MGM’s musical extravaganza of 1941, “Ziegfeld Girl,” directed by reliable craftsman Robert Z. Leonard, stars some of the studio’s most beautiful women: Judy Garland, Hedy Lamarr, and Lana Turner.
The story focuses on three showbiz hopefuls, and their efforts and fortunes in achieving their ultimate goal, becoming a “Ziegfeld Girl.”
Garland’s Susan Gallagher is forced to leave her family vaudeville act, which saddens her father, Pop Gallagher (Charles Winninger). In due course, Susan falls in love with Jerry Regan (Jackie Cooper), the brother of Sheila Regan (Lana Turner).
For her part, Sheila forgets her faithful boyfriend Gilbert Young (James Stewart, underused, just before going to War), who turns to bootlegging to compete with the stature of Sheila”s new beau, socialite Geoffrey Collis (Ian Hunter).
Hedy Lamarr’s Sandra Kolter almost leaves her decent but poor violinist husband (Philip Dorn) as she climbs the ladder of success.
The plot, which is convoluted and absurd, goes out of its way to arrange for a happy ending for two of the three females.
Also featured in the cast are Tony Martin, Edward Everett Horton, Eve Arden, Dan Dailey, and Mae Busch.
Among the songs are “Minnie from Trinidad,” “You Never Looked So Beautiful Before,” “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows”,” “Laugh? I Thought I’d Split My Side,” “Caribbean Love Song,” “Whispering,” “Mr. Gallagher and Mr. Shean,” “You Stepped Out of a Dream,”
and “You Gotta Pull Strings.”
The text is too verbose, too long (two hours and 11 minutes) and there’s too much melodrama. Nonetheless, what is truly memorable is the series of lavish dance numbers, which are spectacular in costume design and scale. Numerous “Ziegfeld Girls” are featured in glittering dresses (designed by the brilliant Adrian), and in remarkably inventive formations that do both Florenz Ziegfeld and Busby Berkeley proud.
Running time: 131 Minutes.
Produced by Pandro Berman
Directed by Robert Z. Leonard
Screenplay: Marguerite Roberts and Sonya Levien (who penned some of Garbo’s films), based on a story by William Anthony McGuire.
Camera: Ray June
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons and Daniel B. Cathcart.
Music: Herbert Stothart
Editing: Blanche Sewell
Choreography: Busby Berkeley
Costume design: Adrian