain Andy in Show Boat. He repeated that role in the 1932 revival and the 1936 film version. Detailed biography..
Wynn, Ed (1886-1966) - Billed as "The Perfect Fool," Wynn's silly gags, fluttering hands and comic lisp made him a favorite with the public for more than six decades. After winning stardom in vaudeville, he was featured in two editions of the Follies and starred in Ziegfeld's short-lived 1930 musical Simple Simon. He went on to success in radio, film and television. Detailed biography.
Ziegfeld, Patricia (b. Oct. 23, 1916) - The only child of Ziegfeld and Billie Burke, Patricia was doted on by both of her famous parents. After Ziegfeld's death, Burke made sure Patricia was raised with the best of everything. Patricia recorded many stories from her fascinating childhood in her entertaining 1963 memoir, Ziegfeld's Girl. Now in her late 80s, she has spent her later years far from the public spotlight.