ZIEGFELD GIRL (1941) 

Lana Turner
Judy Garland
Hedy Lamarr
James Stewart
Tony Martin
Jackie Cooper
Ian Hunter
Edward Everett Horton
Charles Winniger
Philip Dorn
Paul Kelly

Robert Z. Leonard



Time: 132 mins.
Rating: Not Rated
Genre: Drama/Romance/Musical

Even though this film was made almost a decade after his death, the memory of Broadway impresario Florenz Ziegfeld is clearly still alive and kicking. As this melodrama musical reveals, the chance to become a chorus girl in one of Ziegfeld's shows was a dream come true for many girls during the 1920s. It was a job that garnered them fame, security and, for some, new life struggles. The three leading ladies – Turner, Garland and Lamarr – play the latest ladies to join the troupe and follows their ups and downs on the glamorous road to super stardom. Garland is the singing sensation who wants nothing more than to get her vaudevillian father in the show. Lamarr plays a woman married to a brilliant violinist whose jealousy at her sudden success (and the men who come with it) strains their relationship and sends her into the arms of another man.

In the lead role is Turner, who becomes the drunken, money-obsessed floozy the show's manager warned them about in the beginning of the film. She turns down the pure love of Jimmy Stewart for some shiny baubles and the empty promises of a richer man. His attempts to earn enough money to seduce her back into his arms only leads to troubles with the law for him and a broken heart for her. Eventually, her excessive boozing ruins her health, her relationship with her family and gets her kicked out of the show. She continues her quick trip to the bottom, selling everything she owns to keep drowning her sorrows. Meanwhile Lamarr's character realizes the error of her dallying ways and concocts a plan that will enable her to reconcile with her husband. Garland becomes a huge singing sensation and eventually uses her pull with the company to gain her father a slot in the show. He taught her everything he knows about show business and she's sure the audience is going to just love him. In the end, Garland's character is the only one who survives the rigors of instant fame on the personal plus side. The experience in the show gives her security and confidence in her talent.

"Figure, OK. Face, OK. Smile, OK. Seventy-five a week. Next."

Of course, of the three ladies she's the only one who has more going for her than just a pretty face. Turner redeems herself, mostly because her health forces her to. She basically lands right back where she started, a little older, somewhat wiser and with the love of a decent, yet poor young man. Lamarr has the most adult storyline, but the least amount to do. One is never in doubt where her devotion lies, so her performance lacks emotional power. However, she is simply ravishing, focusing your attention on her beauty instead of her uninspiring acting. She's a bit of a cold fish onscreen, but her part is small enough you won't be highly bothered by it. Garland doesn't have much of a part either, but she has a few scenes that utilize her prodigious vocal talent, which should satisfy her fans. Still being an ingenue leaves her unable to participate in the more gritty/adult issues dealt with in this tale. I doubt these three ladies were friends in real life, despite working on the same lot, but they make that aspect of the film believable enough. Edward Everett Horton and Eve Arden steal the few scenes they're in, giving the script wit and punch.

There is nothing highly different about this backstage musical than any other, but I found myself drawn into it's magic nonetheless. Turner's part is the emotional backbone to this story and she acquits herself well throughout. She gives a 360 degree performance from sweet and sexy to bitter and boozy to reformed and remorseful. This was one of her first starring roles and, though she doesn't hit it out of the park, it's a solid step up from being a mere "sweater girl." This role is a lighter version of the intensely powerful one she plays a decade later in THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL, but cut from the same cloth. Her ability to be both naughty and nice gives this film depth and makes it more than just a fluffy musical. The production numbers are out of this world with fantastic set designs and outrageous costumes, much like the ones in the Ziegfeld biopic, THE GREAT ZIEGFELD. They are a wonder to behold in all their glory, but somewhat slow down the pace since they merely encompass pretty girls standing around while being sung to. They break the visual mold, but aren't exactly what one would call exciting. Fans of the backstage musical or any of the leading ladies will enjoy the time spent here. Those looking for pizazz and energy in their musicals should probably look elsewhere.

home | reviews | actors | actresses | film heaven | all reviews