The Encyclopedia of the New York Stage, 1940-1950

By Samuel L. Leiter | Go to book overview

Z

ZIEGFELD FOLLIES [Revue] SK: Jerry Seelen, Lester Lee, Bud Pearson, Les White, Charles Sherman, Harry Young, Baldwin Bergersen, Buddy Burston, Dan White, Ray Golden, Sid Kuller, Lester Lawrence, Joseph Erens, William Wells, and Harold J. Rome; M: Ray Henderson and Dan White; LY: Jack Yellen and Buddy Burston; D: John Murray Anderson, Arthur Pierson, and Fred De Cordova; CH: Robert Alton; S: Watson Barratt; C: Miles White; P: Messrs. Shubert i/a/w Alfred Bloomingdale and Lou Waiters; T: Winter Garden; 4/1/43 (553)

The original Ziegfeld Follies*, which was produced almost annually from 1907 to 1931, with sporadic attempts to revive the format in 1934 and 1936, provided the inspiration for this new version of the spectacular revue. A large company of entertainers, including headliners Milton Berle, Arthur Treacher, and Ilona Massey parlayed their talents into a smash hit that ran for many months. Opening-night tickets cost up to $8.80, but even regular performances were expensive, costing a top of $5.50 on Friday and Saturday nights. At the opening, Billie Burke, Florenz Ziegfeld's widow, watched from a stage box. This proved to be the longest-running of any show with the Ziegfeld Follies title, including those produced during Ziegfeld's life.

Although some critics, such as George Jean Nathan ( TBY), felt that the show was not up to Ziegfeld's standards, it did not stint on gorgeous numbers designed to glorify beautiful American girls, with lavish costumes and excellent choreography. The costumes, the dances, and Berle's humor were the three most memorable elements. Berle, on and off throughout, hit many funny bones in "Merchant of Venison," about wealthy butcher J. Pierswift Armour (he sang "Meat for Sale") and food rationing. With bodyguards on either side holding tommy guns, he opened a safe to deposit a porterhouse steak. His other routines included a tribute to comics Olsen and Johnson, "Loves-a-Poppin'" (with Treacher and Massey). Treacher, the British gentleman's gentleman comedian, did not have outstanding material, his best being a skit called "Good God Godfrey." The blond, Hungarian-born Massey, in her Broadway debut, sang songs titled "35 Summers Ago" and "Love Songs Are Made in the Night." Massey impressed more by her beauty than her stage presence or vocal talent.

Unlike the Follies of old, this one included barely any takeoffs on contemporary shows, the only remnant of that kind of sketch being a Noël Coward satire--with Berle doing Coward--Private Lives in the style of Hellzapoppin'*. Among the notable specialty performers were comedienne-singer Sue Ryan, scoring highly with Buddy Burston and Dan White's "Carmen in Zoot," a jive version of Bizet's music, among other pieces. Eccentric dancer Jack Cole did his "Wedding of a Solid Sender" dance, accompanied by seven female dancers. Later in the show he did "Hindu Serenade." Dancers Tommy Wonder and Nadine Gae were singled out, as were terpsichoreans Ray Long and long-legged Christine Ayres. Mimic Dean Murphy--with impersonations of politicos such as Wendell Willkie and Franklin Delano and Eleanor Roosevelt--was noticed, along with puppeteers Bil and Cora Baird, who came on too late

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The Encyclopedia of the New York Stage, 1940-1950
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Note xiv
  • Introduction xv
  • Notes xlvii
  • The New York Stage, 1940-1950 1
  • A 3
  • B 51
  • C 93
  • D 143
  • E 179
  • F 193
  • G 221
  • I 293
  • J 315
  • L 341
  • M 383
  • N 443
  • O 461
  • P 491
  • Q 519
  • R 521
  • S 543
  • T 617
  • U 663
  • V 669
  • W 681
  • Y 711
  • Z 725
  • Appendixes 727
  • Appendix 1Calendar of Productions 729
  • Appendix 2 Play Categories 753
  • Appendix 5 Institutional Theatres 825
  • Appendix 7 Longest-Running Shows of the 1940s 833
  • Appendix 9 Seasonal Statistics 837
  • Appendix 10 Theatres 839
  • Selected Bibliography 843
  • Index of Titles 925
  • About the Author 947
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