Celebrity Biographies

Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr.
Theater

Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr. (1867-1932), Broadway producer, brought the Parisian sensibility of the Folies Bérgères to the United States. Raised in Chicago by a family in the classical music business, Ziegfeld's first gig as producer was manager of "The Perfect Man," Eugene Sandow, at the Chicago World's Fair in 1893. After his connection with dissolved, Ziegfeld came to New York and began producing shows on Broadway. He reached success with his first show, A Parlor Match (1896), by promoting the scandalous life of its principal actress, Anna Held, whom Ziegfeld lived with until 1913. He would later marry actress Billie Burke. Other Broadway successes quickly followed, including The French Maid (1897), The Little Duchess (1901), The Parisian Model (1906, 1908), A Winsome Widow (1912), The Century Girl (1916), Sally (1920), Kid Boots (1923), Rosalie (1928), The Three Musketeers (1928), Whoopee! (1928), Bitter Sweet (1930), and Simple Simon (1930).

Ziegfeld left two lasting theatrical legacies. His first, the Ziegfeld Follies, began as an attempt to recapture Parisian spectacle and theatricality for more restrained audiences. The Follies were held from 1907 through 1931, with more beautiful chorus girls, elaborate costumes, unique guest artists, and fantastic staging each year. Ziegfeld's productions of the Follies showcased a variety of stars, including Marilyn Miller, Fanny Brice, Lillian Lorraine, Eddie Cantor, Dennis King, Will Rogers, and W. C. Fields. Ziegfeld also built the Ziegfeld Theater, where he produced Rio Rita (1927-28) and the first stagings of Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II's Show Boat (1927-29, 1932), before his career was cut short by a combination of gambling debts, the Great Depression, and pleurisy.